Who can forget the Danish cartoon controversy ignited by an image of a wild-eyed Muhammad with a lighted dynamite stick protruding from his turban? Even those who decried the global overreaction – cynically exploited by Mideast demagogues whose stock-and-trade is defaming Christians and Jews – understood why decent Muslims of all stripes were offended.
Back then, The New York Times deemed the cartoons not fit to re-print. But the Times’s website and other news outlets made a very different choice recently by presenting Pat Oliphant’s toxic cartoon portraying Israel as a headless – and heartless – Nazi-like goose-stepping soldier pushing forward on rollers a tank-like Star of David with ravenous teeth about to devour a cowering, defenseless Palestinian mother clutching her child.
There is no denying the immediate visceral impact of Oliphant’s poison-tipped imagery. And while we are well aware that political cartoons are protected speech, here are some of the historical and contemporary reasons why such a cartoon represents not a blow for the underdog, but a warrant for hate.
Whereas visual portrayals of Muhammad have been relatively rare in the West, pillorying of Jews has been a staple of anti-Semitic representation since the Roman historian Tacitus accused them of “implacable hatred for the rest of mankind” and medieval engravers displayed them as ritual murderers who drained the blood of Christian children.
Nazi bottom feeders like Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer carried the pictorial blood libel to a new low, preparing the way for the Holocaust with hateful caricatures culminating after the invasion of Poland in 1939 in editorial campaigns screaming “The Jews WANTED THE WAR!” – and now would themselves be annihilated.
It was Communist cartoonists who, on cue from the Kremlin after the 1967 Six-Day War, introduced images equating Israel’s defense against Arab armies with jackbooted Nazis murdering Jews. That imagery quickly found a permanent home in the Arab and Muslim media, where it continues to this day to denigrate victims of the Holocaust and spread Jew-hatred.
While Oliphant’s demonizing caricatures are not original, the question remains why he chose to launch the attack now and why he and so many other people believe Israel is guilty of genocide for a military operation with a death toll limited to 709 Hamas operatives and 295 Palestinian civilians including 49 women and 89 youths under the age of 16.
In fact, his cartoon is visual accompaniment of a global campaign underway in the halls of the United Nations to cast Israel as an Apartheid State. Unfortunately, the UN today has backtracked to the 1970s when the General Assembly first equated “Zionism with racism.”
The Durban II World Conference Against Racism, scheduled for Geneva next month, threatens to degenerate into a repeat of Durban I’s 2001 anti-Israel hatefest. The UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council ignores Muslim-on-Muslim mass murder in Sudan and provides cover for the world’s worst human rights violators, including Iran, Cuba, Libya, China, and Pakistan. It concentrates instead on unleashing witch hunts against alleged Israeli “war crimes.”
The UN point man for the Holy Land, Richard Falk, has been a consistently harsh critic of Israel’s anti-terror efforts since the late 1960s. As a UN human rights arbiter, Falk has compared Nazi behavior during the Holocaust to Israel’s self-defense against the 7,000 Hamas missiles launched since the Jewish state unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Now the UN has released a new 43 page report by Falk alleging international crimes “of the greatest magnitude” by Israel against “an essentially defenseless society.”
Falk’s deadly new mantra is being shouted from the rooftops by ivory tower academics, hypocritical serial human rights abusers in world capitals, and gullible media mavens. Professor Michael Walzer, no apologist for Israel, analyzes the legal logic that Falk, an international law professor, uses to demand that one democracy unilaterally disarm against a mortal terrorist threat. In his book Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer criticizes Falk for essentially arguing that any war of self-defense against terrorism is illegitimate.
Today Falk insists that – even though Hamas has graduated from a mere terrorist outfit to Gaza’s elected government – Israel is still barred from responding to rocket and suicide attacks because “Israeli forces [cannot] differentiate between civilian and military targets in Gaza.”