J.K. Rowling uses Dumbledore to explain her opposition to Israel boycott
Much as we all enjoy J.K. Rowling’s Twitter account, that breeding ground for latter-day Harry Potter tidbits and useful tea tips, the 140-character limit sometimes just isn’t long enough. So when the best-selling novelist recently decided to explain her opposition to a cultural boycott of Israel, Rowling used TwitLonger to share two longer messages on Twitter.
Last week, Rowling signed a letter (along with Wolf Hall, author Hilary Mantel, and dozens of other British cultural figures) that opposed an Israel boycott and promoted cross-cultural dialogue. Her first TwitLonger piece about it, titled “Cultural boycotts,” attempted to answer readers’ desire for her to elaborate her position.
“Speaking purely for myself, I have deplored most of Mr. Netanyahu’s actions in office. 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,” Rowling wrote. “The sharing of art and literature across borders constitutes an immense power for good in this world.”
The central tenet of Rowling’s piece was that art is effective at promoting cross-cultural understanding; perhaps she’s seen this picture of an Israeli soldier resting with a copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban. Rowling cited Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s work as an example of art that “civilises, challenges, and reminds us of our common humanity.”
This letter apparently wasn’t enough to satisfy Rowling’s readers, however. Some of them even told her that they thought of Israelis like Voldemort and the Death Eaters, which prompted the Harry Potter author to respond again. Her second TwitLonger piece, titled “Why Dumbledore went to the hilltop,” further expands her position via a small moment in The Deathly Hallows. In a flashback, Harry and his friends watch Albus Dumbledore meet Severus Snape on a windy hilltop, even though Snape was still a dangerous enemy at that time. Rowling explains his reasoning in support of her boycott opposition.
“Dumbledore is an academic and he believes that certain channels of communication should always remain open,” Rowling writes. “It was true in the Potter books and it is true in life that talking will not change willfully closed minds. However, the course of my fictional war was forever changed when Snape chose to abandon the course on which he was set, and Dumbledore helped him do it.”
Rowling notes that a boycott would affect all citizens of Israel, even the ones who are pro-Palestinian. She referenced several projects, such as the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the NeuroBridges workshop, in which artists and academics from across Israel and Palestine are attempting to fight the cycle of violence and mistrust. On a final note, she reminded readers that though they are free to use Harry Potter in their arguments, a moral point should always consider Dumbledore as the series’ conscience.
“I genuinely don’t take it in ill part when you send me counterarguments framed in terms of the Potter books. All books dealing with morality can be picked apart for those lines and themes that best suit the arguer’s perspective,” Rowling writes. “I can only say that a full discussion of morality within the series is impossible without examining Dumbledore’s actions, because he is the moral heart of the books. He did not consider all weapons equal and he was prepared, always, to go to the hilltop.”