Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson, and Israel’s immutable sin


The Guardian’s Readers’ Editor, Chris Elliott – of “facts are tricky things” fame – recently posted a meditation on political cartoons, and what he sees as the fine line between caricature and stereotype.

Says Elliott:

Opinions may differ as to whether a cartoon or caricature has hit the mark, but the tone of the argument changes when it is tangled with the language of race or religion. Or both. I occasionally receive complaints from readers who believe a cartoon or caricature has tipped over the edge into being racially or religiously offensive.

Elliott then quotes cartoonist Martin Rowson – see CiF Watch posts, here and here:

“It’s an extremely difficult area, and one where the caricaturist has to tread extremely carefully. That said, offence is also often in the eye of the beholder, and I can’t now count the number of times a caricature of, say, Ariel Sharon has elicited the response that this is ‘the most foully antisemitic cartoon since the closure of Der Stürmer’. Well, that one can be unravelled quite easily, as the kneejerk ‘antisemite’ instant response to any criticism of Israel.”

Interestingly, Elliott disagrees with Rowson’s complaint about Jews’ “kneejerk” responses:

I don’t agree with Rowson that all the complaints of antisemitism are kneejerk; they are often not about the criticism itself but the wrapping of such criticism in antisemitic language or imagery.

Here’s one by Rowson entitled, “Mindless in Gaza”, of a grotesque Ariel Sharon from 2oo1:

Here’s one from 2008, which depicts Stars of David being used as knuckle dusters on a bloody fist to punch a young Palestinian boy:

In 2009: Rowson’s cartoon of a trigger happy Israeli soldier taking aim at the dove of peace makes reference to the 3 hour cease-fire each day (which allowed in humanitarian supplies) during Israel’s war in Gaza.

More recently, six days after the flotilla incident, Rowson not only declared Israel guilty, but used biblical imagery and again depicts murderous Israeli troops killing the dove of peace, while another soldier aims his weapon at two unicorns:

Finally, Elliot quotes Rowson’s defense of his work, claiming his aim is merely to:

“…afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. In other words, I only attack people more powerful than me.”

In Rowson’s post-Colonial framework – an ideology which informs the commentary on the the Guardian’s Israel’s page day after day – Israel’s guilt, regardless of the circumstances, is pre-established by virtue of the fact that she is the stronger party.

The virulent state sponsored hate and intolerance of the Palestinian Authority doesn’t interest Rowson, because Israel is the stronger actor.

The chilling anti-Semitism of Hamas, Hezbollah, and her supporters do not serve – in Rowson’s facile political calculus – as creative inspiration for his work, does not fit into his distorted “David vs. Goliath” paradigm.

Hideous caricatures of Hasan Nasrallah or Khaled Mash’al  – no matter how malevolent their intent towards the Jewish state -  would not, in short, further the cause.

For Martin Rowson, much like the paper he works for, Israel’s guilt is not based on any objective criteria but, rather, on the very strength and resilience which has enabled her to resist enemies who sought, and continue to seek, her destruction.

Israel’s sin is immutable, original.

19 comments on “Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson, and Israel’s immutable sin

  1. “Well, that one can be unravelled quite easily, as the kneejerk ‘antisemite’ instant response to any criticism of Israel…”

    What a simplistic little world he lives in. So talented as an artist, yet so full of hate and delusion.

  2. Hideous caricatures of Hasan Nasrallah or Khaled Mash’al – no matter how malevolent their intent towards the Jewish state – would not, in short, further the cause.

    Good point.

    Israel can be held up to cartoon-type ridicule BUT, strangely, never ever Muslims.

    One wonders.

  3. I have often thought that it’s a pity that CiF Watch doesn’t have a resident cartoonist.

    Adam, have you ever thought about asking for volunteers?

  4. I clicked on the [ Like ] at the end of the article, but all that happens is a message “Error on page”. Does “Like” work?


  5. …afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. In other words, I only attack people more powerful than me.”

    This quote says much more than just “I attack Israel because Israel is the more powerful nation”.

    It assumes that those fired on by Israeli forces or their police are “the afflicted”, including the Iranian proxies Hamas and Hizbollah– the latter which also is so afflicted that it’s managed to drive the Lebanese PM Said Hariri out of his own country.

    It also assumes that Israel is “comfortable”– no account taken by Mr Rowson of being on the end of terrorist attacks, blown up buses, rocket and missile attacks and very active threats of elimination from Iran.

