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An Open Letter to JK Rowling

An Open Letter to JK Rowling

Thank you for not caving into pressure to boycott Israel.


Dear JK Rowling,

Like millions of people around the world, I’d like to thank you for bringing the magic of Harry Potter into our home. We’ve thrown Harry Potter birthday parties, sewn countless Harry Potter Purim costumes and even – the night before our son’s eleventh birthday – forged an acceptance letter to Hogwarts for him in green ink. You created a world where everyone has the choice to be great.

Now you’ve chosen to stand up for what’s right in a different context – to defend Israel from those who would boycott her – and I’d like to extend a huge thank you.

The pressure on you to join the boycott has been enormous. In February 2015, over 700 British writers, film-makers, playwrights, architects, musicians and other cultural figures wrote an open letter – published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper – excoriating the Jewish state, pledging “we won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops” anywhere in Israel.

Since then, pressure to boycott Israel has grown. On October 27, 2015, another letter appeared in the Guardian, this time signed by 343 academics, who promised never to accept invitations to visit Israeli schools, participate in conferences with Israeli universities, “or otherwise cooperate” with Israeli academics.

These letters never mentioned nor condemned the daily terror that Israelis live with. They didn’t mention the recent wave of knifings and stabbings that have killed and injured scores of Israelis in recent weeks. Instead, they offered a simplistic narrative in which Israel is always in the wrong and deserving of scorn.

I imagine that as Britain’s best-known author you were asked to sign these letters too. Perhaps you felt pressure to conform to fashionable thinking and vow to have nothing to do with the Jewish state. But instead, you – along with over 150 other British writers, artists and media personalities – made a declaration of your own, pledging to resist all calls for a cultural boycott of the Jewish state.

“Israelis will be right to ask why cultural boycotts are not also being proposed against – to take random examples – North Korea and Zimbabwe, whose leaders are not generally considered paragons by the international community” you and your fellow artists declared. Instead, as you wrote in your October 23, 2015 letter, “Cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change."

One of the things I’ve always liked best about your books is the way you describe what it’s like to feel pressured to follow the crowd, and how you celebrate those who resist and think for themselves.

In your Harry Potter series, the Ministry of Magic and The Daily Prophet mock Harry’s warnings that Voldemort has returned to power; it’s a brave few who make the decision to stand up for what’s right and back Harry.

Perhaps that’s why you – and many other British cultural figures, including author Fay Weldon, two-time Man Booker prize winner, Hilary Mantel, and author and Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz – are willing to say no to knee-jerk anti-Israel sentiment, and take a look at the real Israel.

That means looking at Israel and seeing a vibrant democracy in which all citizens – regardless of ethnicity or religion – have a vote. That means seeing a country in which the current Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) is served by 17 Arab MKs (out of a total of 120). In which 28 MKs are women. It means seeing a country in which Arab citizens have served as Supreme Court Justices, as Ambassadors, as television personalities, university lecturers, government ministers, and soldiers. It means seeing a country in which Emile Habibi, an author and Knesset member, won the Israel Prize, Israel’s highest cultural honor, for Arabic literature, in which Rana Raslan, an Israeli Arab, was crowned Miss Israel, and in which 19 year old Lina Makhoul, an Israeli Arab from Acre, was crowned the best singer in Israel on the popular Israeli TV show “The Voice”.

Looking at Israel means realizing that Israel boasts dozens of newspapers in many languages and enjoys a free, open and privately-owned press. It means seeing that Israel has the greatest number of museums per capita in the world, that it’s second in the number of books published each year per capita, that Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech start-ups anywhere in the world after the US, that many of the items we use every day – including computer chips, cell phones, voicemail, Windows operating systems, pacemakers, instant messaging, and drip irrigation – were all developed thanks to Israeli technology.

Taking a look at Israel as it really is – unswayed by biased calls to boycott her – means seeing a country that in 2015 ranked fourth best in the world to raise children. That ranked first in the world this year as a destination for quality medical care. That ranked eleventh in the world according to the annual World Happiness Report. It means seeing a country that – despite daily calls to wipe it from the face of the earth, despite constant threats of terrorism and attack – manages to remain open, democratic, committed to human rights and opportunity for all its citizens.

