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Obamaphobia in Israeli Press

racist anti-obama cartoon MaarivRacist Maariv cartoon (caption: “The house is still white, but not for long”)

I wonder if I’ve coined a new phrase? At any rate, Phil Weiss brings my attention to a stunningly racist cartoon published in the January 8th edition of the mass-circulation Israeli daily, Maariv. Leon Hadar first notified Phil after Israeli journalist, Yo’av Karny blogged about it (Hebrew). This is the kind of thing even Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t think of trying to get away with. It pictures Barack Obama painting the White House black. Sophomoric? Yes. Banal? Sure. Racist? Without a doubt. What the hell is going on here?

It appears that Israel, at least a certain portion of it, is quaking in its boots at the possibility of an Obama presidency. The fact that the guy has taken the AIPAC line for the past six months hook, line and sinker doesn’t seem to sink in. There’s still this lingering Israeli and Jewish phobia that a Black politician, especially one who earlier in his career was sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians might revert to his earlier positions and turn his back on Israel. The very notion is ridiculous because (unfortunately) no one can become President of the United States without being slavishly pro-Israel whether they wanted to be or not. There’s just too much Jewish campaign money on the table and too much lobbying power from the likes of AIPAC and other Israel lobby groups.

Maariv headline voices fear of obamaMaariv headline stokes fear of Obama

The Maariv headline for its article about Obama is also instructive: “Israel Awaits Bush, Fears Obama. Worry in Jerusalem: Obama Nears Presidency.” To be clear, this is the view of a certain portion of Israeli society: the nationalist right and their supporters. It’s probably not the view of the majority of Israelis. But the fact that this headline and this cartoon would be published by one of Israel’s largest circulation dailies is cause enough to worry at the paranoia seeping into Israeli society.

Hadar, in a comment at Weiss’ blog, places the cartoon in a political context:

I can imagine MEMRI circulating a caricature from an Egyprian newspaer in which presidential candidate, say, Joe Lieberman is drawing stars of david on the white house — and describing it as anti-Semitic. Or imagine this caricature appearing in a major newspaper in the south. I don’t think that Israelis are racists by nature. But worries that Obama is “anti-Israeli” end-up reawakening old stereotypes.

Where do such notions come from? Unfortunately, they are fueled to a certain extent by some of America’s most esteemed Jewish leaders who’ve stirred up the cauldron of fear about Obama. Malcolm Hoenlein and Abe Foxman have each expressed deep anxiety about Obama’s candidacy. None have done so in such racist terms as Maariv. But that still doesn’t excuse the stridency of their expressions of concern, or worse, mistrust. Thankfully, in this week’s Forward Rabbi Eric Yoffie severely criticizes Hoenlein for his remarks during a Haaretz interview.

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{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Norman Weinstein February 22, 2008, 6:29 AM

    The Maariv cartoon you reference distresses me almost beyond words. I cannot but wonder if its originator, should he create a follow-up panel, will guide Obama’s brush to form a truly menacing über black swastika on those very white White House walls. Having grown up in a quite anti-Semitic Southern town – population 75,000, church accommodations 2,000,000 – I frequently heard the infamous N word. Blacks lived in that rundown section popularly designated as Nigger Town. Once, as a 12 year old working in an uncle’s pawnshop during vacation, I was thoroughly dismayed by the words of an adult employee, Jewish, when he angrily told me that you never say “Sir” to a nigger, this after I did just that after waiting on a black man who had come to redeem his World War I Purple Heart, which every few weeks or so he’d pawn to in order to pick up a buck or two. Such bigotry from a coreligionist shocked me then, as it does even to this day, because, believe me, it was so utterly atypical of what I could normally expect from my fellow Jews that it stood out as an extreme aberration. What has bothered me even more, as I don’t know Maariv as well as I do Haaretz, is this description I lifted from Wikipedia: “It [Maariv] is considered to be giving a comparatively fair coverage of the diverse views that abound in the Israeli society, by allowing journalists and guest writers from the different sides of the political and social spectrum to express their opinions side-by-side; however, on the whole, it represents mostly the secular centrists and moderate left-wingers, as these are the expressed views of its most senior writers including Amnon Dankner.” If indeed this paper of “secular centrists and moderate left-wingers“ can freely without a huge reaction of disgust offer this Nazi type of racial garbage, then there’s bloody little hope that Israeli society can claim to be an ethical one. Add to that the enormous stupidity of offering such a thing to the public, and that People of the Book appellation can be thought of as one big crock of crap, unless the Book referred to is written, one letter per page, for morons.

