Dick Locher, a cartoonist for Tribune Media Services, touched off a mini-firestorm last week with a blatantly anti-Semitic editorial cartoon that ran in the May 30 edition of the Chicago Tribune.
The cartoon portrayed a large-beaked Ariel Sharon standing on a bridge over an imaginary “Mideast Gulch” as President Bush, on bended knee, places U.S. dollars in Sharon’s path. Locher has the Israeli prime minister gazing down at the money and saying, “On second thought, the pathway to peace is looking a bit brighter.”
Responding to the cartoon and the complaints that followed its publication, Tribune Public Editor Don Wycliffe wrote in his June 1 column: “The best editorial cartoons…have all the nuance and delicacy of a stick in the eye. But even at its roughest and bluntest, there are lines that a cartoon should not cross. On Friday, our editorial page ran a cartoon that crossed all the lines.”
Wycliffe described some of the outraged reader reaction to the cartoon, including the comments of Chicago political activist Don Rose who labeled it “blatantly anti-Semitic, reinforcing the long-held racist image of Jews as avaricious and greedy.”
Wycliffe said he agreed with Rose. “It is no secret to readers of this column that I have been no fan of Sharon and his policies,” he wrote. “But I was jolted when I looked at the cartoon and saw that figure with the hooked nose, the Star of David and those words (particularly since money has never been the decisive issue in the Middle East dispute.)”
In an unusual move, the Tribune’s hometown rival, the Chicago Sun Times, blasted the cartoon as “caricature assassination,” likening it to “a swastika painted on a synagogue door.”
As for cartoonist Locher, he denies any malicious intent. “I was trying to go to bat for the American taxpayer,” he told Editor & Publisher. “Israel is a good friend, but let’s get an accounting of where the money is going.”
Locher’s comment hardly justifies the cartoon’s obvious message, which, in the words of the above-cited Sun Times editorial, is “that Israel’s interest in peace is sparked, not by a desire to end bloodshed, but by American cash.” Nor does Locher explain how “trying to go to bat for the American taxpayer” is served by render ing Sharon as, again in the words of the Sun Times, a “hump-backed, balloon-handed, hook-nosed Jew.”
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Former Bush speechwriter and bestselling author David Frum summed up liberal hypocrisy quite nicely earlier this week on NationalReviewOnline: “Sometimes,” he wrote, “I think contemporary liberalism has to be understood not as a type of politics but as a species of mental illness. How else to understand the New York Times’s account on the newly released Justice Department report on the post-9/11 detention of terror suspects”
According to the Times, “the report represented a high-level validation of the concerns voiced by civil rights groups about the broad net authorities have cast in prosecuting the campaign against terrorism.”
Oh yeah? The reasons for detention listed in the report sound perfectly reasonable in the context of post-9/11 America. Is it really so outrageous for a citizen to worry when two Middle Eastern men rent a truck from him ostensibly for a one-way trip to a distant city, return it just a few minutes later after driving only a few miles, forfeit a large deposit without complaint, and seem visibly nervous through the transaction?
When the citizen reports the incident and it turns out that the men are present in the country illegally, is it really so intolerable for the FBI to hold them, question them, and then deport them?
If you remember how much favorable attention the press gave to reports last year that the Bush administration had missed opportunities in the summer of 2001 to detain the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, you have to wonder – are they telling us that in a national emergency the government should detain only those illegal immigrants who later turn out to be dangerous and no illegal immigrants who later turn out not to be dangerous? Is it really true that the cause of civil liberties requires law enforcement to have 100% perfect foreknowledge of what their investigations will later find?
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org