After signing your pledge not to boycott Israel, you took some flak for your decision. But you refused to back down, insisting “the sharing of art and literature across borders constitutes an immense power for good in this world” and “reminds us of our common humanity. At a time when the stigmatization 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 counterproductive.”

In the ensuing storm about your stance never to boycott Israel, you made some pretty strong statements criticizing Israel's government. Frankly, a lot of Israelis are offended by your criticism. You seem to place much of the blame for Palestinian terrorism not on the relentless incitement in Palestinian textbooks, mosques, TV, and newspapers which has created an atmosphere of bloodlust in which ordinary people have picked up butcher knives to kill Jews -- but on Israel instead. 

I almost didn't write this letter because some of your statements seemed too close to those of your fellow artists who bash the Jewish state. But re-reading your letter made me pick up my pen, too. You said no to cultural boycotts of Israel. No to singling out Israel alone among the nations as somehow deserving of scorn. You could have easily sat back and done nothing.

Instead you took a stand and opposed them, stating clearly and publicly that you will not boycott Israel. That was brave.

I think Albus Dumbledore expressed it best: “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

JK Rowling, you’ve made the choice to stand by what is right, not what is easy. For that, I thank you. And I invite you to come visit Israel to see firsthand the reality of this amazing country which will further inform your opinions about Israel and its policies.

Sincerely Yours,
A Fan

October 29, 2015

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Visitor Comments: 13

(10) Rafi, November 2, 2015 7:05 AM

Thank you, Ms. Rowling

Unequivocal appreciation of this woman's courage. The role Israel must take in thus particular battle has been grossly under-estimated by the Israel establishment. Clear proof of this is seen in the views J. K. Rowling maintains concerning Israel - a legitimate outcome of an illegitimate process: the unrelenting misrepresentation of Israel by the press, led by the word's foremost broadcaster, the publicly funded BBC. The almost total absence from israel of any English language response to this attack on the Jewish state 365 days per year to an audience measured in the hundreds of millions - has created an information vacuum which has only amplified the toxicity of the anti-Israel venom of the BBC and their disciples around the globe. Israel must now have twenty-four hours of Englush language broadcasting over air and Internet, both to repulse every single false or biased report, and importantly to present a broad picture of every aspect of Israeli daily life to the global audience who have never had the material to form their own views. This is an absolute must.

(9) Ruth, October 30, 2015 7:55 PM

prophecy coming true

Zechariah 12 says all the nations will rise against Israel. Sadly we are seeing that happening. But it also says the L-rd will watch over Jerusalem & Israel.

(8) Anonymous, October 30, 2015 3:42 PM

JK Rowling Anti-BDS - but also anti-Israel Brutality

Not so fast! See article in Oct. 28 Haaretz where she is anti-BDS but "acknowledges the suffering of the Palestinians and Israeli Brutality."

(7) Anonymous, October 30, 2015 9:37 AM

Too late

Your praise was premature she has already backtracked.

(6) Regina Sabin, October 30, 2015 4:14 AM

JK Rowling's opposition to BDS is a Trojan Horse, a ruse

For those applauding RK Rowling's opposition to BDS:
Simply put, for JK Rowling opposition to BDS is merely a means to an end for her pro-Palestinian support against Israel, a ruse.
Where as Harry Potter dons a magic cloak that renders him invisible and gains easy access to the inaccessible, Ms. Rowling dons the Trojan Horse of appearing to wish for open dialogue between Israel and Palestine. UnfortunatelytThe dialogue that she and her co-signers subscribe to is one sided, and that side is decidedly not pro-Israel!

"The Palestinian community has suffered untold justice and brutality. I want to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality"
"What sits uncomfortably with me is that severing contacts with Israel's cultural and academic community means refusing to engage with some of the most pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel's government"~ JK Rowling

In the Guardian, she expresses how the poetry of Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish has "Seared the true human cost of the Palestinian conflict upon my consciousness". And never once, in any of the numerous publications that express how much she deplores Israel, its government, its Prime Minister..doe she 'deplore' Abbas or show a desire to 'force him from power'. Never, not once, does she condemn the cost of human suffering or brutality on Israel and her citizens.
Yes we all wish for an end to BDS and a truly open and dual sided dialogue with both sides of the conflict...but not at the cost of a fable that would have us believe the main character is on our side when nothing could be further than the truth.

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