  • bar_kochba132 February 22, 2008, 7:01 AM

    The hysterical reaction to this cartoon is quite amusing, but not surprising in these circles. What is racist about it? It is saying “the WHITE House used to be reserved only for WHITE residents, now it may have a BLACK resident”.

    Israeli hesitation about an Obama presidency is based not on possible problems in bilateral relations, which are very close and transcend the personalities involved, but rather the worry that he will carry out a Jimmy Carter-like foreign policy, i.e. “be tough on your friends, and appease your enemies”. Just like Carter helped push out the Shah of Iran and install the Khomeini regime because it was supposedly “more popular”. (Carter paid for that mistake by losing the Presidency largely due to the hostage crisis). Don’t forget that Zbigniew Brzezinski (sp?) is one of his advisors. He would possibly “reach out” to people like Syria, Iran, HIZBULLAH and HAMAS and view American armed might as “not nice”, which would transmit American weakness, something Israelis fear. Don’t forget that Carter’s policy led, not only to the hostage crisis, but also the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

  • Norman Weinstein February 22, 2008, 7:30 AM

    I strongly recommend to bar_kochba132 that he read, parse, explicate and annotate that great philosophical work by Hans Christian Andersen, “The Emperor’s New Clothes“. He should deeply consider the significance of the child’s observation: “But the emperor has no clothes!” This consideration should be made while bar_kochba132 is staring hard at that Maariv cartoon, which is obviously a racist statement and no doubt a bigot’s delight. Indeed, “It is saying ‘the WHITE House used to be reserved only for WHITE residents, now it may have a BLACK resident‘.“ All that’s lacking here in bar_kochba132‘s observation are the gentle strains of a violin playing Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen”.

    And as to Carter vis a vis Israel, I would recommend to the Knesset that it commission a 20 foot high statue in bronze of him as the single greatest friend Israel has ever had, forcing, as he did, at great risk to his own political position, the only Arab-Israeli peace treaty that has worked; at least, I don’t believe that Egypt and Israel, for example, since then have gone to war, three decades of peace, a cold peace, but peace nonetheless. And then perhaps a second statue should be built to him for applying the term “apartheidt”, causing great alarm as well as a discussion that might eventually help lead Israel through its friends who dare criticize its policies to a better condition than presently prevails in that stalwart little partial democracy, or, let us hope, at least a stalwart work in progress. And just to round off, the Shah of Iran was a tyrant largely installed by our good works and who ruled by terror, torture and fear – his Savak had some remarkable similarities to the Gestapo.

  • Leila February 22, 2008, 8:00 AM

    I think some of the hysteria is fueled simply by Barack’s name. Of course his first name is Arabic, as well as Hebrew (Ehud Barak, anybody?) and his middle name is Hussein. Obama is not Arabic I don’t think, but it “looks” a lot like Osama, now become anathema the way the German first name Adolf became poison mid-century.

    People still tell me that my name “looks like a terrorist’s”. I just think there’s a racist anti-Arab fear around any word that seems Arabic. It’s one reason why I worry that Obama cannot win the presidency. In the secrecy of the voting booth, how many Americans will pull the other lever because they can’t stomach voting for the funny name?

    But I have decided not to vote my fear – to vote my faith and hope instead. Go, Barack!

  • Jim S. February 22, 2008, 9:14 AM

    Just a couple of comments:

    Brzezinski did not advocate abandoning the Shah; on the contrary, he wanted to back the Shah to the hilt.

    Carter did not kick out the Shah, the Iranian people did.

  • Arieh Lebowitz February 22, 2008, 10:31 AM

    NY SUN on Obama’s Foreign Policy

    Eli Lake of the NY SUN writes an analysis of Senator Barack Obama’s foreign policy team, which he declares is very much part of the Democratic Party mainstream. { http://www.nysun.com/article/71580?page_no=2 }

    This topic–like that of all the Presidential candidates foreign policy teams–is of great interest to the American Jewish electorate, especially with regards to Israel.

    Despite the emails going around from various sources, the Sun, a fairly conservative paper, offers the following:

    One reason why some of the pro-Israel community have been comfortable with Mr. Obama’s stance is the presence of Daniel Shapiro, a former deputy chief of staff to Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida. Mr. Shapiro, who leads the Middle East group, spearheaded efforts in Congress to designate al Manar, the satellite television channel for Hezbollah, as a foreign terrorist organization. He sends his children to the Jewish Primary Day School in Washington, D.C.

    The lead American negotiator during the Oslo peace process, Ambassador Dennis Ross, who has provided advice to Mr. Obama’s campaign but does not consider himself to be an adviser, said he saw no difference on Israel policy between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama.

