“Harry Potter” writer J.K. Rowling is no stranger to taking up a political cause, nor is she a stranger to occasionally courting controversy with her stances. Most recently, Rowling drew criticism for coming out against a cultural boycott of Israel, with some fans comparing Israelis to Voldemort and the Death Eaters, and she has since clarified her position in perhaps the best way possible–by using “Harry Potter,” too.
Rowling was among 150 British signatories who, in an open letter to the Guardian, called for open dialogue with Israel last week.
“Speaking purely for myself, I have deplored most of Mr. Netanyahu’s actions in office,” she said at the time. “However, I do not believe that a cultural boycott will force Mr. Netanyahu from power, nor have I ever heard of a cultural boycott ending a bloody and prolonged conflict. The sharing of art and literature across borders constitutes an immense power for good in this world.”
Rowling has since penned an essay explaining her stance echoing those themes of sharing across borders, using her beloved characters and their own struggles to make her point.
“I’ve received a lot of messages over the past few days that use my fictional characters to make points about the Israeli cultural boycott,” Rowling began. “This isn’t a complaint: those characters belong to the readers as well as to me, and each has their own life in the heads of those who have read them.”
Rowling went on to tie the series into the Israeli cultural boycott, saying, “Many of the messages I’ve received in the last few days have included variations on the theme ‘talking wouldn’t stop the Wizarding War’ and as far as that goes, it’s true. Talking alone would not have stopped the Wizarding War and talking alone didn’t. Voldemort believed that non-wizards were subhuman, so it’s valid to draw comparisons between Voldemort and any real human being who regards other races, religions or sexualities as inferior.”
The writer also went into detail regarding the decisions of characters such as Severus Snape and Hogwarts Headmaster Dumbledore to draw parallels to current conflicts and why she does not support the Israeli cultural boycott, even conceding that Harry Potter himself might not understand Rowling’s decision–or, rather, “[t]he Harry of six and a half books might not understand” due to being “reckless and angry.” Dumbledore, however, would understand.
“Dumbledore is an academic and he believes that certain channels of communication should always remain open,” Rowling said, alluding to her own opinions.
“What sits uncomfortably with me is that severing contact with Israel’s cultural and academic community means refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who are most pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel’s government. Those are voices I’d like to hear amplified, not silenced. A cultural boycott places immovable barriers between artists and academics who want to talk to each other, understand each other and work side-by-side for peace.”
Rowling also made it very clear that her opposition to the boycott in no way ignores what Palestinians have endured, nor does it mean she does not want the Israeli government to go unchallenged.
“The Palestinian community has suffered untold injustice and brutality,” she said. “I want to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality. Boycotting Israel on every possible front has its allure. It satisfies the human urge to do something, anything, in the face of horrific human suffering.”
This marks the second time in as many days Rowling has gone into detail to explain her stance–she previously did so in an extended tweet yesterday, saying, “In its highest incarnation, as exemplified by [Palestinian poet Mahmoud] Darwish, art civilises, challenges and reminds us of our common humanity. At a time when the stigmatisation of religions and ethnicities seems to be on the rise, I believe strongly that cultural dialogue and collaboration is more important than ever before and that cultural boycotts are divisive, discriminatory and counter-productive.”