    Most of all there’s the self-serving narcissism of “more powerful than ME”. Maybe he should get together with Mick Davis of UJIA who criticises the Israeli government because he thinks it makes his life in London less comfortable. Presumably, he thinks that Hezbollah and Hamas are less powerful than him. He should try having a word with fellow Man of Conscience Alan Johnston of the BBC, held as a hostage in Gaza and given the opportunity to experience the powerlessness of Hamas at first hand for some months.

  6. ‘Well, that one can be unravelled quite easily, as the kneejerk ‘antisemite’ instant response to any criticism of Israel.” ‘

    And, right on cue, there’s Martin Rowson, with a lie well worthy of Der Stürmer.

    And, if I were to able draw a caricature of Rowson, it would look something like this:

    http://tinyurl.com/6zlw469

  7. “Hideous caricatures of Hasan Nasrallah or Khaled Mash’al – no matter how malevolent their intent towards the Jewish state – would not, in short, further the cause.”

    Such charicatures could also result in certain unpleasant physical consequences for the cartoonist, couldn’t they?

  8. Further to my previous comment http://www.damianpenny.com/archived/002600.html :

    “here’s the exchange between Global’s Martin Himel and Dr. Tim Benson, head of the British editorial cartoonists’ society which honoured the Independent’s Sharon-eating-babies cartoon, in Jenin: Massacring Truth (as transcribed by me):

    Himel: My question to you is, why, in all these paintings [sic] don’t we see Sharon and Arafat eating babies?

    Benson: Maybe Jews don’t issue fatwas.

    Himel: What do you mean by that?

    Benson: Well, if you upset an Islamic or Muslim group, um, as you know, fatwas can be issued by Ayatollahs and such, like, and maybe it’s at the back of each cartoonist’s mind, that they could be in trouble if they do so.

    Himel: If they do what?

    Benson: If they depict, uh, say, an Arab leader in the same manner.

    Himel: Then they could suffer?

    Benson: Then they could suffer death, couldn’t they? Which is rather different.

    Benson is grinning throughout this section of the interview.

  9. cba, well, of course. And for all of Jonathan Cook’s bleating that The Guardian and other “newpapers” don’t accept exclusives – according to Cook they accept only what is “validated” by everyone having the story – we do know what happens to journalists who report truthfully from Gaza and like places.

    A side issue (to the imbalance) is the number of journalists killed in battle zones. I believe the number is almost 800 in 18 years. I don’t recall anyone but Israel being sued over such deaths.

  10. Rowson is a coward. He doesn’t dare drawing this with Palestinian facts, because he knows he’ll get an intifada on his doorstep.

    So like all bullies he’s only picking the ones ‘weaker’ than himself, or in other words: The ones he knows won’t get back to him.

    Pussy …

  11. There was an article 4 or 5 years ago in which the head of Reuters freely admitted that his journalists had been warned off by the Palestinians from openly criticising their activities, on pain of injury and then death, whereas he was free to criticise Israel, so he did.

    As Melanie Phillips has pointed out recently, there is some kind of pathology – a mental illness – that so far seems to prevent reasonable and otherwise sane people in the West from recognising and acknowledging that Israel and the West are deeply involved in a battle with Islamism that will sweep us all to our deaths, or to having to convert to Islam if we want to survive.

    Can I suggest that in the future, we firmly reject any accusation of Islamophobia but plead guilty to Islamistphobia. Perhaps then we can make points without being accused of racism.

    Just a thought.

  12. “Israel’s sin is immutable, original.”

    Like that of every man. It is a part of the human condition, and while one must repent and undertake reparation, no-one can escape this original sin.

    So there is nothing exceptional or unusual about that fact.

    Although I do think that Rowson is guilty (to a far greater extent at the Graun) of abject moral relativism and/or blindness- as characterised above all by this “the strong are evil, the weak are good” sort of thing.

    Unfortunately, the intellectual and social climate in the west in recent decades – the enthoning of the nonsense on stilts that is post-modernism (and its oh so well-intentioned more politically oriented cousin, post-colonialism), and an excess of liberalism is really what is to blame. Rowson is in that sense, in his own deluded thinking, far more of a victim of these idiocies than he is a perpetrator, even though by creating images that illustrate his philsophy he is doing his best to pass on his idiocy.

    The next generation will return to sensible, conservative values of moral objectivity, and not be afraid to see things as they are, untainted by the foolishness of moral relativism and liberalism.

    (A correction/query: presumably the 2006 cartoon (armoured fist plus bee) the victim is not Palestinian, but Lebanese)

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