‘Antisemitic’ Gaza cartoon sparks fury

By Nathan Guttman, April 2, 2009
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The cartoon: It was dubbed “hideously antisemitic” when it appeared in many American newspapers

The cartoon: It was dubbed “hideously antisemitic” when it appeared in many American newspapers

A cartoon by one of America’s leading cartoonists has caused uproar among American Jewish groups, which have denounced it as antisemitic.

In his syndicated cartoon, published on March 25 in dozens of newspapers including the New York Times and the Washington Post, Pat Oliphant depicts a baby-carrying woman being pushed off a cliff by a headless, goose-stepping figure holding a Star of David with sharp fangs. The woman and baby are labelled “Gaza”.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called the cartoon “hideously antisemitic”.

He added that the cartoon suggests that Israel’s actions resemble those of the Nazi regime. “The implication is of an Israeli policy without a head or a heart.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre argued: “It is cartoons like this that inspired millions of people to hate in the 1930s and help set the stage for the Nazi genocide.”

The Religious Action Centre of Reform Judaism called on online publications to remove the offending cartoon from their websites.

The Australian-born, award-winning cartoonist is known for his controversial drawings. During the recent election campaign, he drew criticism after depicting vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin speaking in tongues.

The uproar over the anti-Israel cartoon comes after protests against a column by the New York Times’s Roger Cohen, on the Jews of Iran.

Cohen, who is himself Jewish, visited Iran and wrote of the tolerance shown towards the country’s small Jewish community.

Mr Cohen argued that, despite difficulties, Iranian Jews are part of society and enjoy an atmosphere of acceptance that is at times more welcoming than in some American communities.

After a barrage of critical letters to the editor of the New York Times, Mr Cohen agreed to a public debate in a Los Angeles synagogue. He insisted that, apart from Israel, Iran is the most democratic country in the Middle East.

Facing accusations that the Jews he met in Iran were not free to criticise the government, Mr Cohen answered that their praise should not be dismissed altogether.

He also said that Iranians pay little attention to government-sponsored anti-Israel propaganda.

Last updated: 12:04pm, April 2 2009