JK Rowling uses Harry Potter and Dumbledore to explain Israel boycott stance
JK Rowling has used her Harry Potter characters to explain her stance on an international boycott of Israel.
In an exchange that reads like a geopolitical cosplay script, the UK author responded to fans who claimed Harry would have been disappointed with her refusal to join a cultural boycott of Israel by casting Dumbledore, Snape and her titular hero in an extended analogy to justify her reasoning.
Last week Rowling was one of 150 British writers, academics and politicians - including Hilary Mantel and historian Simon Schama - who called for an open dialogue with Israeli creative and academic communities through what they termed a "culture of coexistence".
"Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace," the signatories declared in a letter published in the Guardian on Friday.
Many outspoken 'Potterheads' were aghast that the much-loved author had chosen to publicly condemn a cultural boycott of Israel in response to that state's treatment of Palestinians.
Her stance was a surprise to many considering her continued public condemnation of the Netanyahu government.
A Facebook post by a Palestinian Potter fan went viral earlier this week, after its author decried Rowling's opposition to a key component of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
"As a Palestinian, I have to say that I was completely disappointed when I read about this, because your books have been the very source of all the hope I have for peace and justice in my homeland someday," Mia Oudeh wrote in her Facebook post republished by Mondoweiss.
Oudeh said she had always reimagined Zionists as Death Eaters, Voldemort's loyal followers in the Harry Potter books, and Harry's supporters and Muggle-borns (wizard children from non-magical parents) as Palestinians.
"Knowing that the idea for your epic novels was from World War II and the Nazis, I naturally drew parallels between the books and Zionist Israel and Palestine," Oudeh wrote.
She draws several detailed comparisons between the protracted Israel-Palestine conflict and specific exchanges between Harry Potter characters including the titular hero, Hermione, Neville Longbottom, and villains Voldemort, Bellatrix Lestrange and the dark lord's snake, Nagini.
Rowling responded in kind to the "many comparisons of Israel and Death Eaters" she received from fans of the books by drawing on her much-loved, and reviled, characters to argue for open dialogue between Israeli and international academics.
In a post to TwitLonger titled "Why Dumbledore went to the hilltop" Rowling recounted a scene in the final Harry Potter book The Deathly Hallows, where Dumbledore is summoned by the Death Eater Severus Snape to a windy hilltop.
"At that point, Snape is a subscriber to the inhuman philosophy of Voldemort. He is probably a killer, certainly a betrayer of two of the people Dumbledore loved most, and the man who had sent Voldemort after an innocent child in the knowledge that Voldemort would kill him," Rowling wrote.
Rowling cast this meeting as one of "academics", not politicians. Both Dumbledore and Snape were professors and men of knowledge at the fictional Hogwarts school.
"Dumbledore is an academic and he believes that certain channels of communication should always remain open," Rowling said.
"Dumbledore is wise enough, knowledgeable enough and compassionate enough to sense that Snape, though he has led a despicable adult life, has something human left inside him, something that can be redeemed," she said.
Rowling told her fans that this meeting changed the course of her fictional wizarding war forever, "when Snape chose to abandon the course on which he was set, and Dumbledore helped him do it".
She also directly addressed the messages from fans claiming Harry would be disappointed in her, telling them they were right: her "reckless and angry" hero whose "natural inclination is to fight" would not have understood.
But she pointed out that when tested for the last time, Harry decided to act against his own instincts, in accordance with Dumbledore's wishes, who was "the moral heart of the books".
Rowling has become an increasingly political figure in recent years, publicly throwing her support behind marriage equality and religious tolerance through her social media accounts, including a fiery exchange with the Westboro Baptist Church in which she opined the same sex union of Michael Gambon, who played Dumbledore and Ian McKellen who played Lord of The Rings wizard, Gandalf.
Rowling is set to debut her latest foray into the Potter-verse, a play titled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, next year.
The production, co-written by Rowling with playwrights Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, takes place 19 years after the seven-part book series and follows an adult Harry and his youngest son, Albus Severus (named after Dumbledore and Snape).
"As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth... Sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places," the official synopsis reads.
The first batch of 175,000 tickets sold out in eight hours. The Cursed Child will debut in London June 2016.
- Sydney Morning Herald