J. K. Rowling and the Prisoners of Israel

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”

— J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2007.

How disappointing to see JK Rowling and Hilary Mantel signing this nefarious letter calling for the need for ‘cultural bridges’ with Israel.

The letter, assembled by a new organisation calling itself Culture for Co-Existence, is a litany of the tired tropes and doublespeak employed by Israel and her apologists.

It opens, point blank, saying, “We do not believe cultural boycotts are acceptable.” Within two sentences the reader finds herself in the patrician hallways of the British conservative, being simply instructed what to think, what is polite. Cultural boycotts are never acceptable? Ever?

The lazy argumentation continues, with the limp disbelief that “the letter you published accurately represents opinion in the cultural world in the UK.” This is in reference to a letter published by Artists For Palestine UK in which 1000 UK cultural workers pledged to boycott Israel until it reverses its policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

The letter struggles on with a series of meaningless assertions about the need to “inform and encourage dialogue” to “further peace.” When you’re dealing with the mechanized destruction of an entire people by one of the most technologically advanced and diplomatically shielded militaries in the history of mankind then talk, in 2015, of ‘cultural engagement’ is nothing more than further cover for Israel’s continuing colonization of what remains of Palestine.

Let us consider what the last twenty years of dialogue, mutual engagement and negotiation have brought us. Since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 the Israeli government has constructed 53,000 homes to house 500,000 new settler-colonists in the West Bank, has subjected Gaza to a medieval siege for over 6 years, destroyed 15,000 Palestinian homes, expelled 11,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem and divided the West Bank into 167 segregated population zones that are divided from each other by a 440km cement wall and 522 military checkpoints. It has suppressed a popular uprising and launched four major offensives that have left over 7,000 Palestinians dead.

Israel, for all of those years (and we’re not even going back to 1948 here), has enjoyed full diplomatic and economic relations with all the world’s major players, it is at the centre of global trade in arms, hi-tech and diamonds. It competes in European sporting and musical competitions and enjoys European trade benefits. It has the US Congress in thrall to its every whim and has an army of lobbyists at work in every Western capital. Israel does not suffer from a shortage of ‘bridges.’

Words such as ‘dialogue,’ ‘peace’ and ‘bridges’ are hallmarks of the peace industry that has built up around Palestine in these years since 1993. Development money was released in reward for the PLO signing Oslo and foreign NGOs quickly came pouring into the West Bank armed with a new lexicon designed for annual reports and donor drives and an ultimate perpetuation of conflict and salaries. In this new language ‘peace’ means ‘submission’ and ‘dialogue’ means ‘silence.’ It’s not an Apartheid Wall, it’s a Separation Barrier – sometimes even fence. It’s not a ‘massacre’ it’s ‘fighting.’ The word justice is nowhere to be found. When Rowling’s letter states that “cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change” one can only applaud the crisp professional meaninglessness of it.

Who do we have to thank for this exercise in euphemistic insincerity?

They call themselves ‘Culture for Co-Existence’ and the coordinators include: an Executive Board member of One Family Israel, ‘a leading support organisation that deals with victims of terror in Israel’; the executive director of Friends of Israel Educational Foundation; an Israeli software designer whose Facebook profile picture is a big Star of David and an investment banker who assists campaigns for the charity Jewish Care.

Surely the Culture of Co-Existence Clan is missing something? Could they not find a single House Arab to sign on with them? Or did they decide that wasn’t even necessary?

Who exactly are they planning on co-existing with?

And then you realise. They are not actually talking about dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. They are talking about dialogue between themselves and Israel. The Palestinians are irrelevant. Peace, here, means being left at peace to keep doing business with the last apartheid state of the modern world. Dialogue and cultural exchange, in this lexicon, means that if speak out about Israel then you can exchange your job for another one. In just the last week both the US State Department and MSNBC have had to retract statements that fell short of the Israel lobby’s standards. What chance, then, do independent institutions like London’s Tricycle Theatre have to exercise their moral right to refuse funding from an apartheid state? The answer: none.  Because, remember, according to JK Rowling, cultural boycotts are never acceptable. A travelling troupe of KKK improvistas wants to ‘re-interpret’ a lynching in your school’s theatre to show the other side of the story? Right this way, sir. A cultural boycott would only single out white men from Mississippi unfairly when the world is so variously filled with wrong.

The Tricycle Theatre, like several politicians, popstars and athletes, was laid siege to last year when it tried to turn down Israeli government funding.  They were quickly dialogued into submission and bridges were forced onto them in a manner reminiscent of the British Opium Wars.

Considering that Ms Rowling’s trade is in language it is deeply surprising to see her name attached to such a letter. Clearly this Co-Existence Coterie, which consists of her agent and two trustees of her charity, Lumos, came into being entirely for her signature. Many of their fans hope, though, that Ms Rowling and Ms Mantel reconsider their position and remove their names from this document. It is nothing more than a plea to allow Israel to continue the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Economic and cultural isolation worked to end apartheid in South Africa and it can end it in Palestine too. If it is peace that people actually want, they have to recognize that it can only come with justice.

More articles by:

Omar Robert Hamilton is a filmmaker, writer and a producer of the annual Palestine Festival of Literature. He is currently working on his first novel – set in the Egyptian revolution and on an edited collection of essays on the revolution for LeftWord Books (Delhi). www.orhamilton.com

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South