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.
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.