J.K. Rowling Schools Twitter After non-Jew 'Explains' anti-Semitism

Amid debate over anti-Semitism in the U.K., author responds to tweet claiming 'Judaism is a religion not a race' — and grows increasingly frustrated

In this Nov. 10, 2016 file photo, J. K. Rowling attends the world premiere of "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them" in New York.
Charles Sykes/AP

There’s an unsettling debate underway in Britain about whether the right or the left is more anti-Semitic, and videos of Jewish members of Parliament reading out some of the anti-Semitic invective they’ve suffered have gone viral.

J.K. Rowling, the non-Jewish author of the Harry Potter series, decided to weigh in on Wednesday, defining anti-Semitism for her 14.4 million Twitter followers.

She posted a screen grab of a non-Jew gentile-splaining what Judaism is — “Judaism is a religion not a race” — and gently explained why this is hardly relevant to defining anti-Jewish bias.

“Most UK Jews in my timeline are currently having to field this kind of crap, so perhaps some of us non-Jews should start shouldering the burden,” she said. “Antisemites think this is a clever argument, so tell us, do: were atheist Jews exempted from wearing the yellow star? #antisemitism.”

Rowling’s head-smacking was almost audible as she sorted through responses to that tweet, including one that said arguing against anti-Semitism was “culturally insensitive” to Muslims.

“When you only understand bigotry in terms of ‘pick a team’ and get a mind-boggling response,” she said.

She also reacted with impatience — attaching a GIF of an exasperated Hugh Laurie — when someone argued that Arabs can’t be anti-Semitic because they are Semites. “The ‘Arabs are semitic too’ hot takes have arrived,” she said.

 “Split hairs. Debate etymology,” she said in a tweet attached to a definition of anti-Semitism as “hostility to or prejudice against Jews.” “Gloss over the abuse of your fellow citizens by attacking the actions of another country’s government. Would your response to any other form of racism or bigotry be to squirm, deflect or justify?”

Rowling got in so deep, she forgot for a moment that her followers mainly want to chat about, well, Harry Potter. “How wonderful that you’re experiencing it for the first time!” one said to another who posted that he had just started reading the series. “Enjoy!!”

Rowling quoted the reply, and said: “For a second there I thought @jessiebacho was telling me it was wonderful that I was experiencing antisemitism for the first time then I realised she was responding to somebody who just finished reading Harry Potter for the first time  #ReadCarefullyBeforeCursing.”

Seeing anti-Semitism everywhere? J.K., welcome to our nightmare.