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Scarfe’s Israeli Election Cartoon Grotesque and Offensive, Just Like Israeli Occupation

Rupert Murdoch has opened up a can of worms by attacking the award-winning cartoonist for his flagship Sunday Times, Gerald Scarfe.  Murdoch called  “grotesque and offensive” a cartoon called “Israeli election: will cementing peace continue?”  It depicts a brutish Bibi Netanyahu as bricklayer building the Separation Wall with the blood of Palestinian victims who are entombed within it.

First, let’s set the record straight: the cartoon is grotesque and offensive.  But so is the Occupation.  I would maintain that despite the jarring, horrific emotions it instills in the reader, it is within the tradition of the great cartoonists from Thomas Nast to Honore Daumier.  Revisit some of their cartoons and how they depicted Boss Tweed and the villains of their era.  They made them out to be porcine brutes swilling on the blood, sweat and tears of their victims.

Now let’s address the accusation of blood libel made by pro-Israel standard bearers like Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle.  The charge is nonsense and based on a total misapprehension of Jewish history.  The traditional blood libel involved accusing Jews of drinking the blood of Christians or baking the blood of a child into Passover matzo.  This is a classic anti-Semitic trope which had no basis in reality.  Rather, it was a fraudulent charge meant to justify baseless hatred of Jews.

Let’s examine the record of Bibi Netanyahu.  Have his decisions not caused the gruesome deaths of Palestinians, both young and old?  Has he not enthusiastically endorsed building not just the West Bank Wall but a new wall to insulate Israel from African refugees fleeing oppression in their homelands?  Is there no validity to Scarfe’s view that the Israeli elections will only ratify this murderous status quo as far as Palestinians are concerned?

So is Scarfe’s image repulsive.  Is it deeply troubling?  Does it paint Israel and its leader in the most repellant light?  Yes it does.  Will it cause viewers to hate Israel any more than they might already?  Will it provoke acts of anti-Semitism?

These questions are formulated backwards.  The real question is will Bibi’s murderous acts not provoke such hatred toward Israel and Jews?  It is these which are most offensive.  Scarfe is merely doing his job as artist to reflect the horrifying reality of Israeli Occupation.

Israel, if you don’t like what you see in this cartoon you can do something about it.  Don’t call the Times of London.  Don’t ask for Scarfe’s head on a platter.  End the Occupation.  End the killing of children as happened in Gaza recently when a Netanyahu-ordered bloodbath killed 180, mostly civilians.

Another factor worth considering is that the cartoon was published on Yom HaShoah.  This of course offends the pro-Israel crowd to no end.  It supposedly indicates a Jewicidal impulse in Scarfe.  Or it means he’s promoting pogroms against the world’s Jews by pointing out Israel’s sins.  The truth of the matter is that most of the world doesn’t know on what date Yom HaShoah falls.  Most editors don’t check their calendars to make sure they don’t criticize Israel on this day.  I know that Holocaust-obsessed pro-Israel Jews find it convenient to drum up the Holocaust when it suits their political purposes.  These are the same people who hardly care about actual Holocaust survivors like the ones whose welfare Bibi’s government is abandoning in Israel.

Stop abusing the Holocaust for political advantage.  It’s repugnant and offensive to the memory of the 6-million and the few survivors who remain.  Before you attack me for this sentiment you’ll have to attack the survivors themselves who’ve adopted this viewpoint.  And before you tar and feather me in the comment threads, calling me a heartless Holocaust denier, go back and search through this blog for my own posts about the Holocaust.  I will not allow anyone here to question my bona fides on that score.

Prominent Jewish cartoonist, Eli Valley, writing at the Daily Beast has bravely embraced the cartoon, displaying a list of truly anti-Semitic images from the historical archives. When he comes to the Scarfe cartoon he notes: “This is an image critical of Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies in the West Bank.”  He goes on to attack the UK Jewish Board of Deputies, displaying their own ad attacking on the cartoon. Valley’s caption reads: “This is an exploitation of Jewish historical trauma.”  He then displays the image of Netanyahu in the cartoon and writes: “This will not lead to anti-Semitism.”  Then he shows an image of the Separation Wall with the caption: “This might lead to anti-Semitism.”  Valley’s entire series of images is brilliant and precisely right.

Martin Rowson writing in the Guardian echoes some of my views.  My opinion ironically runs counter to Rachel Shabi, a regular contributor to Comment is Free.  The liberal Zionist Haaretz was only too happy to feature her attack on the cartoon in its pages.  Curiously, it chose to censor the image by cropping out the Palestinians entombed with the Wall.  This act of excision precisely mirrors the liberal Zionist need to white out the most troubling aspects of Occupation and Israeli reality.

Personally, I think Shabi had a failure of nerve.  The Occupation is ugly.  It is obscene.  So is this picture.  Deal with it.

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{ 14 comments… add one }

  • pabelmont January 31, 2013, 9:17 AM

    Richard, I’m reminded of a joke, wherein a Fundamentalist Protestant clergyman tells newlyweds they may have sex, and in almost any position, but not standing, because that might lead to dancing together — and dancing is forbidden.

    Here, we have a fabulous outcry of the usual Jewish big-wigs speaking out against the criticism-by-cartoon of crimes done by Jews (indeed, crimes done by the biggest Jew of all, the big Kahana one might almost say, N’hu himself, who claims to run the country of the entire Jewish people) because such criticism — even though entirely justified — might lead to antisemitism, and that is forbidden. (Whereas, as you’ve noted, N’hu’s actions are never criticized for a likelihood of bringing down antisemitism on Jewish lives.)

  • Brian January 31, 2013, 9:37 AM

    Silverstein, with this post you have broken the record of cynicism.

