Please Jo, call for equal rights and no more occupation

Activism
on 14 Comments

Dear Jo,

Growing up as a millennial, I was as inspired as everyone by your books. I spent a lot of time immersed in your rich universe, about which I could go on and on. Equally inspiring is the story of how you scribbled Harry Potter’s life onto napkins in a warm Edinburgh cafe as you struggled to pay for heating and relied on government benefits to raise your daughter. Rather than let your newfound wealth shield you from empathy, you’ve been outspoken about your duty to pay tax to support the state institutions that kept you alive, for which I commend you. For someone with vast economic power and fame to support social justice is noble.

Unfortunately, in signing on to the Culture of Coexistance letter condemning cultural boycotts of Israel, you have wielded your tremendous power against the some of the most powerless people in the world. I hope you will reconsider how you can make it up to the Palestinians by opposing how their culture is boycotted and destroyed through violence, and calling for equal rights and an end to the occupation.

The letter you have signed onto says that “[o]pen dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance.” In the abstract this is an incontrovertible truth, but in the reality it obscures the basic fact: There is no moral equivalency between the occupier and the occupied. There are not two equal sides at play here who need merely to seek mutual acceptance. Israel has occupied and settled Palestinian land, denying the existence of a secure and self-determined state for going on 50 years now. While this type of both-sidesism is a common refrain, it is used to obscure the relative responsibilities of those with the greatest power and those with the least. On the one side, a cultural boycott may be a flawed tactic bordering on collective punishment. On the other side is a brutal unending occupation using a state-run machinery of death to inflict collective punishment.

It is ridiculous to oppose collective punishment of an academic or cultural nature, while others are violently collectively punished. Will you not come out against Israeli apartheid, a boycott far greater in horror and scale? Be consistent—no cultural boycotts should mean that Israel should not boycott the entire Palestinian culture though occupation, dispossession, and statelessness.

As Haaretz commentator Gideon Levy has pointed out, Israel already is effectively boycotting the West Bank and Gaza. The illegal blockade on Gaza intentionally creates malnourishment, destroys the economy, and prevents the rebuilding of 18,000 civilian homes. West Bank Palestinians have unelected foreign military law imposed on them. This is an act of violence, continuous for almost 50 years now, a war against the people of Palestine’s right to self-determination and security, which was affirmed at the same time as the Israeli state was created. The occupation is a boycott on steroids.

To be even more literal, Israel has multiple times boycotted Palestinian cultural institutions: the main difference between their tactics and those of BDS being, violently. Israeli journalist Amira Hass documented the vandalization of the Palestinian Ministry of Culture in no uncertain terms. Just in the recent war with Gaza, the Israeli military attacked 203 mosques, 73 of which were completely destroyed. They destroyed the English department of the Islamic University of Gaza—students there joked it was because they were producing PMDs—poems of mass destruction.

It is commendable you’ve been able to empathize with Palestinians through the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish. But empathy is not enough: it needs to lead to action, and BDS is the primary tool supported by the very poets, artists, and cultural workers living under Israeli military occupation.

We don’t have time and can’t expect to wait for the minds of Israelis to change, not while they bear no cost to the occupation. International pressure is necessary, as was the case in South Africa. It was baffling in your Twitlonger explanation that you said you never heard of “a cultural boycott ending a bloody and prolonged conflict.” But by your logic, it seems you would have opposed the cultural boycott of Apartheid South Africa as well. Studying history matters, because it shows that things can change, and how. I find it hard to believe the JK Rowling of my youth would have played Sun City or defended Apartheid South Africa from being singled out instead of North Korea, which happens to already be under numerous sanctions and does not claim to be a western-style democracy dependent on good relations with the US and Britain, as Israel does.

Dissidents like Gideon Levy and Amira Hass risk their lives within Israel to report on the truth of what their country is doing in their name. Just recently, two self-described lifelong American Jewish Zionists came out for boycotting Israel, no easy decision on their part.

If Jewish people who love Israel can have the courage to stand up and call for action against Israeli apartheid, then you have no excuse for not marshaling your moral and financial power for the cause of justice.

If despite all this, you simply don’t agree that the cultural boycott is best tactic, while otherwise wanting the horror to end, then what do you propose? Talk has proven cheap—the “peace process” has done nothing but given time for more dispossession and more massacres, all while the US and Britain shield Israelis from accountable and the Palestinians remain a stateless underclass. What should we do?

When we see Israel wage aggressive military occupation, and ghettoizing a stateless people, violently segregating and legally separating two peoples as matter of state policy, then there’s no more time to waste, and certainly no Time-Turners around.  Please Jo, call for equal rights and no more occupation.

About Michael Fantauzzo

Michael Fantauzzo is a writer based in Vancouver. He has previously been a Democratic activist and has fundraised for MSF & UNHCR. His favorite character from the Potterverse is Harry.

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14 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    October 30, 2015, 12:05 pm

    Is JKR really such a major trendsetter, very high quality author, and she someone who can actually be reached personally by such appeals about children’s rights under occupation? Or is she a PEP establishment person whose books promoting the occult to children are sold en masse to audiences by the establishment?

    • Mooser
      October 30, 2015, 12:46 pm

      “Or is she a PEP establishment person whose books promoting the occult to children are sold en masse to audiences by the establishment?”

