Martin Rowson: Israel lobby uses antisemitism to silence critics of Zionist brutality

Yesterday, we commented on a cartoon by the Guardian’s Martin Rowson depicting Henry Kissinger which drew upon the visual language of antisemitism – and included the stereotypically large hooked nose, a sneering expression and oversized blood dripped hands.

We briefly noted that, in January, Rowson had defended, in a Guardian commentarythe Gerald Scarfe cartoon depicting bloody, mangled Palestinian bodies buried over with cement, laid by the bloody trowel of a sinister Israeli Prime Minister.  However, he did also acknowledged the history of “Streicher’s foul Nazi rag” which “regularly published the vilest antisemitic cartoons imaginable” – an acknowledgment would suggest that he clearly is familiar with the visual genre of Jew hatred.

How, then do we explain his caricature of Kissinger? 

Again, here is a side by side comparison of Rowson’s Kissinger with the Jew depicted in the Nazi-era book published by Julius Streicher titled ‘The Poisonous Mushroom’.mushroom

Our suspicion that, whatever the inspiration for this particular cartoon, Rowson doesn’t seem to take serious critiques (that his work draws upon antisemitic stereotypes) seriously was confirmed by an interview he gave a few months ago for a leftist magazine – with a predictably anti-Zionist bent – called ‘Red Pepper”.

The journalist at Red Pepper wrote the following: 

Though as a satirist you’d think Rowson would use the forum to launch a vigorous defense of the right to offend, the following exchange shows that he makes exceptions to this principle.  During the interview Rowson is clear that ‘freedom of speech does not absolve the cartoonist of the responsibility for judging what to draw and when‘. While no forms of authority are to be declared ‘off-limits’, the power to ridicule must be exercised judiciously. He is fond of the describing the task of the satirist as ‘afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted’.

Rowson then expands on this subject, responding to a question from the interviewer about the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s publication of images mocking Muhammad, by adding the following:

You have to question the motives behind this commission, and to bear in mind the context of years of anti-immigrant propaganda in Denmark. There was no real point behind publishing this stuff other than to feed this victimisation of a minority.

After questioning the judgement of the Danish cartoonists over their decision to draw a cartoon about Muhammad which offended Muslims, Rowson then interestingly pivots to another group – the Jewish community. 

‘The Israel lobby is particularly masterful in using this to silence criticism of their brutally oppressive colonialism.

..

I drew one cartoon for the Guardian which had the boot of an Israeli soldier stamping on a dove of peace after it had left Noah’s ark. Then I had a stream of abuse from a Zionist group which accused me of anti-semitism.

In fact the “Zionist group” in question may be CiF Watch – as we posted about the cartoon here and here.  

Here’s the 2010 Guardian cartoon he’s referring to, published a few days after the flotilla story had broken, which, as you can see, uses biblical imagery in depicting murderous Israeli troops killing the dove of peace, while another soldier is seen aiming his weapon at two unicorns:

screenshot110

Rowson continues:

‘[One man] said the animals in the picture were specifically referenced in the biblical text – it’s a calculated insult to the Jews. I’d already anticipated this line of attack so had deliberately thrown in a few more for good measure.

(Part of the conversation below the line of his Guardian cartoon he’s referring to was actually recounted in a CiF Watch post, here.)

Rowson continues:

So I said, perhaps you would be so kind as to point me to the biblical references to the beavers, the orang-utan, the walrus and the okapi – a species first identified at the turn of the last century. At which point he accused me of being in denial about my anti-semitism!

Finally, he complains:

‘You can’t win – [antisemitism is] the ultimate trump card. No matter how many innocent people the Israeli state kills, any criticism is automatically proof of anti-semitism. No wonder idiots like Ahmadinejad want to deny the holocaust. They are jealous. They’d love to silence their critics like that.’

In addition to the strawman he evokes, and his deftness at employing what’s known as the Livingstone Formulation, Rowson truly seems to wake up in the morning concerned that Israel is not subjected to enough criticism.  He not only draws upon often crude antisemitic stereotypes, but attempts to frame his confrontation with this miniscule and historically oppressed ethnic minority as an act of bravery.

