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Jewish Groups Defend J.K. Rowling Over ’Anti-Semitic’ Goblin Accusations

Goblin Banker - Sputnik International, 1920, 05.01.2022
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The controversy over J.K. Rowling’s fictional goblins in the Harry Potter franchise was reignited recently after comic Jon Stewart’s comments during one of his recent episodes of The Problem, Stewart’s Apple TV series.
Stewart voiced criticism of scenes in the film, first released in 2001, which feature hook-nosed creatures called goblins who run ‘Gringotts’, the underground bank of the wizarding world. “It was one of those things where I saw it on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like, ‘holy shit, [Rowling] did not, in a wizarding world, just throw Jews in there to run the f*cking underground bank.’ And everybody was just like, ‘Wizards.’ It was so weird.”
Dave Rich, who is the director of policy for the UK-based Jewish nonprofit Community Security Trust, tweeted “sometimes a goblin is just a goblin”.
He also told Hollywood Reporter, “There is nothing in [Rowling’s] record to suggest that she holds anti-Semitic views: quite the opposite, in fact, she has spoken out consistently and repeatedly in support of the Jewish community and against anti-Semitism.”

British Jewish comedian David Baddiel weighed in, pointing out that the portrayal may be more embedded in anti-Semitic historical traditions as opposed to Rowling’s own imagination. In his recent book, Jews Don’t Count, Baddiel writes, “Jews were routinely painted and sculpted as gargoyles and devils. Our artistic tradition– look at Punch & Judy, look at witches, look at pantomime, look at Bond villains– depicts evil as swarthy and hook-nosed.”

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism shared a similar thought in a tweet on Wednesday, calling the goblins a “product of centuries of association with Jews with grotesque and malevolent creatures in folklore, as well as money and finance. The mythological associations have become so ingrained in the Western mind that their provenance no longer registers with creators or consumers. [It] is a testament more to centuries of Christendom’s anti-Semitism than it is to malice by contemporary artists.”
On Wednesday, Stewart turned to Twitter to explain that he was “joking” and that the comment came out of a “light-hearted conversation amongst colleagues and chums.” He went on to say, “Some tropes are so embedded in society that they’re basically invisible.” He then said, “I do not think J.K. Rowling is anti-Semitic" and indicated that he was a Harry Potter fan.
But Stewart isn’t the first to allege that the Harry Potter goblins reflect anti-Semitic tropes.
Children’s author Marianne Levy wrote for the Jewish Chronicle, “It is not often that I am stopped in my tracks. But the press photography from the new Gringotts wing of Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter Studio tour positively shrieked with anti-Semitic tropes; the long-nosed goblin, his natty suit, clawed fingers caressing a pile of gold coins. When I positioned a Gringotts shot alongside a series of cartoons from Nazi Germany’s Der Sturmer, it did not seem out of place.”
Rowling, who has also been accused of making derogatory comments about the transgender community, had no comment.
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