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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘cartoon’

The Obligation to Avoid Anti-Semitic Behavior

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

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 U.S. 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 don’t do 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 U.S., 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.

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The Sunday Times Cartoon and the Midrash

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

One aspect of that Scarfe cartoon from Sunday, which has so far, I think, escaped comment.

As my good friend, Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, had written, the Passover festival has a special focus, a

…frequent emphasis on children, especially at the Passover seder…the Bible and the Midrash emphasize that the Egyptians singled out the Jewish children for persecution. Pharaoh instructs the midwives to kill all male children.

The Midrash says that Pharaoh, a leper, bathed in the blood of Jewish children, had the Jewish children burned in Egyptian furnaces, and, if the Hebrew slaves failed to produce their quota of bricks, Jewish children were plastered into the walls to fill the gaps.

The Egyptian strategy was to disrupt Jewish family life and prevent the birth of Jewish children. And, even when Pharaoh (Exodus 10:10) finally agreed to allow the Israelites to worship for three days, he would not allow the children to accompany the adults.

That Jews could be portrayed as placing Arabs, adults and children, into a wall being built when that wall is intended to bring Jews security from Arab terrorism, especially suicide-bombers who destroy themselves in their hatred, is to be so upside-down and backwards a reality that it boggles the minds of all humanists, of which the caricaturist is not.  Nor his editor.

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Anti-Semitic Cartoons at the Guardian

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

On Nov. 16, we posted about a political cartoon in the Guardian by Steve Bell, Nov. 15, depicting British foreign minister, and former PM Tony Blair, as puppets being controlled by Israeli PM Netanyahu, in the context of expressions of support for Israel from both British leaders during operation ‘Pillar Of Defense.’

We noted the strong similarities to other cartoons evoking the historical canard that Jews secretly control of non-Jewish world leaders, such as this from 2008 in a Saudi paper depicting a sinister Jew controlling both McCain and Obama as puppets.

Among those who complained to Guardian editors about the cartoon by Bell was Mark Gardner of the CST, whose letter appeared in the Guardian on Nov. 16, and read thus:

“The Guardian has, in recent years, editorialised against the use of antisemitic language, publishing strong articles on this subject by Chris Elliott (the readers’ editor), Jonathan Freedland and others. They have rightly noted that such language may well be inadvertent on the part of the user, while retaining its offensive power. Nevertheless, too many Guardian contributors continue to get away with using antisemitic imagery and tropes, the latest example being Steve Bell’s cartoon (16 November) showing Tony Blair and William Hague as puppets of Bibi Netanyahu. This is an unoriginal way of visualising the old antisemitic charge that Jews are all-powerful. (The notion of Jewish power and conspiracy has long distinguished antisemitism from other racisms, which tend to depict their targets as idiots.) The paper’s integrity and reputation is seriously compromised by its continuing failure to get a grip on its own content.”

The cartoonist himself, Steve Bell, defended his cartoon against charges of antisemitism, arguing as follows:

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

On Sun, Nov. 25, the Guardian’s readers editor, Chris Elliott, addressed the row in a column titled ‘The readers’ editor on… accusations of antisemitism against a political cartoon’.

Here are relevant excerpts from his post:

Bell … is adamant that the cartoon, based on an agency picture of a Netanyahu press conference, is neither intentionally, nor unintentionally antisemitic.

There are two paths to the argument about the imagery of the cartoon. The first is that it is an incontrovertible fact that, during the 1930s and 1940s, Nazis and their supporters deployed propaganda devices about Jews. One of those images was that of a grotesquely drawn Jew shown as a puppeteer, with exaggerated features, as in the cartoon portraying Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin as puppets of the Jews in a 1942 issue of the Nazi paper Fliegende Blätter.

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.

Secondly, one of the difficulties is that pictorial stereotypes are the stock in trade of a cartoonist, an aspect of caricature that has an entirely legitimate centuries-old tradition. Bell has used the theme of a puppet master on many occasions in the past to represent his view of Presidents Mubarak and Putin, as well as leaders in Iraqi and Afghan politics.

