The NY Times international edition ran a carton on its editorial page that was branded anti-Semitic by Donald Trump Jr., Breitbart and other far-right sites and personalities. It featured a blind Donald Trump wearing a yarmulke and being led by a dachshund-shaped Bibi Netanyahu. Netanyahu’s dog has a Jewish star hanging from its neck.
The cartoon is a highly effective attack on both political figures and, like all good graphic art, examines the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy at the heart of its subjects’ world-view. Trump’s blindness in the cartoon is a comment on the president’s obliviousness to the history of the Middle East and U.S. policy in the region. It also reflects his blindness to the plight and very existence of the Palestinian people. The yarmulke placed on his head links him to the Orthodox far-right settlers whose views he espouses. Remember also that his closest advisors, Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman are themselves Orthodox pro-settler fanatics who have richly donated to the movement.
Netanyahu’s dog is reminiscent of the term “Bush’s poodle,” an insult targeting Tony Blair when he became the cheerleader for the Iraq war. There can be no doubt that Bibi is Trump’s poodle.
In discussing the Jewish star around the dog’s neck we must remember that it is not just a Jewish star. It is the national symbol of the State of Israel. In a sense, Israel itself is at fault for conflating its nationhood with Judaism. Not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews. So in the case of the cartoon, the star comments on Netanyahu’s role as prime minister of the State, not on his Jewishness. They are not the same, despite what the far-right Anti-Semitism police claim.
In a satirical critique of the brouhaha over the original cartoon, Israeli cartoonist Eran Wolkowski published this sanitized version that will offend no one because it won’t say anything.
It’s curious that the loudest voices who initiated this campaign were not Jewish. Pro-Israel advocates of course chimed in later. But the earliest complainers were Trump Jr. Breitbart and their ilk. As a Jew, I find it offensive for anti-Semites to tell me what is anti-Semitic and what isn’t. I have been a victim of anti-Semitic jibes. I know what it is. And this isn’t it.
This is yet another example of weaponizing anti-Semitism on behalf of Likudism. It is a feeble attempt to defang just criticism of the sordid alliance between Trump and Netanyahu on behalf of an expansionist, supremacist Greater Israel.
Further, if you think the Times cartoon is anti-Semitic, why barely a whisper of outrage against Eli Valley’s far more explicit cartoon depicting Netanyahu and a swastika-wearing Trump in ecstatic embrace? True, there are no religious symbols in Valley’s cartoon. But portraying an Israeli prime minister embracing a Nazi should be cause for geschreis and gevalts from the pro-Israel Speech Police.
The Times felt under tremendous pressure because it is a constant target of the Trumpist right. So it decided that capitulation was the better part of valor. It isn’t. They’ll come after you whatever you do. And if you raise the flag of surrender, they’ll only redouble their efforts and chortle with glee at your cowardice.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.