Canon John Hadley: Letter to J. K. Rowling

Dear Ms Rowling

I've recently finished reading "Lethal White", which I greatly enjoyed, and which helped me through a longish period in bed with a viral illness that wouldn't go away. Thank you.

But one thing in the book really worries me. On pages 118-9 we hear of a "lengthy article by Jimmy, arguing for the dissolution of the 'apartheid state' of Israel and the defeat of the 'Zionist lobby' which had a stranglehold on the Western capitalist establishment". Later, on page 443, we read that in his girl-friend's flat, "a giant Palestinian flag was pinned over the mattress on the floor". Now Jimmy is not a sympathetic character, and we are definitely not supposed to sympathise with the aims of his Real Socialist Party. So you seem to be suggesting that to consider Israel as an apartheid state, and to express support for the Palestinian cause, is just one more aspect of the loony left which Jimmy represents.

I have just returned from a two-week study tour of Israel and the West Bank, including several days building a community centre and harvesting olives with Palestinians , as well as an intensive programme of visits and talks. I am not a loony leftist, but I came away with no doubt that Israel is an apartheid state, and that its policies towards the Palestinian population of Israel and the occupied territories are inhuman and evil (a word I wouldn't use lightly). So I am really disappointed that, in contrast to your usual enlightened attitude to social and political questions, you are apparently using your book to express, and even encourage, support for this règime.

A few relevant facts:

  • In 1948 around 400 Arab towns and villages were destroyed, and 750,000 of an original 900,000 Palestinians were forced (or manipulated) into leaving their homes, with no right to return.

  • The new "Basic Law" describes Israel as "the national home of the Jewish People", and defines Israel first and foremost as a Jewish state, with Hebrew as its first language. This clearly demeans the status of Arab citizens.

  • "Judaisation" is an official policy of the Israeli state.

  • Palestinians cannot live wherever they want within Israel, but are restricted to special areas such as Nazareth.

  • Palestinians are rarely given permission to build new houses, making for an acute housing shortage and a rising problem of homelessness.

  • Any houses that are "illegally" built are threatened with summary demolition orders, which creates a constant climate of fear amongst Palestinians.

  • At least 20,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished within the state of Israel since 1967.

  • Palestinian cars have a different colour of number plate from Israeli cars, and are subject to numerous checkpoints and restricions not applicable to Israelis.

  • Of about 200 (mostly rural) Palestinian communities which survived beyond 1948, 80 remain "unrecognised" and thus effectively criminalised. They are subject to full Israeli military control; they are not allowed the water supply necessary to all agrarian communities; so their populations are driven into cities and "ghettoized".

  • The above facts do not take account of what happens in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, where the situation is even worse, and the climate of constant fear amongst Palestinians is palpable. During the very short time we were there, members of our group witnessed soldiers preventing Bedouin shepherds from pasturing their sheep; the demolition of part of a primary school; the harassment by illegal Israeli settlers of farmers lawfully harvesting their olives; and the inhuman treatment of people crossing the "separation wall" at a border post in Bethlehem, in order to go to work within the state of Israel.

    It isn't a question of being "pro-Israeli" or "pro-Palestinian", but of whether or not we are pro-justice and pro-truth. The policies of the Israeli government blatantly give precedence to racial and religious considerations over justice and international law; and the majority of those who support these policies, within Israel and across the world, are simply shutting their eyes to the truth of what is actually happening. And, whatever else you say about Jimmy, he certainly had a point about the success of the Zionist lobby.

    A measured talk on Israel as an apartheid state, recently given by Virginia Tilley, Professor of Political Science at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in the US, can be found at: video: Is Israel an Apartheid State? Her arguments are considerably more cogent than Jimmy's might have been.

    I beg you not to lend any credence to pernicious Israeli propaganda, and to retract the impression given by Lethal White that you support their terrible policies - if possible by adding a disclaimer to future editions, or even by changing the text in the relevant places.

    Yours sincerely, with best wishes,

    (Canon) John Hadley.

    5 November 2018.