Rowson believes that he is not just a ‘truth teller’, but part of a cadre of fearless writers and artists who are unafraid to speak truth to Jewish power. 

Guardian cartoonist draws upon antisemitic stereotypes in depicting Henry Kissinger

Here’s a recent photo of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

kissinger

Now, here’s how Kissinger was depicted on June 8th by Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson, in a cartoon about the annual meeting of the Bilderberg Group in Watford. (The Bilderberg Group is  a policy forum consisting of influential people in business, finance and politics which consistently provides fodder for conspiracy theories due to the relative secrecy of the meetings.)

Martin Rowson cartoon 8.6.2013

Here’s a closeup.

rowson

A few observations:

  • Though the Bilderberg meeting includes other former political leaders vilified by some due to their involvement in foreign wars, such as Tony Blair for instance, Rowson chose only Kissinger (A German-born Jew) to depict as having blood on his (oversized) hands – inspired, presumably, by his role under President Nixon during the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia.
  • Despite the antisemitic history of such caricatures – historically, the ‘big hooked nose’ (often in conjunction with a sneering expression) on a Jew is typically meant to suggest his depravity - Rowson chose to include such a stereotypically exaggerated nose among Kissinger’s other grotesque features. 
  • Rowson’s history at the Guardian includes cartoons which have employed similar motifs, including such facial features and the gratuitous use of blood to illustrate putatively sadistic Jewish behavior. Here’s one, titled Mindless in Gaza”, of Ariel Sharon from 2001:

GraunSharonSampson.jpg

Additionally, to provide further visual context, here’s a collection of Nazi and Arab antisemitic depictions – focusing on the hooked nose and oversized hands – which CAMERA published during the row over Gerald Scarfe’s ‘Sunday Times’ cartoon.  (Scarfe’s cartoon, which Rowson defended in an essay at the Guardian, is on the top right.)

anti semitic cartoons

Indeed,  if you compare Rowson’s cartoon with the most extreme racist depictions of Jews in the 20th century it isn’t difficult to see the overlapping facial features.  Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Rowson’s Kissinger with the infamous Nazi antisemitic caricature published by Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer, titled ‘The Poisonous Mushroom’:

mushroom

Whilst we’re not suggesting that Rowson was intentionally evoking such comparisons, the Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliott, in a post responding to criticism over Steve Bell’s Nov. 15 cartoon depicting William Hague and Tony Blair as puppets being controlled by Bibi Netanyahu, wrote the following:

I don’t believe that Bell is an antisemite, nor do I think it was his intention to draw an antisemitic cartoon. However, using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery, no matter the intent.

The Holocaust and its causes are still within living memory. While journalists and cartoonists should be free to express an opinion that Netanyahu is opportunistic and manipulative, in my view they should not use the language – including the visual language – of antisemitic stereotypes.

Echoing Elliott, whether or not Martin Rowson had racist intent is not as relevant as the more fundamental point: that a cartoonist for a “liberal” broadsheet should possess the moral decency to strenuously avoid employing visual language which historically represented the major antisemitic motifs in the long and bloody persecution of Jews.

Steve Bell continues to giggle about antisemitism

Here are the last three cartoons by the Guardian’s Steve Bell:

Feb. 4

feb 4

Feb. 5

feb 5

Here’s his latest, on Feb 6.

Steve Bell's If… 06/02

As we revealed yesterday, Bell’s body of work includes several cartoons about Israel which employ the blood motif, and a few which depict Jews pejoratively as the ‘chosen people’.

His latest two cartoons evidently demonstrate that he finds the whole idea of antisemitic tropes (which he SO cleverly spells as “Aunty Semutic”) amusing, despite the fact that he was warned to avoid engaging in depictions which evoke classic Judeophobia by Guardian readers’ editor, Chris Elliott.

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Steve Bell

I can’t wait to see his next schoolbook doodle about those overly sensitive, silly Jews. 

