A music teacher from Dunfermline has followed up from on her original viral letter to famous author JK Rowling. 25-year-old Mia's orginal letter, which The Herald published on Tuesday, challenged JK Rowling’s stance on Israel using plots from the Harry Potter series. The viral letter promoted a response from JK Rowling, and Mia has responded to the letter on her Facebook page.
"Thank you so much to everyone who shared my letter - whether you are a social media user, journalist reporter or just through word of mouth! If you haven't heard already, we have a reply! Thank you for taking your time to write back to us, J K Rowling.
A lot of you have been asking me what I think of the reply, and as promised, here are my thoughts ...
Initially, I was so happy to hear that she had replied - because it proved that, as ever, Rowling is committed to her fans. But, as I read what was written, I began to wonder if she fully understood anything I'd addressed. I have no doubt that J K Rowling wants justice for the Palestinians - especially as she wrote in her reply,
"The Palestinian community has suffered untold injustice and brutality. I want to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality..."
But, in the rest of her response, she never acknowledged the argument that dialogue with the Israeli state is a non-effective method. Instead, she focused on her rejection of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), and reading what she has said, I don't think she comprehends what BDS actually is. Additionally, although she has spoken against the Israeli government, the signature on her letter suggests otherwise.
The 'Culture for Coexistence' letter Rowling signed was partly organised by Neil Blair, Rowling's literary agent who is on the board of the UK Friends of the Abraham Fund. This is a normalisation group which is sponsored by the Israeli bank 'Hapoalim' which funds the construction of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank (thus breaking UN resolution 446 and the Fourth Geneva Convention, article 49). So even though Rowling has spoken out against the Israeli government, and discusses why she thinks dialogue would promote peace, she has signed a document proposed by someone who is sponsored by a group involved with breaking international law and the occupation.
It's a no-brainer why this letter opposes BDS when it was put forward by Zionist sympathisers. Why does it oppose BDS? Because BDS is a legitimate threat to the ambitions of the Zionist state. By signing this letter but publicly criticising Israel, J K Rowling has yet again shown the dangers of passing judgement and making conclusions without proper research.
Whilst, as a Palestinian, I fully appreciate Rowling voicing that she wants the Israeli government to be held accountable for their war crimes, I think I speak for Palestinians worldwide when I say that we are tired of people passively making statements. If writing sentences like, "I want to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality," worked, then we wouldn't have an on-going occupation and ethnic cleansing program of 67 years and counting.
As Palestinians, an oppressed people, we do not need empty words. We need action and we are calling for BDS, the most effective, non-violent tool we have to fight apartheid. But instead of listening to us, we have an author, who is respected by millions throughout the world, telling us that our method is wrong and thus, undermining our intellect and our movement. Again, I echo what I wrote in my previous letter,
"How dare anyone, who has not picked up a book or watched a documentary on the subject, who has never even spoken to a Palestinian about their life tell them what to do..."
This is a case of the 'good, unbiased Westerner' author telling us that *even* our non-violent resistance is not good enough, but where there is no alternative solution offered.
Every other action available for the international community to get involved with has failed - how many petitions and letters to politicians have we sent? How many demonstrations have we held? What else is there that we, as an international community, can do to help?
To explain BDS in a different way, for people who do not understand what it is (J K Rowling included), I am going to make a final Harry Potter analogy.
In the Harry Potter world, Voldemort and his death eaters would frequently use the Unforgivable curses without a bat of an eye or anyone holding them accountable for their actions. Instead of retaliating and using the curses back, Harry sticks to his favourite disarming spell as his weapon. And although Harry used the curses a few times, it was Expelliarmus which ultimately brought down Voldemort and, consequently, his death eater followers.
Now let's compare this to Israel/Palestine. The methods of apartheid and ethnic cleansing Israel uses is most definitely the real equivalent to the Unforgivable curses. Examples such as wiping out over 400 entire villages and families, military invasions on refugee camps and the Dahiya Doctrine strategy (a system using disproportionate force against civilians to inflict mass casualties), are just some of the illegal acts Israel imposes - which we can call the Unforgivable curses of Zionism. The Palestinians, in response, have called for BDS - a non-violent response to the occupation, in which we financially isolate Israel until it gives way to global pressure and complies with international law and UN regulations. It is our version of disarming Israel of its apartheid weapons. By endorsing BDS, we are brandishing our wands, shouting "Expelliarmous" and disarming one of the most brutal, racist states in the world.
But what is BDS - in particular the cultural boycott which J K is so against?
Well, let's firstly consider how Israel validates its existence as "just another, normal country" - at how its violations of international law and war crimes have been consistently ignored by so many.
The Israeli government deliberately employs and funds artists and academics to take part in a normalisation project called the Brand Israel Campaign. An example of this is the Batsheva dance group who collaborate with the Israeli Government and this campaign. This program is used as a whitewashing, normalising prop in order to say, "Hey, we're just another country existing on this planet and yes we may be actively oppressing people based on their ethnic background and constantly breaking international law BUUUUT look at our talent, we are people too!"
When we talk of an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, these are the kind of things we are challenging. Israel is intentionally employing academics and artists for acceptance by the international community, and is exploiting their art for its own political gain. Why should we have agents of the Israeli government, who are complicit in war crimes, come along and distract us from their apartheid, ethnic cleansing and occupation with pirouettes and paint brushes?
J K Rowling says, "some of the Israelis who are most pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel’s government.," and talks about Snape as an individual who was a death eater. But, BDS and cultural boycott are not about ignoring individuals - there is absolutely nowhere that states this. It is about isolating the state of Israel. The argument Rowling presents in her letter suggests that she has not fully understood what BDS means.
