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JK Rowling and Standing Up to Anti-Semitism

JK Rowling and Standing Up to Anti-Semitism

J.K. Rowling, French celebrities and German officials are making it clear they stand with the embattled Jewish minorities within their midst.


In the past few days, the author J.K. Rowling - along with dozens of other people in Britain, France and Germany - have been saying enough is enough in the face of relentless anti-Semitism. Their words, coming amid record-breaking levels of anti-Semitism, are a welcome beacon of moral clarity.

Ms. Rowling issued a series of Tweets on April 18, 2018 (Holocaust Remembrance Day), attacking anti-Semitism and assuring some of her Jewish twitter followers that they weren’t alone. Her comments came a day after a searing debate on anti-Semitism in Britain’s House of Commons, in which Jewish MPs publicly described years of abuse and insults both members of the public and even from fellow political activists.

Posting a screen grab of a person intoning that “Judaism is a religion, not a race” as a way to excuse their anti-Jewish attitudes, Ms. Rowling noted that “Anti-Semites think this is a clever argument” before retorting “so tell us, do: were atheist Jews exempted from wearing the yellow star?”

When that tweet garnered its own anti-Jewish responses, Ms. Rowling called them out, rebutting anti-Semitic comments and explaining why they are offensive. To a twitter follower who complained that rebutting anti-Semitism is “culturally insensitive” to Muslims, Ms. Rowling lamented people who “only understand bigotry in terms of ‘pick a team’” instead of having empathy and engaging in reasoned debate.

When one of her twitter followers complained that Arabs can’t ever be called anti-Semites because Arabs are a Semitic people too, Ms. Rowling reacted with a verbal eye-roll, attaching a GIF of the actor Hugh Laurie looking comically exasperated. “The ‘Arabs are semitic too’ hot takes have arrived” Ms. Rowling tweeted, pointing out her interlocutors’ bigotry.

To the twitter followers who continued to attack her for daring to oppose anti-Semitism, Ms. Rowling helpfully sent out a definition of anti-Semitism: a “Hostility or prejudice against Jews.” Ms. Rowling then added a few messages of her own: “Split hairs. Debate etymology… Gloss over the abuse of your fellow citizens by attacking another country’s government. Would your response to any other form of racism or bigotry be to squirm, deflect or justify?” she asked.

When a fan messaged Ms. Rowling saying her son had been bullied for being Jewish, Ms. Rowling replied “I’m so sorry to hear this. Know that you aren’t alone and that a lot of us stand with you. Xx” She had a message for the wider public: “Most UK Jews in my timeline are currently having to field this kind of (anti-Jewish comment),” Ms. Rowling forcefully explained, “so perhaps some of us non-Jews should start shouldering the burden.”

This wasn’t the first time that Ms. Rowling has stood up against anti-Semitism. In 2015, when over a thousand British cultural figures penned open letters in a national newspaper excoriating Israel and pledging never to “play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops” anywhere in the Jewish state, Ms. Rowling refused to sign on to these hateful letters demonizing the Jewish state. Instead, she joined 150 other British writers and artists pledging to resist pervasive calls to boycott Israel.

“Israelis will be right to ask why cultural boycotts are not also being proposed against...North Korea and Zimbabwe, whose leaders are not generally considered paragons by the international community,” Ms. Rowling and her fellow signatories wrote in their October 23, 2015 letter: “Cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change.”

France Manifesto

A few days after Ms. Rowling’s recent twitter exchanges attacking anti-Semitism, hundreds of French cultural and political figures wrote their own manifesto denouncing the wave of extreme violence that has seen Jews murdered and attacked in France over the past several years. The letter appeared in French newspapers on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Over 300 French celebrities and politicians, including former President Nicolas Sarkozy and the actor Gerard Depardieu, noted “In our recent history, 11 Jews have been assassinated - and some tortured - by radical Islamists because they were Jewish.”

The signatories decried this horror and declared that a “new anti-Semitism” characterized by “Islamist radicalization” is sweeping France, endangering the country’s half a million Jews. “We demand that the fight against this democratic failure that is anti-Semitism becomes a national cause before it’s too late. Before France is no longer France.” Their letter appealed for the French public to stand side by side with their nation’s Jews.