      It all started, this promoting the occult with that damned movie about the Russian instant-coffee fortune heiress who was really a beautiful witch! Remember the theme-song? “Samovar Over the Rainbow”?

    • caladan
      October 31, 2015, 10:37 am

      My apologies, but what does “PEP” stand for?

  2. JLewisDickerson
    October 30, 2015, 12:56 pm

    RE: “We don’t have time and can’t expect to wait for the minds of Israelis to change, not while they bear no cost to the occupation… When we see Israel wage aggressive military occupation, and ghettoizing a stateless people, violently segregating and legally separating two peoples as matter of state policy, then there’s no more time to waste, and certainly no Time-Turners around.” ~ Michael Fantauzzo

    REGARDING “THERE’S NO MORE TIME TO WASTE” (I.E., “THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW”), NOTE THESE EXCERPTS from “Letter From Birmingham Jail”, By Rev. M.L.K. Jr., April 16, 1963

    MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN:

    [EXCERPTS] While confined here in the Birmingham City Jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. . . But since I feel that you are men of genuine goodwill and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms. . .

    . . . You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. . . I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. . .

    . . . One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham. . . My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

    We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

    We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. . .

    . . . I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

    I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

    In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. . . We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

    I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. . .” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity. . .

    SOURCE – http://abacus.bates.edu/admin/offices/dos/mlk/letter.html

  3. Ossinev
    October 30, 2015, 2:55 pm

    @W.Jones
    “Is JKR really such a major trendsetter, very high quality author, and she someone who can actually be reached personally by such appeals about children’s rights under occupation? ”

    I believe that the overwhelming consensus here in the UK , irrespective of the literary value of her novels (whether Potter or crime ) would be that she is a moral and conscientious person. This is certainly backed up by her major support for child poverty charities and other philanthropic causes which would suggest yes that she can be reached personally by appeals for childrens rights under occupation.

    I personally think that she along with a few others on the list may have been a little bit naive and were conned into supporting this “cultural bridges ” Hasbara gambit by the Zionist cabal here.

    Perhaps she may get to hear about or read the sad news of the little Palestinian baby killed today by the cultured IOF and this in itself may give her cause for a rethink.

    One can only hope.

    • Keith
      October 30, 2015, 7:00 pm

      OSSINEV- “…she is a moral and conscientious person.”

      If so, then she is the rarest of all humans, a moral and conscientious billionaire.

      OSSINEV- “This is certainly backed up by her major support for child poverty charities and other philanthropic causes….”

      Philanthropy is the name given to social engineering by fat-cats with an agenda. With someone like Bill Gates, it is major stuff to shape the world to his liking and profit (genetic engineering, computerized programmed education, etc). With someone less wealthy like Rowling, it may be be merely good PR along with a few band aids to relieve the pressure for systemic change. Seriously. Show me one billionaire who seeks fundamental change to our inherently unjust system? Show me one billionaire who opposes neoliberalism? Don’t hold your breath waiting for J.K.Rowling to ride to the rescue.

      • RoHa
        October 31, 2015, 12:58 am

        “Show me one billionaire who seeks fundamental change to our inherently unjust system? Show me one billionaire who opposes neoliberalism? ”

        I’m pretty sure I could be one. Send me a billion dollars so we can try the experiment.

      • Keith
        October 31, 2015, 1:29 pm

        ROHA- “I’m pretty sure I could be one.”

        I doubt it. The money would change you. Before long you would probably engage in “philanthropy” and establish a non-profit to enforce the rules of formal punctuation (The Comma Institute?). Soon would follow a series of check points where travelers would need to score a minimum of 95% on the rules of grammar to pass through. Legislation, too? No, better to leave well enough alone and confine your activities to Mondoweiss.

      • Mooser
        October 31, 2015, 5:21 pm

        ” Before long you would probably engage in “philanthropy” and establish a non-profit to enforce the rules of formal punctuation (The Comma Institute?)”

        Cool. They could sell a little tote bag to go around your waist to raise funds.

      • RoHa
        October 31, 2015, 7:58 pm

        “The money would change you.”

        Not a lot of point in having it if it didn’t.

        “Before long you would probably engage in “philanthropy” and establish a non-profit to enforce the rules of formal punctuation (The Comma Institute?). …)

        Excellent ideas, all of them! They would make a fundamental change to the system, and make the world a better place.

        Send the billions at once, please.

      • Mooser
        October 31, 2015, 10:41 pm

        “Excellent ideas, all of them!”

        Okay! We’re on! I will start soliciting bids for manufacturing 100,000 commastomy bags.

      • Keith
        November 1, 2015, 12:04 pm

        ROHA- “Send the billions at once, please.”

        Sorry, my funds are all tied up at the moment. Perhaps Mooser’s idea about commastomy bags has merit. For funding, try locating a cooperative venture capitalizationist.

      • Mooser
        November 1, 2015, 5:10 pm

        ” Perhaps Mooser’s idea about commastomy bags has merit.”

        Whadayumean “perhaps”? Everybody is going to want one. Plus, they come with a bea-u-ti-ful hand printed, prescreened, etchasketchographic print of one of Blake’s illuminated poems. (requires two “D” cell batteries, not included)
        Buy two, and you get all of Blake’s recordings on a CD, cleaned up and remastered,( since they were recorded near a century ago.)

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