Bell is aware that the image of Jews as puppet masters is an antisemitic theme. However, he does not accept that this should prevent him using that imagery to address the actions of Netanyahu, the man. Bell says: “The problem with this whole debate is that the premises are all wrong. The cartoon isn’t antisemitic. People may proclaim that it is and [that it] stands in some kind of nefarious line: it has been lifted [from the Guardian website] without permission, and run alongside some terrible examples of nasty cartoons from the Nazi period (which clearly are [antisemitic]). That does not make the cartoon antisemitic. Here lies the problem: once people start dignifying this utterly unfair and unreasonable comparison with faux intellectual terms like ‘antisemitic trope’ it blots out the fact that my cartoon lacks the central ‘trope’ of actually being antisemitic. It doesn’t generalise about a race, a religion or a people; it doesn’t try to characterise any such generalisation: it is a very specific cartoon about a very specific politician at a very specific and deadly dangerous moment. It does employ the trope of ‘puppeteer’, but that is a trope, not an antisemitic trope… It uses the Star of David because that’s what is on the flag, and the menorah because that’s what’s on his podium. They both say: ‘State of Israel’, not ‘The Jews’. There is a crucial difference. It is not subtle or coded antisemitism to make this point.”

Mocking Muhammad Is Not Hate Speech

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

To stop Islamist violence over perceived insults to Muhammad, I argued in a FoxNews.com article on Friday [also republished on the JewishPress.com], editors and producers daily should display cartoons of Muhammad “until the Islamists get used to the fact that we turn sacred cows into hamburger.”

This appeal prompted a solemn reply from Sheila Musaji of The American Muslim website, who deemed it “irresponsible and beyond the pale.” Why so? Because, as she puts it, “The solution to escalating violence and hate speech is not more hate speech.”

Hate speech, legal authorities agree, involves words directed against a category of persons. Here’s a typical definition, from USLegal.com: “incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and the like.”That sounds sensible enough. But does mocking Muhammad, burning a Koran, or calling Islam a cult constitute hate speech? And what about the respectful representations of Muhammad in the buildings of the U.S. Supreme Court or the New York State Supreme Court? Even they caused upset and rioting.

Attacking the sanctities of a religion, I submit, is quite unlike targeting the faithful of that religion. The former is protected speech, part of the give and take of the market place of ideas, not all of which are pretty. Freedom of speech means the freedom to insult and be obnoxious. So long as it does not include incitement or information that urges criminal action, nastiness is an essential part of our heritage.

On a personal note, I have had to learn to live with torrents of vulgar venom, in speech and in pictures alike, from those who disagree with me; you don’t hear me whining about it. More broadly, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and other faith communities in the West have learned since the Enlightenment to endure vicious lacerations on their symbols and doctrines.

If proof be needed, recall Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi, Andres Serrano’s Piss Christi, and Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary. Or the avalanche of antisemitic cartoons spewing from Muslims.

For an over-the-top recent example, The Onion humor website published a cartoon under the heading, “No One Murdered Because of This Image.” It shows Moses, Jesus, Ganesha, and Buddha in the clouds, engaged in what the caption delicately understates as “a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity.” As the Onion mock-reportingly but accurately goes on, “Though some members of the Jewish, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths were reportedly offended by the image, sources confirmed that upon seeing it, they simply shook their heads, rolled their eyes, and continued on with their day.”

I asked for the cartoons to be published again and again to establish that Islamists must not chip away at the freedom to mock and insult by hiding behind bogus claims of incitement. Name an instance, Ms Musaji, when biting remarks about Muhammad, the Koran, or Islam have led to riots and murders by non-Muslims against Muslims?

I cannot think of a single one.

When attacks on Muslims take place, they occur in response to terrorism by Muslims; that’s no excuse, to be sure, but it does indicate that violence against Muslims has no connection with lampooning Muhammad or desecrating Korans. Muslims need to grow thick skins like everyone else; this is one of the by-products of globalization. The insulation of old is gone for good.