    Read on. http://www.nysun.com/article/71580?page_no=2

  • Peter H February 22, 2008, 12:20 PM

    I think bar_kochba132 has a valid point (for once). I would interpet it as a comment on the White House now longer the exclusive domain of Whites. I don’t see any use of racial stereotype.

  • Richard Silverstein February 22, 2008, 12:44 PM

    What is racist about it?

    Ah, so nice to see Bar Kochba temporizing on behalf of Israeli racism. If you don’t see the racism of the cartoon then I won’t bother trying to educate you. Suffice to say that Yoav Karni, a respected Israeli journalist, first pointed out the inherent racism of the cartoon & every Israeli I e-mailed about this story yesterday who replied to me agreed that it is.

    There would be many ways for a cartoonist to note the fact that the White House would be inhabited for the first time by a Black man that wouldn’t be racist. Showing him painting the building with black paint wouldn’t be one of them esp. in the context of the inflammatory anti-Obama rhetoric of the accompanying article & headline.

    Carter’s policy led, not only to the hostage crisis, but also the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

    Your analysis of U.S. foreign policy is totally off the mark. Afghanistan is a state that borders on the former Soviet Union. Its leaders at the time thought it was an important national interest to have a friendly state on their borders. Nothing Carter did or didn’t do had anything to do with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. You would prob. have had Carter invade the country & start a war with the Soviet forces just to make the point that no Soviet army would ever push the U.S. around. Thank God there were cooler more pragmatic heads than yrs. running our country. Besides, the Soviets got their comeuppance & paid for their disastrous intervention & then we in turn paid for our own with the triumph of the Taliban after the Soviets withdrew. We too we are paying for our intervention in Iraq just as Israel paid for its in Lebanon.

  • bar_kochba132 February 23, 2008, 10:43 AM

    Norman, I am afraid you are speaking in riddles in your last comment. Being the uneducate
    boor that I am I don’t know what you are talking about and I don’t know who Sarasate was and I have never heard of the piece of his you mentioned.
    Please take me by the hand and tell what what “Nazi-type racial garbage” is reflected in the cartoon.
    Are you aware that a few weeks ago, Obama made a comment about the famous claim that “Bill Clinton was the first black President” (due to his appreciation for black culture, I presume) in which he said “if I (Obama) am going to accept that Clinton was the first black President, I am going to have to see him dance!”. Is Obama spewing out “Nazi-type racial garbage” himself?

    Norman, you yourself said :
    ————————-
    If indeed this paper((Ma’ariv) of “secular centrists and moderate left-wingers“ can freely without a huge reaction of disgust offer this Nazi type of racial garbage, then there’s bloody little hope that Israeli society can claim to be an ethical one.
    ————————

    You are tarring all of Israeli society because of one cartoon printed by one newspaper?! Seems like that is a preconception that you have and you are grasping at straws in order to confirm your prejudices. What are you doing that is any different than what you are accusing others of doing? I am sorry to be the one to break this to you, but you have not been elected by anybody to define for the rest of humanity what is “politcally correct”. Racism is negatively stereotyping whole groups of people even though a few individuals of that group may indeed have these bad characteristics. I fail to see how this cartoon has ANYTHING to do with this.

  • Amir February 23, 2008, 11:26 AM

    If Joe Liberman were elected president, would he put a Mezuzah on all the doors?
    Just wondering.

  • Norman Weinstein February 23, 2008, 12:38 PM

    Dear bar_kochba132,

    First off, I have found that people who modestly mouth such self-deprecating words as your “Being the uneducate(d) boor that I am“ ordinarily mean quite the opposite and think of themselves as ranging from above-average to brilliant. Only knowing you through your predictable reactions to liberal ideas, I don’t feel qualified to pass on the degree, or lack of same, of your uneducated boorishness and so hereby grant you the benefit of my doubt and shall hereafter consider you a person, say, of almost average intelligence and education, give or take. Both in the context of the article and the attempt in Jewish circles here and in Israel to suggest for various reasons (his birth, his background, his education, his name, his color, his words) that Jews supporting Israel had better beware of one Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., then displaying in a rather primitive cartoon that same black man, Obama, painting black a white fundamental American icon is, except perhaps for those who must be led by the hand, a statement of race, of blackness and whiteness, and in this case of blackness doing something to whiteness. May I now, please, release your hand?

    Suffice it to say that the “Zigeunerweisen” stuff merely refers to a fairly well known tear-jerker, a pretty piece of musical cliché that, on being heard via haunting violin, might cause its listener to thump his chest with one hand while grabbing for a tissue with the other.

