Jon Stewart: There are antisemitic caricatures in 'Harry Potter'

Leave it to Jon Stewart to point out another problem with the increasingly problematic legacy of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter franchise. On a Dec. 1 episode of The Problem With Jon Stewart podcast — an audio companion to his Apple TV+ current affairs series — the former Daily Show host called attention to what he considers to be antisemitic caricatures in both the Potter novels and their feature film adaptations.

That portion of the podcast was posted on the show's YouTube channel on Dec. 16, and is now going viral after being shared by activist Rafael Shimunov in a lengthy Twitter thread that comments on the "antisemitic tropes" in Rowling's work. 

So @jonstewart recently broke Hollywood's complete silence on @jk_rowling unapologetically maintaining antisemitic folklore through Harry Potter.

— raf (@rafaelshimunov) January 3, 2022

Speaking with The Problem staff writers, Jay Jurden and Henrik Blix, on the Dec. 1 podcast, Stewart called their attention to the appearance of the goblins who run the Wizarding World's leading financial institution, the Gringotts Wizarding Bank. "Talking to people, I was like … 'Do you know what those folks that run the bank are? Jews!' … That's a caricature of a Jew from an antisemitic piece of literature and J.K. Rowling looked at that and went, 'Can we get these guys to run our bank?'" 

Stewart was specifically referring to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious antisemitic text that dates back to the early 20th century, and features flagrantly offensive Jewish caricatures that are still glimpsed in racist propaganda today. Remembering his experience watching the Harry Potter films in theaters, Stewart says he was shocked to recognize similar imagery in a major studio blockbuster. 

"It was one of those things where I saw it on the screen, and I was expecting the crowd to be like 'Holy s***, she did not — in a wizarding world — just throw Jews in there to run the f****** underground bank,'" Stewart said. "And everybody was just like: 'Wizards!'" 

In his Twitter thread, Shimunov shared the scene that Stewart may have been referencing, which appeared in the film franchise's first installment, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, directed by Chris Columbus. He also called attention to the "Jewish stars" that allegedly appear at the bank in the first film and were left out of future installments. 

The scene Jon Stewart is referencing was shared by me in 2018, when Rowling was smearing the left as antisemites and only beginning to embrace her infamous anti trans views. Harry walks over a bank adorned with Jewish Stars, to greedy Goblins side

— raf (@rafaelshimunov) January 3, 2022

While Rowling has yet to respond to Stewart's newly viral comments, her agent, Neil Blair, called the charges "Total and utter bs" in his own Twitter post. 

Total and utter bs. @jk_rowling hasn’t an antisemitic bone in her body. Quite the opposite IN FACT (a concept out of fashion these days). @JonStewart should apologise for his ignorant, false and hurtful smear. Sometimes I feel that the whole world has gone mad..

— Neil Blair (@NeilBlairTBP) January 4, 2022

Stewart's Dec. 1 comments and Shimunov's Jan. 2 Twitter thread have further stirred a social media pot that's already boiling over with controversy about Rowling. The author — who notably wasn't invited to participate in HBO Max's recent 20th anniversary special, Return to Hogwarts — has been under fire for her "anti-trans positions," as well as other stereotypes some feel appear in the Potter novels. Comedian Sarah Silverman was among the many who weighed in on Stewart's charges of antisemitism. 

I’ve actually never seen Harry Potter and after watching the below and then seeing the clip in the thread I am just kind of stunned. You know when you giggle but it’s really more fear than joy?

— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) January 4, 2022

Ok, so apparently I wasn't the only kid at 16 seeing the original and thinking "wait, are they going with nazi caricature jews run the bank? Wtf?" On the other hand I started getting STEAMED over that house elf bs.

— Sera (@Sera60942873) January 4, 2022

jon stewart has some good takes. and hot. but he's got some really good takes.

— peepee bridgers (@bathsaltenjoyer) January 4, 2022

Good to see @jonstewart finally say this.

— Adam Ramsay (@AdamRamsay) January 4, 2022

The Problem With Jon Stewart is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

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