Author J.K. Rowling used a scene from her seventh and final Harry Potter novel to explain why she would not join the Israel cultural boycott — despite her strong opposition to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his policies.
The best-selling author signed an open letter last week with more than 150 other British artists and other cultural figures who argued for more dialog instead of boycotting Israeli cultural events and institutions.
Rowling said she did not believe the boycott would drive Netanyahu from office or end the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“If any effects are felt from the proposed boycott, it will be by ordinary Israelis, many of whom did not vote for Mr. Netanyahu,” she said. “Those 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.”
Rowling took a scene from her novel, “Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows,” to explain her belief that sharing art and literature creates “immense power for good in this world.”
The good wizard Dumbledore goes to meet Severus Snape on a windy hilltop even though the Death Eater could easily kill him, Rowling explained.
“Dumbledore is an academic and he believes that certain channels of communication should always remain open,” Rowling said. “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. Theirs was a partnership without which Harry’s willingness to fight would have been pointless.”
She said a cultural boycott would set up barriers between artists and academics and silence Israelis who are critical of their government and supportive of the Palestinian cause.
“The Palestinian community has suffered untold injustice and brutality,” Rowling 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.”
Rowling said she had heard from many fans who complained that Harry Potter would not support her position against the cultural boycott — and she agrees that his “reckless and angry” character might not have until he considered Dumbledore’s “cryptic message” to him near the end of the final book.
“He wants to race Voldemort to a deadly weapon, but Dumbledore has arranged things so that, while Harry will know that the weapon exists, he will also suspect that taking the weapon is the wrong thing to do,” she explained. “Harry cannot understand why using that weapon would be harmful, yet – grudgingly – he decides to act against his own instinct, and according to what he believes are Dumbledore’s wishes. The decision sits uncomfortably with him.”
Rowling said she appreciates when readers offer counterarguments to her political statements “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,” she said. “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.”