A leading UK Jewish organization is defending author JK Rowling after comedian Jon Stewart accused the author of antisemitism for her portrayal of goblins in her Harry Potter books.
Stewart, the Jewish former host of “The Daily Show,” called the gold hoarding goblins who run a network of underground tunnels where treasures are stored an anti-Jewish stereotype in an episode of his streaming series, “The Problem with Jon Stewart.”
Stewart asked why Rowling decided to 'throw Jews in there to run the underground bank” in a work of fiction where characters “can ride dragons and have pet owls.”
But Jewish fans quickly jumped to Rowling’s defense, noting that the author has consistently spoken out against antisemitism in the last few years. Rowling previously called out former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over his failure to address antisemitism within the party, going head to head with a fellow British writer on Twitter over his criticism of Jewish complaints about antisemitism in the Labour Party.
“How dare you tell a Jew that their outrage is 'patently synthetic'? How dare you demand that they lay bare their pain and fear on demand, for your personal evaluation? What other minority would you speak to this way?” Rowling tweeted in August 2018.
The director of the Community Security Trust, Dave Rich, defended Rowling, telling the Daily Mail that Rowling has been a friend of the UK Jewish community.
“JK Rowling has been very supportive of the Jewish community in recent years and tweeted repeatedly against antisemitism, so it is hard to imagine that she used antisemitic caricatures in her books. Sometimes a goblin is just a goblin,” Rich said.
UK Jewish comedian David Baddiel explain in a tweet that “the goblins in Harry Potter need to be seen not in a simplistic #teamRowling vs #antiteamRowling way but in a many-centuries long, deeply subconsciously embedded cultural context.”
Fans of the Harry Potter series also defending the author, describing her description of goblins as typical to other fantasy writing, such as the Lord of the Rings series and books by Terry Pratchett.
“Rowling appears to have followed traditions in British fantasy literature,” author Nicholas Jubber told the Daily Mail. “The old German word, ‘kobold,’ gave us the word 'cobalt,’ signalling the association of these creatures with mining for precious ores. So it makes sense that goblins would be linked with vaults and underground storage.”
In her 2018 novel “Lethal White,” Rowling featured a villain whose obsessive anti-Zionism morphs into anti-Semitism. The author also shared with her 14.4 million Twitter followers examples of posts she’d received that denied antisemitism was a problem.