Steve Bell has fun with antisemitic tropes

 

Here’s a Steve Bell cartoon published on Feb. 4, in response to an apology by Sunday Times’ owner Rupert Murdoch over the controversial Gerald Scarfe cartoon.

bell (1)(The second frame is a reference to a comment by Murdoch in November, complaining that the “Jewish owned media” is consistently anti-Israel.  The final frame is a reference to Sooty, a popular glove bear and TV character from the 50s.)

As we noted in our post, the cartoon could arguably be interpreted as suggesting that Zionists have a significant degree of control over the media.

Today, Feb. 5, Bell revisited the trio of Murdoch, Bibi and Sooty, and published this, titled ‘On Murdoch, Netanyahu and the little bludger.

bell

If, Bell is indeed perplexed – or, perhaps, amused – with the notion of “antisemitic tropes”, I know just the right person to help him understand its significance.

Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott – who criticized Bell’s cartoon in Nov. which depicted Netanyahu controlling Blair and Hague like puppets, and warned: “…using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery” – wrote the following in Nov. 2011, in a post titled ‘On averting accusations of antisemitism“:

[Comment is Free] moderators…are experienced in spotting the kind of language long associated with antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control, or being clannish and secretive, or the role of Jews in finance and the media.

However, regardless of whether Bell understands (or takes seriously) the lethal history of such racist tropes employed against Jews, a bit of research into his work may provide some insight into why (per his BBC Radio debate with Stephen Pollard) he was so dismissive of accusations that the Scarfe cartoon arguably evoked the antisemitic blood libel.

These cartoons are on Bell’s website: (Below each cartoon is the exact caption used by Bell to identify and date the image.)

2002, blood motif.

1745-12-4-02SHARONBLOODFLAG

1745-12-4-02SHARONBLOODFLAG

2001, blood motif.

1560-7-2-01_SHALOMSHARON

1560-7-2-01 SHALOMSHARON

 

2001, blood motif

1561-8-2-01_WAILINGWALL

1561-8-2-01 WAILINGWALL

Finally, here are two Bell cartoons which evoke an entirely different trope.

1998, Jews as ‘Chosen People’. 

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4291-4-5-98 GODSCHOSEN

1998, Jews as ‘Chosen People’:

4293-4-5-98_GODSCHOSEN

4293-6-5-98 GODSCHOSEN

Here’s another relevant passage from Chris Elliott’s post on antisemitism noted above:

“Two weeks ago a columnist [Deborah Orr] used the term “the chosen” in an item on the release of Gilad Shalit, which brought more than 40 complaints to the Guardian, and an apology from the columnist the following week. “Chosenness”, in Jewish theology, tends to refer to the sense in which Jews are “burdened” by religious responsibilities; it has never meant that the Jews are better than anyone else. Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read “chosen” as code for Jewish supremacism.”

The Guardian, Steve Bell, Bibi and more puppet-like control

Here’s the cartoon published by Steve Bell, Guardian on Nov. 15, titled: Tony Blair and William Hague’s role in Israel-Gaza clash.

Steve Bell 16.12.2012

As we noted in a post the day after the cartoon was published (a graphic depiction of the puppet-like control Bibi had over Blair and Hague in the context of the two British leaders’ expressions of support for Israel’s recent war in Gaza) the cartoon evoked the antisemitic canard of Jewish control over non-Jewish British politicians.  Further, Bell’s cartoon was almost indistinguishable from what is routinely published in the Arab media (in cartoons and in prose) alleging unimaginable Jewish control over world leaders.

Bell defended the cartoon, arguing thus:

“I can’t be held responsible for whatever cultural precepts and misapprehensions people choose to bring to my cartoon.”

Today, February 4th, evidently in response to an apology by Sunday Times’ owner Rupert Murdoch – over the controversial Gerald Scarfe cartoon (published on Holocaust Memorial Day), which depicted mangled, tortured bodies being buried over with bricks laid by the bloody trowel of a murderous Netanyahu – Bell published the following, titled: Steve Bell’s If … on Rupert Murdoch’s apology to Israel.

