Jon Stewart says the ‘Harry Potter’ goblin characters are antisemitic

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Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart speaks backstage a “Stand Up for Heroes” benefit show in New York City, Nov. 4, 2019. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Bob Woodruff Foundation via JTA)

In recent years, some “Harry Potter” fans have reconsidered their love for the series in light of the controversy surrounding its author J.K. Rowling, who has been criticized for comments about the transgender community.

But after the release of an HBO special last week that celebrates the “Harry Potter” movies’ 20th anniversary, some are critiquing the series for a different reason: the inclusion of goblin characters that run the wizarding world’s bank.

In the “Harry Potter” world, Gringott’s Bank, the bank that serves wizards and where treasures are stored in a mysterious network of underground tunnels and chambers, is run by goblins, who are depicted as ill-tempered, short-statured creatures with long noses and ears with a love of gold.

Jon Stewart, the comedian and former host of “The Daily Show,” called the characters antisemitic caricatures on a recent episode of the podcast tied to his new show, “The Problem with Jon Stewart.”

“It was one of those things where I saw it on the screen and I was expecting the crowd to be like ‘holy shit, she did not in a wizarding world just throw Jews in there to run the f—ing underground bank.’ And everyone was like, ‘Wizards,’” Stewart said with a shrug.

He went on to compare the goblins to the portrayal of Jews in the infamous antisemitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

“[People think] ‘Oh that’s a character from Harry Potter,’ [and] you’re like, ‘No that’s a caricature of a Jew from an antisemitic piece of literature.’ J.K. Rowling was like, ‘Can we get these guys to run our bank?’” Stewart said.

The comparison is not new. Rafael Shimunov, a progressive activist, pointed in a Twitter thread to examples of others who have noted the similarities between the goblins and antisemitic stereotypes.

He shared a clip from “Saturday Night Live” in 2020 in which Pete Davidson criticized J.K. Rowling for including antisemitic stereotypes in her stories.

“The woods are controlled by centaurs, the schools are run by wizards and ghosts. But who controls the banks? Jews, obviously. Little giant-nosed Jew goblins,” Davidson said in the clip.

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