To make matters worse, Islamists tell us Be Careful with Muhammad! and threaten those with the temerity to discuss, draw, or even pretend to draw the prophet of Islam, even as they freely disparage and insult other religions. I can cite many examples of actors, satirists, artists, cartoonists, writers, editors, publishers, ombudsmen, and others openly admitting their intimidation about discussing Islamic topics, a problem even Ms. Musaji herself has acknowledged.

To cool the temperature, Muslims can take two steps: end terrorism and stop the rioting over cartoons and novels. That will cause the antagonism toward Islam built up over the past decade to subside. At that point, I will happily retract my appeal to editors and producers to flaunt offensive cartoons of Muhammad.

Originally published at Foxnews.com on Sept. 24, 2012. See also Danielpipes.org.

Prophet Mohammed Cartoons to Be Published in Paris – Police At Ready

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Just recovering from riots in Yemen, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Iraq, as well as the infamous attack on the US embassy in Libya resulting in the deaths of the ambassador and 3 others, the western world is gearing up for another potential round of violence coming out of Muslim territories as a French satirical magazine promises to publish several Prophet Mohammed cartoons on Wednesday.

According to the French newspaper “Le Monde”, the drawings to be published in “Charlie Hebdo” show Mohammed in “particularly explicit poses”.

The Islamic world, allegedly incensed over the YouTube movie “Innocence of Muslims” mocking Mohammed and casting him in a bad light, lashed out across the world, rioting in over 20 countries in the last month.  In 2005, cartoons of Mohammed published in Denmark and republished throughout the world led to widespread riots and led to the deaths of over 100 people, as well as the torching of churches, embassies, and private property.

French government ministers have decried the magazine’s decision, with Paris police increasing security around their offices.  The paper defended its right to free speech in France.

France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population. The AFP reports that the senior Muslim cleric at Paris’ biggest mosque has appealed to worshippers to remain calm.

Pity: 11 Non-Racist Iranian ‘Wall Street Downfall’ Festival Finalists Were Excellent

Friday, July 13th, 2012

The First International Wall Street Downfall Cartoon Festival in Tehran, showcasing caricatures from different countries, awarded first prize to an entry depicting three religious Jews praying in front of a Western Wall that’s been transformed into a Wall Street bank.

The festival didn’t get much attention, because it’s July and most anti-Wall Street zealouts and anti-Semites are at the beach. But then the Anti-Defamation League found out about it and it was off to the races, as it well should be.

First, because the cartoon really is nasty, or as Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, put it: “Once again, Iran takes the prize for promoting anti-Semitism. The winning cartoon takes the most sacred site in Judaism and perverts it into a shrine of greed. It is offensive on so many levels.”

He’s right, although I don’t personally believe that anything should be verboten for satire, including, of course, the prophet Muhammad.

Mahmoud Mohammad Tabrizi from Iran won the top prize (5000 euro, a letter of appreciation and the festival’s statue), and Alexi Kostofsky from Ukraine and Farhad Rahim Qara-Maleki from Iran stood the second and the third (4000 euro, a letter of appreciation and the festival’s statue, and 3000 euro, a letter of appreciation and the festival’s statue, respectively).

The 4th to 10th winners each received 500 euro, a letter of appreciation and the festival’s statue. Meantime, all the 70 finalists were granted letters of appreciation.

It’s a crying shame, though, that the Fars news agency, the festival’s co-sponsor, and the judges, couldn’t get over their anti-Semitic impulses, because the rest of the works are fabulous. So I decided to let our readers take a look and appreciate some dirty commie cartoons, in addition to the Nazi one.

Because good art shouldn’t go unwatched…

The ADL reminds us that in 2006, the Iranian government sponsored a Holocaust cartoon contest in which the winning entries used Holocaust images to deride Israel. That one was way nastier.

German Cartoon Riots: Clubs, Bottles, and Stones

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

In an explosion of violence that reflects the growing assertiveness of Salafists in Germany, on May 5th more than 500 radical Muslims attacked German police with bottles clubs, stones and other weapons in the city of Bonn, to protest cartoons they said were “offensive.”