(Note: the second frame is a reference to a comment by Murdoch in November, complaining that the Jewish owned press is consistently anti-Israel.  The final frame is a reference to Sooty, a popular glove bear and TV character back in the 50s.)

bell

Is Bell mocking Murdoch’s complaint that media companies with Jewish owners are anti-Israel by noting that indeed the opposite is the case – that powerful Zionist Jews in fact exercise too much control over the media?

Admittedly, such graphic depictions inevitably leave a lot open to interpretation.  

However, after the row following Bell’s cartoon in November, Chris Elliott – the Guardian’s readers editor – responded to complaints, noting that the image of Jews having a disproportionate influence over the US and British governments has often been replicated by anti-Jewish cartoonists in the Middle East since the end of the second world war, and concluded thus:

“While journalists and cartoonists…should not use the language – including the visual language – of antisemitic stereotypes.”

Given Bell’s reaction to the row over the Scarfe cartoon – where he mocked the notion that the cartoon was antisemitic during a BBC debate with Stephen Pollard and refused to answer Pollard’s question as to whether he was even aware of the history of antisemitic cartoons in the Arab media – it seems clear that the Guardian cartoonist remains, at the very least, breezily unconcerned with the damage caused by “using visual language” which evokes “antisemitic stereotypes”.

More than a cartoon: What Jews talk about when they talk about antisemitism

The Gerald Scarfe Sunday Times cartoon controversy has followed a familiar pattern, with some arguing that the depiction of the bloody trowel wielding Israeli Prime Minister torturing innocent souls – published on Holocaust Memorial Day – evoked the classic antisemitic blood libel, while others (including Guardian contributors and cartoonists) dissented, claiming that Scarfe had no racist intent and was merely critiquing the policies of a head of state who happened to be a Jew.

In response to some who have noted, in Scarfe’s defense, that he had previously depicted Syria’s Assad using a similar blood motif, Stephen Pollard of The JC aptly noted: “But there’s never been an anti-Alawite blood libel, and the context matters. The blood libel is central to the history of antisemitism.”

Though Scarfe may have indeed possessed no antisemitic intent whatsoever, Pollard is stressing that the effect of the cartoon simply can’t be ignored, and that historical context matters.

When we talk about antisemitism at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ on this blog we’re not claiming to possess some sort of political mentalism – a piercing moral intuition which grants us access to the souls of their journalists and contributors.  Similarly, we’re not suggesting that we can ever tell with any degree of certainty that, when we argue that criticism of Israel crosses the line to antisemitism, the writer who’s the focus of our ire is necessarily haunted by dark Judeophobic thoughts.

Rather, many of us who talk seriously about antisemitism are skilled at identifying common tropes, narratives and graphic depictions of Jews which are based on prejudices, stereotypes and mythology and which have historically been employed by those who have engaged in cognitive or physical war against Jews.

Though I’m now an Israeli, an apt analogy on the moral necessity of understanding and being sensitive about the racist context of seemingly benign ideas can be derived from my experience growing up in America.

Those who grew up in the US and inherited not the guilt but the moral legacy of slavery and segregation intuitively understand that we owe African-Americans an earnest commitment to strenuously avoid employing the linguistic, cultural and political currency of racism’s tyrannical reign.  Though race relations have matured immeasurably by any standard, and codified bigotry all but eliminated, there are, nonetheless, unwritten prohibitions against language which, even though often unintended, hearkens back to the past, evoking the haunting memory of the nation’s past sins.

In America, comedians avoid black-face routines, in which white performers create a stereotyped caricature of a black person.  A mainstream newspaper wouldn’t publish a cartoon depicting an African-American as lazy and shiftless, nor would any publication present a black public figure (in any context) as  a boot licking  ‘Uncle Tom.  And, someone using the N-word (in public or private) would be rightfully socially ostracized or at least stigmatized as crude racist.

Such political taboos in America have developed organically over time in response to a quite particular historical chapter, and are recognized by most as something akin to an unwritten social contract on the issue of race.  White Americans can not ever fully understand black pain, the learned cognitive responses from their collective consciousness, but it is reasonable of them to expect that we not recklessly tread, even if without malice, on their sacred shared memory.  