    “Let’s examine the record of Bibi Netanyahu. Have his decisions not caused the gruesome deaths of Palestinians, both young and old? Has he not enthusiastically endorsed building not just the West Bank Wall but a new wall to insulate Israel from African refugees fleeing oppression in their homeland”
    So before Bibi became the PM everything was honky dory in the land of Israel, and this Man who represents the ultimate evil – The new Mr. Bane – decided to build a wall between Israel and the West bank and on the southern border.

    Should we list the number of Israelis who died in terror attacks directed at Israeli civilians ? Have you forgotten the images of exploded buses in the heart of Tel-Aviv ? The grotesque images from Maxim restaurant in Haifa ? no doubt this wall was built on Blood, the Blood of Israelis.

    With respect to the refugees, May i remind you that article 31 of the UN refugee convention states : “1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1″ (Key phrase is – coming directly)

    Are you claiming that somehow Israel has established a Border with the different countries from which those people are coming to look for work ? Does Israel have a border with Sudan ? With Eritrea ? With Kenya ?

    • Richard Silverstein February 1, 2013, 12:01 AM

      @Brian: Why is it that when you don’t agree with someone you can’t simply point out what’s wrong with what they said. Instead, you have to gussie up your response with mock outrage and freighted words like “cynicism.” Cynicism has nothing to do with anything I write here. I resent the term. It’s meaningless except to signal your righteous indignation, which carries on particular weight.

      Bibi is Israel’s current leader. He makes decisions on behalf of the nation. Therefore, responsibility for those decisions are rightly dropped at his feet whether it’s a war, as happened in Gaza or the Separation Wall.

      As for Israelis killed in terror attacks, the subject is completely off topic. I’ve gone over this what seems like 100 times before: the Wall wasn’t designed to prevent terror attacks since thousands of Palestinians cross from the West Bank to Israel each day in the many areas where there is no Wall.

      That’s quite clever of you to quote UN documents. Where did you pick that one up? From your professor in Hasbara 101? I really detest people who use a document written for a humanitarian purpose in an attempt to justify Israel’s gross inhumanity toward African refugees. You know and I know and every reader here knows that Israel’s treatment of these people is gross, heinous and a violation of international law. It violates every moral tenet of Judaism and desecrates the memory of every Jewish refugee who died in the Holocuast and throughout our history. For shame that you should use such arguments.

      Don’t even attempt to defend or justify Israel’s inhumane treatment of African refugees. To read another word like the ones you wrote on this subject would make my stomach turn.

      • Brian February 1, 2013, 5:37 AM

        [ed. comment deleted for violation of comment rules, which direct you not to repeat arguments you've previously offered. Also, when I ask you not to continue with this argument, you much respect this. If you do not, you will be moderated.]

        • Richard Silverstein February 1, 2013, 2:37 PM

          I told you very specifically in my last comment that your misuse of UN language to justify Israel’s inhumane treatment of African refugees was stomach turning and I didn’t want to read any further comments from you on this subject. You deliberately ignored me. You will be moderated. The comment rules require that respect both the rules, which you haven’t done & my editorial direction.

          • Nathanel February 2, 2013, 11:38 AM

            Silverstein you are a joke !

          • Richard Silverstein February 4, 2013, 6:26 PM

            @Nathaniel: No, not a joke. I’m the punchline & the joke’s on YOU.

  • Davey January 31, 2013, 8:13 PM

    Brian misses the point entirely. Israel is not immune from scrutiny and criticism and Bibi has, as a matter of fact, earned this cartoon critique. As for quoting UN conventions, Brian must be joking. The list of UN provisions and resolutions ignored by Israel would fill this page handily. Richard is absolutely right: The issue is the occupation, nothing else. Splitting hairs rigorously will not insulate Zionists and Zionism in its present incarnation. But the Zionists want to control such attention-getting criticism. Jews supporting Israel under Bibi are today responsible for the occupation and should take their hit rather than crying the ridiculous carp about “libel>” The cartoon is true in its essence, so there cannot be a libel.

  • Andy January 31, 2013, 9:44 PM

    If the people offended by Scarfe’s cartoon were to call for the wall to be dismantled – Mr. Netanyahu, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL! – and for all of the settlements to be (not frozen but) OPENED to Palestinian residents, as should have happened decades ago, then I might be willing to take them seriously. Let me know when that happens.

  • Nigel Bamford February 2, 2013, 5:07 AM

    For a few years (I’m 46) I have become increasingly concerned over the Israeli/Palestine issue and have found myself increasingly bewildered by the activity of the Israeli government. I am not Jewish (or Christian or any religion), I was worried that my feelings meant I was developing an anti semitic stance.

    This piece has helped me to realise that my concerns are valid and indeed recognised by individuals all over the world. It is a shame that those who oppose the actions and policies of a government can be branded as xenophobes rather than political critics.

    Thank you for this excellent article, I have favourited (is that even a word?) your page and look forward to more of the same – that is to say writing which exposes the failings on all sides and is not scared to admit that two wrongs will never make a right.

    • Richard Silverstein February 3, 2013, 12:45 AM

      You are welcome here and I’m glad what you read confirmed that your views are actually quite reasonable.

  • Juri Harwardt February 2, 2013, 9:46 AM

    Comparing ISRAEL’s situation now to that of the European Jews during Nazi Germany and saying that Israel is as threatened as the European Jews back then is as blatantly lunatic as denying Holocaust. Netanjahu and his supporters are just as weird as Shoah deniers.

  • bar_kochba132 February 3, 2013, 12:17 PM

    I am confused. Since you more or less agree with the message of the cartoon, why do you say it is “grotesque and offensive”?

  • Anna March 1, 2013, 2:32 AM

    Right is right. Thank you Mr. Silverstein for confirming, and contining to confirm, what is right, no matter how “difficult” some people may try to make it. You have gained a new follower.

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