Harry Potter star and Gringotts Goblins create an uproar to rival the Dementors
By Rolene Marks
I think we can all agree that over the last two years, the world has gone slightly mad. We are scarcely into the first month of 2022 and I fear it has gone full tilt off its jolly rocker!
I never thought Harry Potter movie stars or Goblins would ever make their way into my writing repertoire; but here we are. Far from it being the stuff of fantasy, a series of extraordinary events have occurred in the last few weeks that beggars closer inspection and debate. We need to don our own metaphorical sorting hats to sift through what is genuine antisemitism – and what are desperate for attention social justice posts driven by naiveté and agendas rather than knowledge.
The year had barely got off to a start when news broke that Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies shared a post in solidarity with the Palestinians on her Instagram page to her 64 million followers. This immediately resulted in an uproar on social media and a pile on between supporters on both sides. The verbal smack downs could put a Womping Willow to shame!
Now let me be very clear – there is nothing wrong with showing solidarity with the Palestinians. Most Israelis want our neighbours to have better leadership and living conditions and nowhere in the post was there any anti-Israel sentiment expressed. It must also be made clear that Watson “sold” her Instagram feed to an unnamed “feminist collective”. Watson is a vocal supporter of feminist issues; but the reasons for the uproar are pretty simple – but can have quite destructive consequences.
The post in question contained the strapline “Solidarity is a Verb” – (well, actually it is a noun) but grammatical error aside, the meaning behind it was very clear. Don’t just talk about solidarity – demonstrate it by being activists.
You don’t need to be a wizard to figure out why famous celebrity muggles are jumping on to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict bandwagon.
Being seen to be “activists” on social media drives up their credibility as “social justice warriors” and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is well known enough to offer them high returns on very little investment. In other words, no in-depth knowledge about the facts and complexities of this decades old conflict need be known to raise the ire of their followers, who themselves have little, if any knowledge.
If genuine concern was a factor, we would be exhausted with images of virtually all conflicts in the world.
Celebrities with massive followings have a responsibility to those followers. Unless they are well versed in the nuances and complexities of the conflict, they would be better served to not engage in this kind of activity. They could use their incredible platforms to talk about solutions or engage in constructive and productive dialogue but instead, the kind of activity seen by the likes of Watson, Susan Sarandon, Mark Ruffalo and others; only sows more division and hate that sometimes results in dire consequences. Over this past weekend, a dangerous hostage situation at a synagogue in Texas was just one more example of the consequences of the spreading of hate and misinformation. I did notice that the usual protagonists like Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon and other Hollywood experts on the Middle East had nothing to say about the Texas synagogue hostage situation. Reeks of hypocrisy.
If we thought that we had enough of Harry Potter shenanigans, we were wrong.
The year started with a drubbing for Harry Potter author and creator, JK Rowling.
Former late night talk show host turned podcaster, Jon Stewart, who is Jewish made the following comments on a recent podcast talking about the Harry Potter movies:
“It was one of those things where I saw it on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like, ‘Holy s**t, she did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the f*****g underground bank.”
Stewart also implied the story deliberately stereotyped Jews, saying:
JK Rowling was like, ‘can we get these guys to run our bank? It’s a wizarding world, we can ride dragons, you can have a pet owl, but who should run the bank? Jews.’
The comments referred to the portrayal of the Goblins who run Gringott’s Bank for Wizards. It is important to note that JK Rowling neither directed nor designed the production of her movies; or described what Gringott’s Goblins specifically look like in her books. Now I know that for many, the Goblins look like horrific, antisemitic stereotypes straight out of the pages of Der Sturmer circa 1933; and we are still portrayed like this today; but it certainly was not Rowling’s intentions at all.
This has many asking the question if the portrayal of the Goblins was intentionally focused to look like Jews- or is there so much internalized antisemitism that people view Jews as Goblins.
In fact, JK Rowling has been a vocal advocate against antisemitism, when few, if any high profile figures have been. JK Rowling was extremely supportive to British Jewry during the horrific period when the UK Labour party openly engaged in antisemitism. The author took to social media platform Twitter to express her outrage at Labour party members supporting then-leader, Jeremy Corbyn; and showed her solidarity with a community that felt an increasing sense of fear.
To allege that Rowling would do anything antisemitic is preposterous so what could be the reason behind this latest attempt to “cancel” this hugely successful author?
Rowling has expressed very strong views about her belief in biological gender. It is important to note that she has also advocated for the rights of the transgender community but it hasn’t stopped many, including Harry Potter movie stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint publicly distancing themselves from Rowling and accusing her of being a “TERF” (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). Talk about casting an invisibility spell! One does wonder what kind of careers they would have had without the massive movie franchise…..
Rowling wrote a lengthy explanation in this essay:
This latest attempt to cancel Rowling by the Wokerati is not just worrying because it has created false accusations of antisemitism; but also because it seems if one charge is not enough, the purveyors of cancel culture will just keep reaching for others until something sticks and the target is rendered canceled. What is particularly interesting is that the UK left-leaning publication, The Guardian, published a poll asking readers to vote who they thought the most influential person of 2021 was. The answer was overwhelmingly JK Rowling. The Guardian responded by removing the poll quicker than the flick of a wand and the chant of “Evanesco”!*
It is dangerous when opposing activists use Jews and the accusation of antisemitism as the proverbial political football to try and cancel the other, in this particular case, JK Rowling for her views on biological gender.
The Emma Watson and JK Rowling scenarios are interesting studies in how we perceive and react to antisemitism. No doubt there will be many reading this article who will vehemently disagree with me and that is absolutely welcome.
It is my opinion that we have to be careful not to use the label of antisemitism so liberally for then everything is antisemitic and the veracity of true hate crimes goes unnoticed or unchallenged.
Sometimes goblins are just goblins. When it comes to antisemitism, it is better to examine closely than to sip irresponsibly from the goblet of ire.
*In preparation for this article, the author spent far too much time reading about Harry Potter spells.