Rowling hands the sorcerer’s stone to the occupation

The novelist’s comments on the campaign for cultural engagement added insult to the injury of the Palestinian plight.

By calling for 'cultural engagement' between Israelis and the Palestinians, Rowling is not only missing the point, but engaging in a farce, writes Andoni [AP]

Of all the things that J K Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, said to justify her stand against boycotting Israel, her citing of the poems of Mahmoud Darwish has been the worst.

As if her joining a campaign aimed at stripping the Palestinian struggle of its legitimacy has not sufficed, evoking Darwish’s poems distorts their very essence as an outcry against injustice.

As we say in Arabic, Rowling has only added insult to our injury; The campaign, calling for cultural engagement between Israelis and Palestinians, is no more than an attempt to force the Palestinians to accept the reality of occupation in the name of civility and peace.

“In its highest incarnation, as exemplified by Darwish, art civilises, challenges and reminds us of our common humanity,” wrote Rowling in a lengthy tweet in an attempt to explain her decision.

The fact that art reminds us of our common humanity is precisely why Palestinians resist occupation that suppresses their humanity. Belief in our common humanity means that Palestinians are entitled to freedom and self-determination – resistance, rather than submission, is the act that restores Palestinians’ humanity.

UpFront – Debating the Israel boycott

Prevalence of injustice

It seems that Rowling has either succumbed to the racist notion of submission as an act of civility or that, as her statements suggest, the Palestinian struggle has been reduced in her mind to a religious and ethnic conflict.

As such “promoting mutual understanding” and “cultural dialogue” are the key to resolving the conflict, as if it is simply a matter for Palestinians to be “civil enough” or “sufficiently cultured” to understand the need for Israel to rob them from their lands, displace them and keep them under its control by brutal force.

What is preventing peace is not a cultural misunderstanding between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis as humans, or Muslims and Jews, but it’s about the prevalence of a racist colonialist power structure over the ethos of equality and justice.

Instead of challenging the power structure that violates Palestinian humanity and consolidating an oppressor/oppressed relationship between the Israelis and Palestinians, Rowling lent her name to a campaign to counter the victories of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) against Israel.

The whole argument against the boycott of Israel as being 'divisive and discriminatory' sounds both absurd and almost belittling of Israeli crimes when placed in the context of continued Israeli army and armed settler attacks, murders of Palestinians, and the accumulating evidence of war crimes committed against the Palestinians.


In its success to mobilise international writers and artists to join its boycott campaign, the BDS has proven in action that art and culture promote our common humanity by siding with freedom and justice.

By bringing together artists and cultural icons – including Jewish intellectuals – in a united, cultural act of resistance against oppression that transcends ethnic, religious and racial barriers, the BDS movement has waved the magic wand of common humanity that has awakened people’s consciences – it is a universal and accessible wand that those struggling for freedom have opted to use in the face of power across the ages.

But Rowling has wittingly or unwittingly opted to try to undo the spell of the empowering magic of common humanity by claiming that boycott of the Israeli occupation is “divisive and discriminatory”. Such arguments are as meaningless as the Israeli military occupation/apartheid regime itself is both divisive and discriminatory – unless, of course, the aim is to endow a false morality on racism, occupation and oppression.

It is the Palestinians who have been at the receiving end of what are truly divisive and discriminatory actions and not just mere tactics: from the Zionist dispossession of Palestinians, rendering generations away from their homeland and splintering families apart, to the military occupation that robs people of their security, lands, lives, sons and daughters – let alone the systemic deprivation of Palestinians of their freedom of movement and peace of mind.

Also read: The secret to peace in Palestine

The apartheid wall that tears at Palestinians’ hearts, separating families and swallowing land visually and physically, lends a horrific meaning to the words “divisive and discriminatory”. The whole argument against the boycott of Israel as being “divisive and discriminatory” sounds both absurd and almost belittling of Israeli crimes when placed in the context of continued Israeli army and armed settler attacks, the murders of Palestinians, and the accumulating evidence of war crimes committed against the Palestinians.

Missing the point

While Rowling’s imagination has created unforgettable mythical monsters that will remain, generations of Palestinians have lived, are living, and will continue to live with real life monsters that are the manifestations of continued Israeli colonisation and occupation.

Also read: It’s time to challenge the status quo in Palestine

Rowling says that it was Darwish’s “heart splitting poetry” that “seared upon her conscious”, but she does not seem to understand the trail of Palestinian tears and blood that the poet echoed and the culture of resistance that he embodied.

By calling for “cultural engagement” between Israelis and the Palestinians, as opposed to cultural boycott, Rowling is not only missing the point, but engaging in a farce, and it is not too late to withdraw.

“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” Rowling once said in an interview.


Rowling is now facing the test of her own words as she is making a serious choice.

The struggle of good versus evil in the Harry Potter series was not simply about Harry Potter defeating Lord Voldemort, but rather, that of preventing access and ownership of the source of “the sorcerer’s stone” – the source of the ultimate magical powers.

Rowling made a shrewd decision as an author to make sure than even Harry Potter refrains from owning and using the “sorcerer’s stone”, sending a message to generations of readers against the dangers of the abuse of vast powers.

Ms Rowling: don’t hand the “sorcerer’s stone” over to Israeli occupation!

Lamis Andoni is an analyst and commentator on Middle Eastern and Palestinian affairs.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.