    I cannot speak for Obama’s statement, which I assume you are quoting accurately, even though he is my candidate of choice. Was he reacting to Bill Clinton’s at best politically stupid reference to Jesse Jackson’s having won South Carolina two decades previously and it meant nothing? That is, was Obama riposting to what might easily be seen as Clinton’s possible racial slur, thus challenging the former President’s “first black President’s” credentials? I really don’t know, and I suspect you don’t either.

    As seems to be your wont in many of your commentaries, you select out only part of a quotation in order to make your point, or, as in this case, you ignore part of the selected quotation. I said, “‘If indeed this paper of “secular centrists and moderate left-wingers‘ can freely without a huge reaction of disgust offer this Nazi type of racial garbage, then there’s bloody little hope that Israeli society can claim to be an ethical one.” Please, sir, reference my “can freely WITHOUT A HUGE REACTION OF DISGUST offer this Nazi type of racial garbage”. You’ve no doubt heard the term, “good German“, and it can just as easily be applied by changing that “good German” to a “good American” or a “good Israeli”, with the same fundamental meaning. However you may interpret that Maariv cartoon, I see it as a bigoted, racial slur, and I am apparently hardly alone in this. I gather there were those in Israel who saw it, too, as an ugly visual in support of an article referencing a paranoid reaction to Obama’s candidacy. In your previous posting, you speak of “the worry that he will carry out a Jimmy Carter-like foreign policy.” I assume that such a policy is one you dislike (hate?, fear?, distrust?), and so, for me, anyone professing a deep devotion to Israel and at the same time looks on Carter as either an anti-Semite or an enemy, major or minor, of Israel, or both, is not a person whose interpretation of the Maariv cartoon I would consider very reliable. In any case, racism, from whatever source, is both disgusting and, as Jews damn well know, dangerous.

    Your sensitivity toward me I found touching when you so delicately said, “I am sorry to be the one to break this to you, but you have not been elected by anybody to define for the rest of humanity what is ‘politically correct‘.” My God, for at least seventy of my eighty years, I have labored under the delusion that it was I and I alone, chosen from an already select few, to lay out for the unwashed of the universe the whole truth and nothing but the truth, both politically correct and otherwise, depending on what I, omniscient creature that I am, determined the world needed more than anything else. Well, that’s what straw-grasping does for one, and I shall continue, woe betide me, to look for creatures that quack and waddle in order to identify them. ‘Tis a sickness.

  • Richard Silverstein February 23, 2008, 11:40 PM

    If Joe Liberman were elected president, would he put a Mezuzah on all the doors?

    I’d love to see a Jewish president put mezuzas on the White House doors, though I’m happy to say it will never be a President Lieberman doing so. Maybe a President Feingold??

  • Protest II February 24, 2008, 9:29 AM

    Obama deserves all negative humors. He is a contentless, empty sloganeer.

    The Maariv ridiculed him justifiably. The color black maybe a characteristics for his intellectual darkness.

    Many reviewers, here, are ready to blame all Israel for a cartoon.

    Blame Obama, first. His projected incompetence is scary.

    I am not concerned with the silly and narrow, what is good for Israel?

    Obama is flatly bad for decency.

  • Yankee February 25, 2008, 2:07 AM

    To be expected from a country that essentially practices aparthied.

  • Amir February 26, 2008, 9:26 AM

    What caught my attention about this cartoon is that there is no signature and that there is a number in the corner. In my opinion this cartoon appeared in the satire page and not the political page. I wrote Yoav Karney an e-mail and asked him which section he took it from and on what date and he replied that he didn’t know. In my opinion this is much ado about nothing. but even if it is a political cartoon it’s not against blacks but against Barak Obama. That should be obvious. And I would say the say thing if it were Joe Lieberman and stars of David. But when anti-semites use the star of David in American symbols such as the American flag, it usually is not directed against any particular politician but is meant to suggest that the United States is controlled by Jews.

  • Roni July 10, 2009, 10:46 AM

    The Maariv cartoon was a reprint of an american cartoon, not an isaeli made cartoon.

    That cartoon I saw before the election on anti-semitic and other websites in october 2008 here is an archive of anti-obama cartoons from october 2008

    http://www.roguecheddar.com/blog/misc/thread_with_obama_poster.html

    Also, for all hebrew speaking maariv readers who in October 2008 did not know who that was painting the website, the cartoonist helpfully put Obama’s name on his back…in english.

    Maariv re-printed the cartoon in january 2009, and if you read the commentary below the cartoon you would know the intent was not racist.

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