Kippah Walk in Berlin

A similar move to show solidarity and support for a Jewish minority was also announced this week in Germany. On April 17, 2018, a 21 year old Israeli Arab named Adam Arush was visiting Berlin and decided to conduct an experiment after a conversation with a Jewish friend. “My friend told me that wearing Jewish symbols in public is not safe in Berlin,” Arush later explained. Arush couldn’t believe it was really so dangerous, so he put on a kippah and headed out for a walk in Berlin to see what would happen.

Soon, a 19 year old Syrian asylum seeker set upon Arush, hitting him with a belt and screaming “Jew” in Arabic. Arush had to be rushed to the hospital, but not before filming his attack, which quickly went viral.

Now, Berlin’s Jewish community is organizing a “Kippah Walk” set for Wednesday, April 25, 2018. The community plans to hand out thousands of kippahs and is being aided by a broad group of religious, political and academic organizations who are urging Berliners to don a kippah in solidarity with the Jewish community.

Similar walks are being planned in other German towns too. A kippah walk in the eastern German city of Erfurt will end at a local synagogue. “If you can’t make it to Erfurt, then wear a kippah wherever you happen to be at that time,” the organizers are explaining to the many Germans who plan to walk in solidarity with their nation’s Jews.

Deputy Mayor Uwe Becker

In Frankfurt, Deputy Mayor Uwe Becker is calling on his city’s residents to don kippahs on April 25, as well - and even posted a picture of himself online wearing the Jewish head covering to help motivate his city.

It’s not always simple to stand up for our principles. J. K. Rowling put it well in her bestselling Harry Potter series: the kindly headmaster Albus Dumbledore tells his students, “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” Ms. Rowling’s stirring opposition to anti-Semitism is an inspirational example of standing up principles, no matter how unfashionable they might seem.

And this week, luminaries including J. K. Rowling, French celebrities and German officials are making it clear they stand with the embattled Jewish minorities within their midst. Let’s all heed their example and start standing up in opposition to anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred wherever it exists.

April 24, 2018

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 17

(14) l schwartz, April 26, 2018 9:35 PM

Hope you don't have to eat your words

Don't be shocked if one day you condemn JK Rowling for being pro-Palestinian.

(13) Toby Katz, April 26, 2018 4:15 PM

Trump does not hate Jews

Marlene Fair-Fischer wrote: "Trump hates Jews -- and he is simply not a decent human being on any level."

While Trump is not what anyone would call a refined gentleman, he certainly does not hate Jews. Look at Nikki Haley, John Bolton, Jared Kushner, the US embassy in Jerusalem.

I was not happy when I had to choose between Trump and Hillary. The latter is a corrupt, hypocritical, foul-mouthed woman who accepted honors from misogynistic Arab countries. What choice was there?

It is difficult to determine where the "Trump is an anti-Semite" meme started but I note the incredible hypocrisy of the liberal media and academia when they accuse him of being an anti-Semite -- based on no evidence -- while they themselves peddle anti-Semitic tropes every single day.

I wish we had a different kind of person in the White House, a man like Ronald Reagan -- decent, refined, well-read, well-informed, well-spoken. But I must reject this liberal syllogism: A. Anti-Semites are bad (unless they are on the left) B. Trump is bad C. ergo, Trump must be an anti-Semite.

I will add: kudos to J.K. Rowling for her morality and integrity, for swimming against the tide of her own fashionable cultural milieu. That takes courage.

Dina, April 26, 2018 8:37 PM

Good for J.K. Rowling & Trump friends of Israel

I’m glad to see J.K. Rowling come out against anti-semitism. She can influence the millennials who seem to have lost all sense of what it means to be Jewish & don’t seem to care as much about Israel as a recent poll showed.

And, it’s the liberal Jews who don’t understand Trump. He may not have the political savvy, but he is moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. I voted for him & so did many other Jews. I’m also a supporter of RJC (Republican Jewish Coalition).
Hillary would have continued the anti-Israel stance as Hussein Obama.

Anonymous, April 28, 2018 2:47 AM

No blacks in Trump apartments

Jews were also discriminated against by many ... apartments, colleges, clubs, to name a few.

All you have to do is look it up! Stop following Trump hoping he'll grope you!

(12) Nancy Zwiebach, April 25, 2018 1:44 PM

Bravo! For JK Rowling

What a relief and delight to learn of Ms. Rowlings speaking out against antisemitism - and to learn of others - especially people of note who are doing the same. Shame to those who follow in the steps of Nazism and people haters in general. When we have to contend with the likes of Natalie Portman, this helps renew strength and faith in people. I am appreciative.

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