I write now to express my support for the New York Times (a rare enough instance for me) in their publication of a controversial political cartoon, which is widely considered a work of anti-semitism. I won’t re-hash all the to and from over this — there’s plenty to be had elsewhere, as in this link to CNN coverage of the item. According to CNN:
Portuguese artist António Moreira Antunes has been drawing political cartoons for 45 years. He recently decided to take on the relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and recently re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The result was an image of a Netanyahu as a dog on a leash, Star of David around his neck, held by a blind Trump wearing sunglasses and a yarmulke.
I remember the Salman Rushdie fatwa. I started blogging in the days of the Danish cartoons. I never want to see a repeat of the Charlie Hebdo attacks (which happened more than once). I support in no uncertain terms (I shouldn’t even have to say this) the right of any cartoonist to draw what he wants, and of any publisher to publish what she wants. He and she together have a responsibility not only to the larger sensitivities of a global audience, but as well to the shareholders of a company, the safety of co-workers and family, and to comply with laws and norms as appropriate.
Yet the foremost responsibility of a creator and a publisher is to the values that make them pursue their craft in the first place. We cannot have any form of representative government if we cannot express ourselves. We cannot claim to have a robust public discourse if some things are un-sayable.
The cartoon is reproduced here without permission, claiming under the terms of Fair Use that the details of execution are so important as to warrant visual representation in full, in order to facilitate discussion. I also do this as an exercise of free speech, as rights that are not used do not exist, and at any rate, Article 13 can go fuck itself.
See the cartoon here:
This cartoon is quite well executed. I disagree with the ridiculous and tiresome point made by the cartoonist. This is not the raving, drooling doggerel and graffiti style which typifies a lot of this point of view. Every stroke of this cartoon is lovingly (or loathingly) rendered to deliver a message. That message sucks, but that is not the point upon which I stand. The anti-US anti-semites often have a cluster of related pathologies of which Jew-hatred and Marxism are only two examples. I find these cartoons and their ilk boring and repetitive, and needlessly inflammatory.
The cartoon depicts the leaders of two nation-states, one of which as an avowed mission as a refuge and rock of an ethnicity and a religion. As an American, this founding mission of Israel is nearly opposite that of my own country. Yet Israel is one of precious few representative governments on the planet, not short of enemies, and confronted daily with existential decisions. Netanyahu is Jewish, but need not wear a Star of David as a dog. Neither need he be Trump’s or America’s dog in order to exercise a foreign policy which Americans find admirable. This latter insult was also directed at Tony Blair by many of the same cartoonists who hate America, hate Israel, hate Britain, hate free markets, hate freedom of speech, and who seem to find room in their hearts for whichever dictator finds himself ranged against America, the Great Satan, in any given year. So there’ nothing new or even interesting about the dog and master trope.
Trump in a yarmulke is about the closest I can get to calling this otherwise ho-hum cartoon offensive, beyond the crime of being boring. The cartoonist puts a yarmulke on Trump — Trump is not Jewish. Trump has Jewish relatives. So did Hitler. Now I realize that to the left, Trump is “literally Hitler”, but we may ignore this with ease. If the left wishes to legitimize their criticism of Trump by pointing out that Hitler actually did something about those darned Jews, that’s their argument, and they are welcome to make it. We’ll be waiting. Beyond that, Trump-in-a-yarmulke is simply political commentary, and not particularly well-informed. It is an insult, pure and simple. But to whom?
Ordinarily I would not reproduce such a misguided and frankly abusive picture. Yet here I am, putting it up on my own blog because of the furor which has erupted about the publication of this work. Were I publishing a newspaper, I might not publish this on its own merits. Yet as an item in a debate over free speech, I am happy not only to publish it, but to defend the author’s rights to draw it and market it, as well as those of the execrable, internationalist, wet-county, America-hating New York Times to publish it between their latest fictional expose of something that somebody said which reflects poorly on Trump and Americans in general, and their latest plumping for the international socialist scheme to ruin America.
Either we have rights or we do not. The New York Times did not see fit to publish this image, nor any of the dozen of the Danish Cartoons. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Jews have not threatened to behead those who insult Israel.