Editorial cartoons are not Disney-esque by their nature. They are meant to be pictorially biting commentary on current events.
A cartoon from 2012, for example, depicted a knight wearing a helmet and chain mail. Both arms and one leg are cut off by a depiction of sword-wielding Justice. The knight is labeled Arizona, and his sword, still being held in his now-amputated right arm, lying on the ground before him, is called “immigration law.” Says the knight to Justice, quoting Monty Python: “It’s just a flesh wound.”
The cartoon was a sharp commentary on how much Arizona was in denial about how damaged its anti-immigration law had become in a series of court decisions.
Editorial cartoons, however, must never step over the line from biting to hateful. A cartoon in a recent edition of the Sunday Times of London stepped way over the line, and was reminiscent of the vicious anti-Semitic cartoons published in Julius Streicher’s notorious Nazi house organ Der StÃ¼rmer. The cartoon showed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a sleeveless undershirt, wearing a determined scowl and holding a bloody trowel in his hand, building a wall on screaming Palestinian bodies. It is clear from the color cartoon that the cement he is using was made from blood. The caption read, “Israeli Elections â€¦ Will Cementing Peace Continue?”
Adding to the outrage was the day it was published – last Sunday, International Holocaust Memorial Day.
Wrote Joe Hyams, the man behind the HonestReporting website, “On any day, this cartoon’s imagery is an assault on the real victims of genocide, demeans their suffering, and insults their memory.” HonestReporting, which bills itself as “defending Israel from media bias,” labeled the cartoon “a blood libel.”
The editorial cartoon is an outrage in every sense of the word. It is the rankest form of anti-Semitism and never would have been published in a legitimate newspaper decades ago. Especially in the past 10 to 15 years, however, anti-Semitism once again has become fashionable throughout Europe.
We recall an incident in 2001, when the then French ambassador to the Court of St. James, Daniel Bernard, told his dinner party host how “that [expletive deleted] little country, Israel,” was paving the way for World War III.
The remark was made at a party hosted by a journalist and passionate Zionist, Lady Barbara Amiel Black, and her husband, Lord Conrad Black, at the time the owner of a media empire that included the London Daily Telegraph, the Chicago Tribune, and the Jerusalem Post, among other holdings. Lady Black is Jewish; Lord Black is not.
In a column she wrote after the incident, Lady Black also cited the case of a prominent British socialite who told a gathering that she could not stand Jews, who were to blame for their own troubles. When she saw the shock on people’s faces, she said, “Oh come on, you all feel like that.”
Sadly, as the Sunday Times cartoon demonstrates, the socialite was all too correct.
The Sunday Times and the cartoonist both owe their readers and the Jewish people everywhere, not just in Israel, an explanation and an apology.