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August 13, 2006

Nuance Watch

Here's an idea for my editorial cartoon. A Muslim executioner stands above Uncle Sam, whose head's on a chopping block. The executioner holds an Ali Baba sword that is shaped like the Islamic cresent, and labled "Terrorists." The chopping block itself is labled "Moderate Muslim Demands."

Think the Sacramento News & Review would publish that?

I actually don't get too seriously bothered by cartoons like the one above. Maybe that's just because I'm not Jewish. But maybe it's also that I think that, given that our policy towards Israel is considered controversial for some, I don't think there should be a per se ban on critiquing it, even using images like the above. The cartoon is really saying no more than "the US is captive to a reflexive support of Israel," which isn't true, and wouldn't be objectionable even if it were true (at least not to me -- I don't mind saying I'm pretty knee-jerk when it comes to supporting non-terrorists over terrorists).

However, I don't see the fact that some might be offended as a reason not to run a cartoon that expresses a sentiment which, while I don't share, is neither illegal nor antisemitic.

I'm generally against over-sensitivity resulting in self-censorship, even if the group claiming offense is one I generally support.

Still, as Hehpundit points out, we do have something of a serious double standard going on here. It's open season on Israelis, who do not murder us, but apparently the highest level of cultural sensitivity and self-censorship is due to Muslim extremists (and, um, "moderates"), who do murder us.

Kind of ass-backwards, isn't it?

Commenters Disagree: Just about everyone thinks I'm wrong to say that the alternate, non-anti-semitic explanation should be taken as the intended one, absent evidence to the contrary. Or that there really is no non-anti-semitic interpretation at all.

Magnetism87 writes:

Ace, the Mogen David is a symbol of Judaism. To me the cartoon screams "Jooos control the U.S.", and is intended as an anti-semitic statement. Why do you make the assumption that this cartoon intends to criticize Israel and not Jews in general?

Caspera writes:

I would say the cartoonist could have easily placed horizontal bars on the top and bottom of the image to make it look exactly like the Israeli flag. Would have been easy. He chose not to do that.

I am not Jewish, but I am an advocate for sensitivity in editorial cartoons when they involve the Mogen David for the following reason[]: the Mogen David was chosen as the symbol for Israel because it represents the Jews, not the other way around, so its default interpretation as a historical matter would tend towards "Jewry" more than "Israel" given no other context. The symbol simply predates the country.


Do the following thought experiment. Take Uncle Sam out of the stocks in this image, and replace him with a Burghermeister labeled Europe. Congratulations. You now have a Der Sturmer cartoon.

I'll give you the last word as O'Reilly does, by which I mean I won't give you the last word at all.

Caspera's thought experiment is inapposite, as there was no Israel in the 1940's, and hence no other plausible interpretation except "the scheming Jews are snaring all good Christian Europeans with their cunning manipulations."

As a general matter, I'm just not comfortable with the quick imputation of bad motives to someone as regards racism, antisemitism, or homophobia, or etc. Magnetism87 may be right that this guy is just an antisemite who is playing, as usual, fast and loose with "Jews" and "Israel" so while he's really attacking Jews, he's set up the defense that he only meant Israel. And, as I said, while I strongly suspect that this irrational hatred of Israel is often just a product of Jew-hatin', straight-up-no-chaser, I don't know if one can say that strong criticism of Israel is necessarily based in antisemitism.

Not to go off on a tangent, but is Christopher Hitchens an antisemite just because he seems to positively despise Israel, and engages in terror-apologism only in the case of Palestinians murdering Jews? Well, maybe that's a bad example, because he is, after all, a creature of his culture, and that culture is the hypereducated British left, who are, in fact, pretty antisemitic.

I don't know. I appreciate the passions this cartoon stirs in some Jewish readers, but I'm also hesitant to endorse a regime of bullying some into silence simply because their words (or stupid hackneyed doodles) are offensive to some. Not giving offense is important, but more important, I think, is airing legitimate points of view.

And I do consider criticism of Israel, or suggestions that the US is too much on Israel's side, to be legitimate, at least in the sense of "socially permissible." I just consider them usually completely wrong.

JD writes:

Too much thought going into this one, gang.

The Sacramento News and Review (an alternative weekly) tries very hard to be to the left of the Sacramento Bee. Their editors consider the SuckBee (a paper which has not recommended a republican for the presidency since going back to the days of World War I) to be a fascist right wing hate rag.

To the SN&R, everything that is wrong in the world is composed of three components: 1) Greed; 2) Oil; and 3) Israel.

A week or so ago we were having this argument about the left being antisemitic, and someone said, basically, that the left may or may not be antisemitic, but it is defintely anti-Western and kneejerkedly, unthinkingly on the side of any side that they deem "victim" due to being poorer, less technologically advanced, or darker in complexion. I forget how he summed it up, but he suggested something like "Let's just agree they're idiots whose conclusions are wrong because they're based on crap philosophy."

Again, I keep saying this, but I go back and forth on this question. On one hand, that's sort of a decent enough explanation for all of this, in the sense that it explains it all completely without having the need for another explanation like simple antismeitism.

On the other hand... well, these people really, really, really don't seem to like the Jews.

I don't know.

By the way, Ryan the troll, if the rightwing is so lockstep and possessed of a herd-mind, why is this argument going on in this blog, and why are people able to disagree without being disagreeable?

Just curious.

We don't have Townhouse to tell us all what to think or to write, so sometimes we have these little arguments.

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posted by Ace at 10:59 PM

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