Rather than cracking down on the Muslim extremists, however, German authorities have sought to silence the peaceful critics of multicultural policies that allow the Salafists — who say they are committed to imposing Islamic Sharia law throughout Europe — openly to preach violence and hate.

The clashes erupted when around 30 supporters of a conservative political party, PRO NRW, which is opposed to the further spread of Islam in Germany, participated in a campaign rally ahead of regional elections in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Some of those participating in the rally, which was held near the Saudi-run King Fahd Academy in the Mehlem district of Bonn, the former capital of West Germany, had been waving banners depicting the Islamic Prophet Mohammad (see photo here), to protest the Islamization of Germany.

The rally swiftly disintegrated into violence (photos here and here) when hundreds of angry Salafists, who are opposed to any depiction of their prophet, began attacking the police, whose job it was to keep the two groups apart.

In the final tally of the melee, 29 police officers were injured, two with serious stab wounds, and more than 100 Salafists were arrested, although most were later released. A 25-year-old German protester of Turkish origin, suspected of having stabbed the two police officers, remained in custody on suspicion of attempted homicide.

According to Bonn’s police chief, Ursula Brohl-Sowa, “This was an explosion of violence such as we have not witnessed in a long time.”

Germany’s intelligence and security agencies say they are closely monitoring the Salafists, who are increasingly viewed as posing a threat to German security.

Salafism, a branch of radical Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, seeks to establish an Islamic empire (Caliphate) across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe — and eventually the entire world. The Caliphate would be governed exclusively by Islamic Sharia law, which would apply both to Muslims and to non-Muslims. Salafists also believe, among other disconcerting doctrines, that democracies — governments made by men as opposed to theirs, which was made by the almighty — legitimately deserve to be destroyed.

According to German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, “Salafism is currently the most dynamic Islamist movement in Germany as well as internationally. Its fanatic followers represent a particular danger for Germany’s security. The Salafists provide the ideological foundation for those who then turn violent.”

The interior minister of the German state of Lower Saxony, Uwe Schünemann, said, “The violence of the Salafists in Bonn has once again shown what is behind the mask of supposed religiosity: nothing but brute force.” He also said that the violence was “a direct challenge to liberal democracy as a whole.”

The interior minister of Bavaria, Joachim Hermann, said that: “We cannot tolerate violent retribution and revenge. We apply the rule of law, not Islamic vigilante justice.” He added that Salafists should be “brought to justice and severely punished,” and that “We have to monitor the Salafist scene even more. And we have to be more diligent in cracking down on hate and violence. We cannot allow that terrorists and violent criminals are free to operate under our noses. We need to take action against Salafism and its intolerant, fanatical ideology with all legal means.”

Despite these and many other pronouncements, Salafists still have free reign in Germany: Salafist preachers are known regularly to preach hatred against the West in the mosques and prayer centers that are proliferating across the country.

In recent weeks, Salafists have been engaged in an unprecedented nationwide campaign to distribute 25 million copies of the Koran, translated into the German language, with the goal of placing one Koran in every home in Germany, free of charge.

The mass proselytization campaign — called Project “READ!” — is being organized by dozens of Islamic Salafist groups located in cities and towns throughout Germany, as well as in Austria and Switzerland.

According to the German newspaper Die Welt, the Salafists have launched a “frontal assault” against people of other faiths and “unbelievers.” Die Welt has reported that German authorities view the Koran project, which fundamentalists are using a recruiting tool, as a “most worrisome” campaign for radical Islam. Security analysts say the campaign is also a public-relations gimmick intended to persuade Germans that the Salafists are transparent and “citizen friendly.”

A spokesperson for the Berlin branch of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) told Die Welt that “the objective of this campaign is to help bring those who are interested into contact with the Salafist scene to influence them in the context of extremist political ideologies.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/german-cartoon-riots-clubs-bottles-and-stones/2012/05/08/

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