Further, whites who honor this implied covenant – and avoid evoking such narratives and imagery – by and large don’t bemoan the so-called “restrictions” placed on their artistic or intellectual expression, or complain that African-Americans are stifling their free speech.  Rather, such unwritten rules, social mores and ethical norms about race are typically understood to represent something akin to a moral restitution for a previous generation’s crimes.  While in the US, the First Amendment affords legal protection to those who would engage in anti-black hate speech, it is largely understood that responsible citizenship often requires self-restraint – the greatness of a people measured by what they are permitted to do, but decide not to in order to preserve national harmony, what’s known in Judaism as Shalom bayit.  

When Jews talk seriously about antisemitism they are asking those who don’t wish to be so morally implicated to avoid needlessly poisoning the political environment which Jews inhabit.

They are appealing to the better angels of their neighbors’ nature by asking them not to carelessly conjure calumnies such as the “danger” to the world of Jewish power or conspiracies , Jews’ “disloyalty” to the countries where they live, that Jews share collective guilt for the sins of a few, that they’ve come to morally resemble their Nazi persecutors, or that Jews intentionally spill the blood of innocents.

In short, we are asking that decent people avoid employing canards which represented the major themes in Europe’s historic persecution of Jews, and which, tragically, still have currency on the extreme left, the extreme right, and, especially, in much of the Arab and Muslim world today.

The Scarfe/Sunday Times row is about more than the cartoon itself, and it is certainly not about the “right” to offend. It’s about sober but passionate pleas by a minuscule minority that decent people not afflict the historically afflicted, and to recognize their moral obligations to not provide aid and comfort to anti-Jewish racists.  

We are asking genuine anti-racists to resist becoming, even if unintentionally, intellectual partners or political fellow travelers with those who trade in the lethal narratives and toxic calumnies associated with the resilient Judeophobic hatred which has caused us immeasurable pain, horrid suffering and indescribable calamities through the ages. 

Awaiting Hillary’s ‘robust’ condemnation of offensive cartoon

A Guest Post by AKUS

cartoonI am an admirer of both Hillary and Bill Clinton, and not only because both have been supportive of the American Jewish community and Israel. 

Bill Clinton worked tirelessly trying to bring a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Hilary Clinton may go down as one of the most successful and influential Secretaries of State the US has known and has also worked hard – and as fruitlessly – to try to bring some closure to that conflict. Their daughter is married to a Jewish man, son of friends of theirs.

But this week, they and the branch of the US administration that Hillary heads have failed the Jewish community in the UK, and, indeed, around the world.

When some Muslims rioted across the world following the 2005 publication (in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten) of Mohammed cartoons, Bill Clinton was swift to respond, and absurdly compared cartoons depicting Mohammed to deadly anti-Semitic cartoons depicting Jews:

[Former President Bill] Clinton: “Totally Outrageous Cartoons Against Islam”

DOHA (AFP) – Former US president Bill Clinton warned of rising anti-Islamic prejudice, comparing it to historic anti-Semitism as he condemned the publishing of cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.

“So now what are we going to do? … Replace the anti-Semitic prejudice with anti-Islamic prejudice?” he said at an economic conference in the Qatari capital of Doha.

“In Europe, most of the struggles we’ve had in the past 50 years have been to fight prejudices against Jews, to fight against anti-Semitism,” he said.

Clinton described as “appalling” the 12 cartoons published in a Danish newspaper in September depicting Prophet Mohammed and causing uproar in the Muslim world.

“None of us are totally free of stereotypes about people of different races, different ethnic groups, and different religions … there was this appalling example in northern Europe, in Denmark … these totally outrageous cartoons against Islam,” he said.

The (George W. Bush-era) State Department also weighed in on the Europeans’ cartoon controversy. It too hastened to reference anti-Semitism and claimed equivalence with the horrendously anti-Semitic cartoons that appear daily in Arab media:

Bush Administration on 2006 Danish Cartoons: “We Certainly Understand Why Muslims Would Find These Images Offensive”

The Muslim world erupted in anger on Friday over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in Europe while the Bush administration offered the protesters support, saying of the cartoons, ”We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive.”

