British actress, Emma Watson, has received an outpouring of support around the world, including from Harry Potter co-star, Miriam Margolyes, for a recent post on her official Instagram account showing support for Palestine.
The actress uploaded a picture to her 64 million followers containing the words “solidarity is a verb” on a backdrop of “Free Palestine” and “Save Sheikh Jarrah” banners.
The text accompanying the picture features a quote from British-Australian academic Sara Ahmed:
“Solidarity does not assume that our struggles are the same struggles, or that our pain is the same pain, or that our hope is for the same future. Solidarity involves commitment, and work, as well as the recognition that even if we do not have the same feelings, or the same lives, or the same bodies, we do live on common ground.”
While Watson’s Instagram account bio says it “has been taken over by an anonymous Feminist Collective”, a later post appearing on the same day featured a photo of the actress with the caption “2020. Dancing on my own painting <3” suggesting she maintains control over her account’s content.
The picture was originally posted by Bad Activist Collective in May last year during Israel’s 11-day offensive on the Gaza Strip (which killed at least 69 Palestinian children), and the post on Watson’s page has so far amassed over 1.3 million likes on and sparked over 138,000 comments.
Many of the comments are adorned with Palestinian flags commending Emma’s ‘bravery’ accompanied by hashtags such as #FreePalestine.
However, not all the reactions to the post have been positive. Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, was quick to smear the actress, Tweeting: “10 points from Gryffindor for being an antisemite”, sparking outrage in the replies and in op-eds across the globe.
The Director of the Centre for UN Studies at the University of Buckingham, Mark Seddon, Tweeted in response: “As if any further confirmation is now needed that accusations of anti Semitism are being ritually weaponised by extremists to try & suppress any support for the Palestinians.”
While Palestinian poet and journalist Mohammed El-Kurd responded: “The Israeli Ambassador to the UN calls Emma Watson an “anti-Semite” for posting “solidarity is a verb,” a week after Zionists smeared Desmond Tutu as “anti-Jewish.” How is this not satire?”
Many commentators have been celebrating the Harry Potter star’s post as a “win” for the mainstreaming of the Palestinian liberation movement, others have raised concerns over the increased frequency of attempts to demonise and silence Palestine solidarity globally with false accusations of antisemitism.
But Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the films based on the novels by J.K. Rowling, is not the first star from the Harry Potter series to publicly display support for Palestine. Rather, she joins a growing list of actors from the movie who have been vocal on the issue:
BAFTA-winning actress, Miriam Margolyes, born to a secular Jewish family in Oxford, has been a staunch supporter of the anti-apartheid movement since university.
A proud anti-Zionist, Margolyes has been outspoken in her disgust at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians having visited Gaza herself once before and the West Bank several times.
Speaking to Palestine Deep Dive, Miriam Margolyes expressed her support for Emma Watson’s recent stand on Palestine saying, “I totally support Emma Watson’s recent remarks on Palestine. All decent people should too. The Israeli treatment of Palestinians is disgraceful. Anti-semitism is not at issue. What matters is opposing cruelty, speaking out for compassion. Criticising Israel is not in itself, an anti-Semitic stance. Conflating the two is a form of disguised censorship."
She also told Kim Hill in a radio interview for RNZ last year that, “When you see the treatment of the Palestinians and the way their life is curtailed, you cannot help but burn with a sense of anger and injustice. I’ve seen it. It’s not that I listened to other people telling me about it. I saw it. And it hurt me, it shocked me.”
As a signatory to Artists for Palestine UK’s pledge for Palestine, Margolyes endorses the cultural boycott of Israel in line with the BDS Movement until Israel, “complies with International law and universal principles of human rights.”
Alongside other Jewish Labour Party members, Margolyes has been vocal in her opposition to the Party’s adoption of the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism, which has been widely condemned for effectively stifling legitimate criticism of Israel.
Margolyes co-signed a letter in The Guardian opposing the adoption of the definition, which read: “The IHRA definition smuggles in anti-Zionism, in the guise of antisemitism, as a means of protecting the Israeli state and thus western foreign policy.”
Never afraid to speak out on this issue, Margolyes recently told journalist Richard Sanders, “For me, it's not a political choice - it's a moral imperative. I cannot allow things to be done in my name as a Jew which I know to be evil. And I must be allowed to say so without being branded as a 'self-hating Jew'."
Alan Rickman, the late award-winning actor who played Professor Snape, was known for his progressive politics and as an outspoke supporter of the Palestinian cause.
In fact, Rickman was so willing to deploy his talent in the service of others that he co-edited and directed the play, My Name is Rachel Corrie, in 2005 alongside Katharine Viner, who has been Guardian editor-in-chief since 2015.
Rachel Corrie was a 23-year-old American peace activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 16th March 2003 while undertaking nonviolent direct action to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition in Gaza.
