Cartoons on the offense

27 03 2009


Pat Oliphant's cartoon

Pat Oliphant's cartoon

Cartoons are making the headlines again. Australian-American, award-winning cartoonist, Pat Oliphant, recently published a black-and-white cartoon (as you can see above) portraying an Israeli soldier as a Nazi; headless, with his right arm raised in the air, going after a small Gazan woman carrying a child.

The outrage has been quite loud and astonishing. Numerous editorials appeared in mainstream media, not to mention a wave of blogging and ranting. Check out The Jewish Journal, and the Atlantic Magazine’s Jeffery Goldberg. The Anti-Defamation League that fights anti-Semitism had called this cartoon “hideously anti-Semitic.” Much of the opinion on the street is that it is so.

This reminded me of the Danish cartoons portraying the Muslim prophet, Muhammad, as a terrorist with a turban-bomb. Remember the chaos about those cartoons? The level of offense and insult carried out in this Israel-related cartoon competes with that of the prophet’s cartoons.

My Muslim fellows should, then, understand and even sympathize with the outrage about this. And those who cried “freedom of speech” about the Danish cartoons shouldn’t dare to yell “anti-Semitism” this time around.

Political cartoons are important. They are a way of expressing opinion, just as protests do. Granted they can be brutal and unrealistic, but that’s the point, isn’t it? Now I agree with the opinion that this cartoon, much like the Danish ones, can incite hatred, portraying a whole population as evil and murderous. That is why people should, and normally do, take cartoons with a grain of salt.

Here is a detailed analysis, from an Israeli side, about this cartoon by famous professor and writer, Barry Rubin. This was posted on several websites, and fellow blogger on The Lid. You may not agree with all of it but it is a good analytical piece. 

We will continue to debate the role of cartoons in our society and the limit of cartoonists. This is one case study to consider.



One response

31 03 2009

well said. political cartoons fill a special role, but are not meant to be taken completely seriously. couldn’t agree more

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