I wasn’t entirely sure how to begin writing the following words. I felt that I was walking on egg shells, and had to be careful to not say anything that might be interpreted in a way I did not mean. Then it hit me. This was the very problem I am attempting to address. You see, I came across a Haaretz article recently about anti Semitism. J.K Rowling, the well known author of the popular “Harry Potter” book series, had written a new novel where the villain is critical of Israel, thus being labeled an anti Semite. Immediately I realized the absurdity and danger of this characterization. For a while now there has been an attempt to paint anyone critical of Israel as an anti Semite, but this is a new level, now making its way into children’s literature. Rowling’s justification for the characterization is due to what she believes to be rising anti Semitism in Europe. Replying to a comment that states Arabs cannot be anti Semitic because Arabs are Semites too, Rowling shared a dictionary definition of anti-Semitism that states it’s “hostility to or prejudice against Jews.” I wonder, when did we shift definitions to fit our narrative? Then I realized this is a type of Orwellian newspeak, wherein the very people who call themselves peacemakers that drone strike civilians, change labels to suit themselves.
Time and again we see those who are even slightly critical of Israel and Zionist occupation being labeled “anti-Semitic”, including Jews themselves. By the dictionary definition J.K Rowling proudly shared as her defense, wouldn’t pro Israel supporters be anti-Semites then? Surely they’re showing hostility against the opinions of Jews who condemn Israel’s illegal occupation. The reason this label, anti-Semitism, is so powerful and can literally ruin anyone who is critical of Israel, is because a similar definition doesn’t exist for the alternate viewpoint. There is no harmful label associated with those who are critical of Palestinian rights. This double standard is part of the frustration many feel when pointing out Israeli war crimes and aggression. When U.N ambassador Nicki Haley abruptly walks out of the U.N while Palestine is speaking, she would be labeled this missing word. When the U.S, who is supposed to be a neutral peace broker between Israeli’s and Palestinians, expels Palestinian diplomats from Washington, they would be labeled this word. Along with countless other examples. Israel has had the luxury of a media provided bulletproof vest when it comes to criticism.
In 2015, Rowling was critical of the BDS movement which aims at boycotting Israeli goods, companies, and more, in hopes of raising awareness of Israeli human rights violations. Besides the fact that those who are critical of this also hypocritically claim to support freedom of choice and capitalism, Rowling’s defense for her stance was just as weak. For Rowling, “Israelis will be right to ask why cultural boycotts are not also being proposed against…North Korea,”. This attempt to make a strong point is immediately disproven, as there already exist boycotts on North Korea. Not in the form of college students boycotting Israeli goods, but on the scale of the entire U.S and world super powers placing sanctions on the North Korean people as a whole.
It is dangerous to equate anti Zionism to anti-Semitism. This enables Israel to continue its human rights violations towards the Palestinian people, while ensuring nobody stands in its way. All the while simultaneously playing victim. Public figures such as Rowling and others are doing a disservice to the values they claim to believe in when they shield Israel from any criticism of its illegal occupation. As the great philosopher Will Durant once wrote, “to get a doctrine accepted or rejected it is only necessary to have it praised or ridiculed in a popular play”. This is precisely what Rowling, and the media for that matter, do when they incorporate pro Israeli propaganda into mainstream forms of entertainment such as children’s books.