It must be a common misconception that BDS is a purely Palestinian movement. But, in actual fact, there are Israelis who are for BDS - the Boycott from Within group is a great example of this. There is also an article by the Washington Post, which shows even self-proclaimed Zionists are for BDS too. So, not only is the Palestinian call for BDS being debased, but the Israeli one is too. If BDS was about isolating the Snapes of Israel, then why are Israelis backing the movement also?
Of course we support the Snapes of Israel. These Israelis have denounced their government, and have thus been imprisoned for refusing to serve in the IDF, are disowned by their family and friends, and have left the country because they refuse to contribute to their state anymore. And yes, when these people are artists who aren't employed by Israel then of course they should absolutely be celebrated - but only when they explicitly state that they are challenging their government and are opposed to the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Great examples of these are the Activestills collective and Israeli film maker Lia Tarachansky. Also, purely on a side note, Alan Rickman (the actor who played Snape) directed the West End production of 'My Name is Rachel Corrie' so even our 'real' Snape has acted out against Israeli apartheid.
So, yes, Dumbledore as an academic would absolutely meet Snape on the hilltop. But he would also understand the legitimacy of the BDS movement - he was a part of the Order of the Phoenix, and was therefore a part of the movement against the oppressors of the wizarding world.
The other perspective of a cultural boycott is challenging international artists who visit Israel. Take for example, Enrique Iglesias who is due to play in Tel Aviv later this year. What is surreal about this concert, is that not only is it taking place on a city built upon colonisation, but also that whilst he's jamming out on stage, just a few kilometers away there is an entire population blockaded into Gaza who are denied basic human rights such as freedom of movement and medical supplies; where only one home out of the thousands destroyed from last year's "Operation Protective Edge" has been fully restored, whilst the rest of the 13,167 refugee families remain displaced, with their homes still in rubble.
So whilst Enrique is partying with his audience (some of whom undoubtedly will be serving in the IDF, and therefore may well be those who bombed those homes and wiped out at least 89 families completely , or people who work in the government or Zionist media), there are still people fighting for freedom and basic human rights a short distance away. Additionally, there are still a Palestinian diaspora around the world who are denied to go home, or to even visit their homeland on a tourist visa, waiting for UN resolution 194 (III) the "Right of Return" - many of whom would be returning to what is now called Tel Aviv. In other words, Enrique will be entertaining an audience who live a life of privilege, and may be complicit in war crimes, whilst the indigenous people are either refused their right to go home or boxed into tiny open-air ghetto prisons. Somehow, that does not seem ethical to me.
I don't think I've ever met a person who has opposed the concept of world peace. It's something that everyone prays and wishes for. It is very easy to condemn war in countries, the use of weapons and the oppression of people by account of race, sexuality, gender etc. But, how do we engage in movements towards world peace, and secondly, actually partake in critically analysing the best step forward to achieving world peace?
When the Israeli president calls BDS a "strategic threat" in an "emergency" meeting about academic boycott, you can tell that BDS is as much a stressor to the Zionists, as Dumbledore's Army and the Order of the Phoenix were to the death eaters. J K Rowling's criticism of BDS is criticising the movement of the DA, the Order and Harry's choice in the disarming spell. She is telling the Palestinians, "don't use your last non-violent alternative, just talk to the perpetrators of your oppression and hope for a solution." Although, as I've analysed her reply and investigated her political alliances further, it is becoming more and more apparent that despite Rowling wanting peace, she does not appear to understand or know much about BDS. If you want to hold the Israeli government accountable for its atrocities, then why not research what they are worried about, and use it against them?
Many people are angry at J K Rowling for her support on the 'Culture for Coexistence' letter. Whilst we speculate whether this is an incredibly misunderstood act or not, I don't agree with anyone arguing to "boycott" Harry Potter and future Rowling projects; it's not going to solve anything. I spoke to my friend earlier in the week about this, and we discussed how even though her arguments are endorsing the oppression of myself and my people, the hope and comfort that the Harry Potter series give me will never be taken away. Those of you who are commenting on my posts who are saying that you will be boycotting J K Rowling, please redirect your focus and energy to what we really need to be doing as a global movement: BDS.
I really hope that my letter was not another 3-day internet sensation like the ice water bucket challenge  or bare face challenge. This is real life - it is happening, and we need everyone to engage. If we can do it with South African apartheid, we can absolutely do it with Israeli apartheid. When Israeli politicians (the very people in the government J K Rowling wants to be held accountable) are fearing the progress of BDS, you know that it is working and that it will dismantle Zionism all together.
By endorsing BDS, we are taking part in the final Potter-Voldemort duel; sending out that red spark from our wand and holding it against Zionism's green flash of light, creating 'Priori Incantatem' until the Zionism wand succumbs and the illegal state of war crimes ceases to exist. Then we can live in one country, all together, with no labels, no stigma, no discrimination. We can go home, and live freely, at last.
To J K Rowling and anyone else, I hope that this has cleared up any confusion about the BDS movement. To my favourite author, J K Rowling, now that I've clarified what BDS is, and how it can confront the Israeli government on its crimes, would you support your statement of holding the Israeli government accountable by withdrawing your signature from the letter? To everyone else, let's show our support for J K Rowling to do this by signing this petition:
In the last 30 days, 68 Palestinians have been killed, demonstrating how urgent and current this issue really is. I truly believe that we all have the power to save lives - let's use it."