… The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, reading the government’s statement on the controversy, said, ”Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images,” which are routinely published in the Arab press, ”as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief.”

Still, the United States defended the right of the Danish and French newspapers to publish the cartoons. ”We vigorously defend the right of individuals to express points of view,” Mr. McCormack added.

When some Muslims rioted over a film made by an Egyptian born Copt living in America that mocked Islam, Hillary Clinton showed understanding for their anger:

HILLARY CLINTON: Anti-Muslim Film Is ‘Disgusting And Reprehensible’

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday called the film that helped provoke protestors to riot “disgusting and reprehensible.”

“Let me state very clearly — and I hope it is obvious — The United States government had nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message,” Clinton said in a statement at a State Department.

Clinton said that the video’s intended purpose seemed to be inciting violence.

So now I ask – where is the condemnation from either Bill or Hillary Clinton or the US State Department that Hillary heads over the rabidly anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in the UK’s Sunday Times on no other day than Holocaust Memorial Day?

Even if we agree that the concept of freedom of speech means that Scarfe can create and the Sunday Times publish anti-Semitism, why has Bill not found time to say something like this?

“None of us are totally free of stereotypes about people of different races, different ethnic groups, and different religions … there was this appalling example in Europe, in Great Britain … this totally outrageous cartoon directed at the Jewish people.”

Why hasn’t the State Department’s issued a statement with criticism such as this?

”We find the Sunday Times cartoon offensive, and we certainly understand why Jews would find these images offensive … anti-Semitic images are unacceptable.”

Why has Hillary not found the time to “absolutely reject” Scarfe’s cartoon as “disgusting and reprehensible … with the intent of inciting violence”?

Hillary – if it takes a village to raise a child properly, what does it take in our global village to get your attention to the increasing anti-Semitism that has become such a staple of European media and as weighty a condemnation of this “typically robust cartoon” by Gerald Scarfe” as Bill, you, and the State Department have found for other cartoons and a poorly made and initially widely ignored film promo?

A place where Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell can find “real” antisemitism

On the ‘Today programme on BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 29th January, there was a debate between Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle and Steve Bell, political cartoonist for the Guardian, over the Gerald Scarfe cartoon in the Sunday Times published on Holocaust Memorial Day – depicting mangled, tortured bodies being buried over with bricks laid by the bloody trowel of a sinister Israeli leader.

Pollard advanced an argument similar to the one he made so eloquently in The JC today, arguing that the cartoon slips into antisemitism because it invokes the blood libel, and while papers should always have the right to publish offensive material, possessing such freedom to offend doesn’t mean that it is always the correct decision to do so.

Bell disagreed, and argued as follows:

“Apologising for this cartoon – for once it wasn’t a bad cartoon – I think Stephen Pollard invokes terms like “the blood libel” and kind of ‘genocidal hate rage’…. he’s attributing this to a cartoon which is actually … it’s sort of like a mirror image of the cartoon Scarfe did the week before … President Assad clutching the head of a baby … not a squeak about that …

The problem with the State of Israel and the Zionist Lobby is that they never acknowledge the crime of ethnic cleansing upon which the State was founded …”

Bell’s fictitious history of Israel’s founding is as characteristic as it is malicious, as it was the tiny Jewish state which was forced, a couple of years after the Holocaust, on the day of its founding, to defend against five invading Arab armies intent on extinguishing their presence from the river to the sea.  Bell’s revisionism also excludes the shameful episode after Israel’s founding, in which hundreds of thousands of Jewish citizens of Arab countries were punished for the crime of Israel’s continued existence by being systematically expelled – that is, ethnically cleansed – from land where their ancestors had lived for hundreds of years.

Also during his debate with Pollard, Bell the historian also warned against using “the term ‘blood libel’ loosely and ridiculously”, and then added:

“Extraneous notions like ‘blood libel’ are dropped in and sensitivities are talked up .. the very word ‘antisemitic’ becomes devalued .. ‘they’ throw it around with such abandon, if there really is antisemitism it’s actually getting ignored.”

