An Iranian newspaper devised a Holocaust cartoon contest in vengeful response to the Muhammed cartoon fiasco. In reply, an Israeli cartoonist, Amitai Sandy, has devised what he shockingly calls the Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoon Contest (IASCC). He put out a call to Jewish cartoonists around the world for submissions and has published (see the cartoons) around ten so far (the competition ends March 5th). All cartoons here are provided courtesy of Amitai Shandy. I know that when you first read this headline you had the same chilled response that I did. You said something like: “there isn’t enough of this shit in the world that a fellow Jew has to be the conduit for more of it?”
Yaakov Kirschen, author of the Dry Bones comic strip, probably had something like this response. His blog was where I first learned about it. He links to this Haaretz story about it which quotes Sandy saying mockingly (please understand that this statement is meant ironically):
“We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” said Sandy “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”
But after actually visiting the IASCC website and viewing the cartoons for myself, I had quite a different response. Why? Well, first of all I must admit that there ARE a few genuinely disgusting cartoons. But even more importantly there are some genuinely funny ones that make interesting and valid points. Not reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotypes, but rather poking fun at those very stereotypes. In short, I think this competition was everything that the Jyllands-Posten cartoons were meant to be but were not. The latter were not funny (a cardinal sin for cartooning). They were gratuitously insulting and with little redeeming social commentary. They did not challenge accepted norms or values in any sort of constructive ways.
I’m running a few of the cartoons which I thought the most interesting. I’m not running the few cartoons which seemed revolting and insipid (there were a few). I’m gonna let you decide what you think.
Terry Gross on Fresh Air interviews Sandy and gets closest to conveying both the nuttiness, irony, and provocative nature of the contest:
“I’m trying to decide whether this contest is incredibly smart and funny and a really great way of proving the point that you want to make or whether it’s really kind of sick.”
To which Sandy replies: “It’s a little bit of both.”
The problem with all this is that most Jews are understandably uncomfortable with anything that remotely smacks of anti-Semitism. Our vaunted sense of humor (remember Lenny Bruce?) takes leave when it comes to this subject. But Sandy is saying: “why should it?” Why can’t we talk about it like we talk about any other subject that is important to us? Why can’t we poke fun at the anti-Semites using their own graphic weapons (big noses, horns, the works)? And most of all, why can’t we poke fun at ourselves as Jews have done for millenia? Let’s not forget that such dangerous and subversive humor was an integral part of Lenny Bruce’s comic arsenal. Witness this great joke of his:
We killed Jesus Christ. That’s right, we did. And we’re proud of it, too. His parents wanted him to become a doctor and he refused. So we killed the f*$%@r.
Finally, Sandy mentions in his Fresh Air interview that during an Israeli peace demonstration against the Separation Wall right-wing counter-demonstrators shouted: “You fuck Arabs.” I personally can vouch for such disgusting behavior because when I demonstrated in Jerusalem in 1973 for Israeli negotiations with the PLO right-wing hooligans threw rocks at us and one hit me square on the chin. The only time I’ve ever encountered violence at a demonstration.
So Sandy’s response was to create this poster which takes the right-wing taunt at face value and makes a virtue of the insult.