Despite her megaphone and orange florescent high-vis jacket, eye witnesses describe how the the Caterpillar D9R Israeli military bulldozer proceeded to drive over her in the cold light of day after she slipped from a pile of earth the vehicle was approaching. The driver claimed he did not see her.
According to eyewitness Tom Dale, "the bulldozer went towards her very slowly, she was fully in clear view, straight in front of them… the driver didn't slow down; he just ran over her. Then he reversed the bulldozer back over her again."
Israel quickly denied culpability, claiming Rachel was not run over, but “struck by a hard object” and that it was “a very regrettable accident”. But this did not halt the international uproar.
In the weeks prior to her death, Rachel wrote an email to her mother:
“I’m witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I'm really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it's a good idea for all of us to drop everything and devote our lives to making it stop... Disbelief and horror is what I feel."
Rickman and Viner transformed Rachel’s diaries and emails into a play which opened in 2006 in New York despite politically motivated setbacks and delays. He toured the production for two years throughout which it was widely praised and considered a success.
Rachel’s father, Craig Corrie, commemorated Rickman’s death in 2016 thanking him for his craftsmanship and solidarity for producing the play which he said has, “flown to every continent except Antarctica”.
Viner recalled in her obituary to him that when asked to describe his proudest moment at London’s Royal Court Theatre, Rickman said it was, ”when he took Rachel Corrie’s parents outside the front of the theatre to show them their late daughter’s name in neon lights.”
Widely known for his role as Colin “Trigger” in BBC sitcom “Only Fools and Horses”, Lloyd-Pack was proud of his radical politics and for publicly advocating for Palestine.
The actor, who passed away in 2014, and was the grandson of Jewish Holocaust survivor, Erwin Pulay, often signed open-letters supporting Palestine and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. In 2013, he signed a letter calling for UEFA to rescind Israel’s hosting of the European Under-21 finals.
In a Daily Mail obituary to Lloyd-Pack, his daughter Emily recalled how, “He took politics seriously, too. He was very left-wing… He campaigned on behalf of the Palestinians and continued to do so as late as last year. I also joined him on a march recently to prevent the closure of a hospital.”
During Israel’s assault on Gaza in May 2021, Bonnie Wright, who plays Ginny Weasley throughout the Harry Potter series reposted a picture describing the situation for Palestinians on social media.
Sharing the Slow Factory’s post to her own Instagram story, the image depicts a backdrop of Gaza under bombardment behind the words “What is happening in Palestine is not complicated; it’s settler colonialism & ethnic cleansing. Debunking misinformation around Palestine.”
Later that week, a picture posted to her Instagram story also indicates Wright attended a protest somewhere supporting Palestine.
British musician, Jarvis Cocker, best known as the frontman of the rock band Pulp, made a cameo appearance in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Portraying Myron Wagtail, lead singer of The Weird Sisters, the fictional group performed at the Yule Ball of the Triwizard Tournament.
Cocker has long been a vocal supporter of Palestine, having pledged commitment to boycotting Israel himself and also offering his signature towards calls on other artists to cancel performances there, such as with Radiohead in 2017.
In 2021 he signed a letter slamming Israel’s terror designation of six Palestinian rights groups which includes Defense for Children International Palestine.
The statement read, “The vital work of these six organizations to protect and empower Palestinians and hold Israel accountable for its gross human rights violations and apartheid regime of institutionalized racial discrimination is precisely the work that Israel is trying to end” and was also signed by actress Tilda Swinton and author Philip Pullman.
Emma Thompson, who plays Professor Trelawney, is one of Britain’s most acclaimed actresses, being the first person ever to win Oscars for both acting and writing – she won best actress in 1993 for her role in Howards End and was awarded Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Sense and Sensibility in 1996.
As a proud and vocal supporter of Palestinian rights, in 2007 she commented on a report funded by the British government which warned that Israel’s newly-built separation wall is trapping 250,000 Palestinians.
Thompson said at the time: “This report cites the devastating effects on Palestinians’ health and livelihoods of Israel’s separation wall. It shows the vital need for our ministers to make fresh moves for a just peace. It is high time the UK government matched its rhetoric with action which can save Palestinians and Israelis from another 40 years’ conflict.”
In 2018, Thompson signed a statement alongside twenty-five public figures, including Hugh Grant and Eric Cantona, urging the Trump administration not to slash aid to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) which offers vital support to millions of Palestinian refugees.
But not only that, Dame Emma Thompson has served as a Patron of the Palestine Festival of Literature since its inception in 2008 among others including Mahmoud Darwish, Seamus Heaney and Harold Pinter.
As a wise old wizard named Albus Dumbledore once reminded Harry Potter, “Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy” with that in mind, who will be next to stand up and support Palestine?