So, what does Steve Bell know about “real” antisemitism? My guess is that he doesn’t know too much. 

While Bell was all too willing to publish a cartoon (during Israel’s military operation in Gaza) depicting weak, cowardly British leaders being controlled like puppets by a powerful Jewish leader, when has he ever employed such graphic agitprop to mock “real” antisemites who occupy the landscape of the Arab Middle East?

Did the “populist” liberal satirist ever fancy the idea of caricaturing Egypt’s President Morsi, for instance, who characterized Jews as descendants of apes and pigs, and who told his fellow citizens to nurse their children on Jew hatred?

Additionally, has he ever thought to ridicule Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for engaging in Holocaust denial?

Finally, has it ever occurred to Bell to mock the ubiquitous commentators and clerics in the Arab and Muslim world who still peddle in the most bizarre Jewish conspiracy theories, such as the charge that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children to bake their ‘Sabbath’ bread? 

If he ever decided to do so, Bell could have used text from an actual poem by a radical and quite well-known Islamist preacher – demonstrated in a UK Immigration Tribunal ruling on Feb. 8, 2012, to be a clear reference to the antisemitic blood libel - which included the following: 

“We have never allowed ourselves, and listen carefully; we have never allowed ourselves to knead the bread for the breaking [of] fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan with the blood of the children.  And if someone wants a wider explanation, then he should ask what used to happen to some of the children of Europe, when their blood used to be mixed in the dough of the holy bread.”

Of course, if Bell did decide to direct his righteous ire at those who engage in such “real” antisemitism – and perhaps even at arrogant, hypocritical media groups which have actually championed the cause of such crude and unrepentant racists – he’d be hitting just a wee bit too close to home.

A ‘Comment is Free’ essay by the extremist who evoked the “real” medieval blood libel cited above, Raed Salah, was published on April 19, 2012, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial day.

salah

Matt Seaton’s caricature of courage

The highly criticized cartoon published in The Sunday Times on Holocaust Memorial Day – depicting mangled, tortured Palestinians being buried over with bricks laid by the bloody trowel of a sinister Israeli leader – was defended by  in Haaretz on Jan. 28 as “grossly unfair” but “not antisemitic”.

Here’s the cartoon by Gerald Scarfe that we posted about yesterday, and which The Sunday Times editor has since defended as “typically robust“.

content_photo-2

While much has been written about the cartoon – and the timing of its publication – the Haaretz contributor offers a dissenting view, one which, though I believe to be misguided, is nonetheless clearly thought through, well-informed and serious.

However, one particular word used by a Guardian editor on Twitter to characterize Pfeffer’s defense of Scarfe’s work caught my eye.

Here’s the Tweet by Matt Seaton, the Guardian’s editor of the US edition of ‘Comment is Free’.

Seaton’s Tweet, suggesting that it took ‘courage’ for Pfeffer to defend Scarfe, represents a good illustration of the moral conceit often displayed by such contrarians – those whose opinions about Israel, antisemitism and other issues place them outside the mainstream of Jewish opinion and thus must face some level of opprobrium for their views. 

However, whether we’re discussing Peter Beinart’s advocacy for boycotting Israeli companies across the green line, Ben Murane struggling with the ‘chauvinism’ of Jewish particularism, or even Antony Lerman’s polemical assaults against the very right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, the truth is that such Jews can confidently dissent from mainstream opinion with impunity.

Similarly, the only penalty that the contributor for the leftist Israeli daily will have to face for arguing that Jews, and others, are mistaken in their characterization of the Scarfe cartoon as antisemitic is, of course, dissenting opinions from those who take issue with his view.

Writers who trade in unpopular ideas within the political safety net that liberal, democratic societies provide them shouldn’t be so thin-skinned as to expect that freedom of speech requires freedom from criticism, and so vain as to fancy themselves, or their political fellow travelers, courageous for having to withstand such critiques.