Posts Tagged ‘Israeli Wall’

Gerald Scarfe Caricature of Menachem Begin

June 11, 2018

I found this caricature of the former Israeli premier, Menachem Begin, as a desert tank, on page 71 of Scarfe’s book, Scarfeface (London: Sinclair-Stevenson 1993).

I’m posting it as a rebuttal of the latest attempts to silence criticism of Israel, and particularly the censorship of cartoons commenting on Israeli atrocities and human rights abuses. Like the Guardian’s spiking of Steve Bell’s cartoon of Netanyahu and Tweezer having a chin-wag, while the murdered Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar burns in the fire. Or the German cartoon, which was censored for anti-Semitism, because its depiction of Netanyahu was held by the censor, Klein, to be like the Nazi caricatures of Jews. And then there was the case of Scarfe’s own cartoon of Netanyahu building his wretched wall to keep the Palestinians out a few years ago. Mark Regev, the odious Israeli ambassador, speciously claimed that because it showed Netanyahu building it using the blood and bodies of Palestinians, that it was somehow a reference to the infamous ‘Blood Libel’.

It’s all rubbish. None of these cartoons were anti-Semitic. And as Mike has pointed out, in these cases authorial intention have to be taken into account. Scarfe isn’t an anti-Semite, and neither is Bell, who has vigorously denied that there was any anti-Semitic intention in his cartoon. But the people making these accusations aren’t interested in whether they’re really anti-Semitic. They’re interested solely in using the issue of anti-Semitism as a convenient weapon for shutting down criticism of Israel.

I don’t know when Scarfe’s cartoon of Begin was published, but it was clearly a much freer time journalistically. It’s a comment on his militaristic character and period in office. And I’m very sure that there were no accusations of anti-Semitism, and it was accepted as ‘fair comment’. And looking at it, it is not very different in its intent and comment on Israeli politics as the others that have recently been censored.

How very different to today, where if you draw a cartoon that the Israelis and their supporters don’t like, you will be automatically libelled as an anti-Semites and your cartoon spiked.

It’s time this grotesque infringement of free speech and libelling of perfectly decent people stopped. Journalists should hold everyone to account, including Israel and its leaders, just like every other nation, without fear of defamation and censorship.

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Steve Bell Cartoon in Guardian Spiked for Supposed ‘Anti-Semitism’

June 8, 2018

More fake accusations of anti-Semitism by the Israel lobby to censor criticism of their barbarous treatment of the Palestinians. Yesterday Mike put up a piece reporting that Guardian editor Kath Viner had spiked a Cartoon by Steve Bell commenting on the shooting of the Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar. This showed May and Netanyahu having a cosy chat around the fireplace, in which al-Najjar is burning. The cartoon was intended to show the complete indifference to al-Najjar’s murder by the IDF. But Kath Viner decided it was anti-Semitic, because she thought it compared the actions of modern Jews to those of the Nazis in the Holocaust. Bell himself strongly rejects any such comparison, and wrote to her in an email, saying

“I cannot for the life of me begin to understand criticism of the cartoon that begins by dragging in ‘wood-burning stoves’, ‘ovens’, ‘holocaust’, or any other nazi-related nonsense.

“That was the last thing on my mind when I drew it, I had no intention of conflating the issues of the mass murder of European Jews and Gaza.

“It’s a fireplace, in front of which VIP visitors to Downing Street are always pictured… and the figure of Razan al-Najjar is burning in the grate. It’s a widely known photograph of her, becoming iconic across the Arab world and the burning is of course symbolic. She’s dead, she was shot and killed by the IDF while doing her job as a medic.”

He said he suspected “the reason that you did not get in touch was because you did not really have an argument. The cartoon is sensitive, not tasteless, not disrespectful, and certainly contains no anti-Semitic tropes.”

Mike makes the point here that the people making the accusation of anti-Semitism see what they want to see. They expect to see anti-Semitism, and so they see anti-Semitism. And so they ignore issues of authorial intent, context and commonsense.

Mike makes the point that it is not anti-Semitic to point out that an unarmed medic was murdered by an Israeli soldier, nor anti-Semitic to point out that Britain’s own response to the murder has been lukewarm. He goes on to say it is not anti-Semitic to question whether this lack of an appropriately strong response is due to the immense amount of trade Britain does with Israel, or whether the arms we sold them were used in her killing. He goes on to conclude that if the author’s intent is ignored in the interpretation of the image, then it’s the wrong interpretation.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/06/07/guardian-cartoonist-steve-bell-accused-of-anti-semitism-over-razan-al-najjar-image/

I’m not surprised that Bell has been censored because of this cartoon. The Israel lobby regularly responds to criticism of the barbarism it metes out the Palestinians with accusations of anti-Semitism, including cartoons. A few years ago, Mark Regev, the noxious, lying Israeli ambassador, sent an angry letter to the I attacking a cartoon by Gerald Scarfe about the construction of the anti-Palestinian wall as ‘anti-Semitic’. Why? The cartoon showed Netanyahu building the wall using the blood of murdered Palestinians as mortar. He decided that this was anti-Semitic because it referred to the ‘Blood Libel’, the vile anti-Semitic myth that Jews murder Christians and use their blood to make the matzo bread eaten at Passover. The cartoon did nothing of the sort, but nevertheless, the I caved and issued an apology.

And last week a German cartoonist was accused of anti-Semitism and sacked for the alleged anti-Semitism of his caricature of Netanyahu. Klein, the minister or civil servant responsible for rooting out anti-Semitism, decided that this was anti-Semitic because it exaggerated Netanyahu’s nose and lips, just like the caricatures of the Jews produced by the Nazis and other anti-Semites. It’s a highly debatable point. caricaturists work by exaggerating features, including, and often particularly, the nose and lips. Germany has been very pro-Israel since the end of the Second World War, partly out of guilt for the Holocaust, and Jews are actually treated very well there. So much so that it’s a favoured destination for young Israelis to go on holiday. a few weeks ago I found an article published in Counterpunch by a radical, anti-racist German journo, which followed the Israeli embassy in Germany in equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Which is what the real issue is here: suppressing criticism of Israel.

As for Bell’s cartoon, he is certainly not alone in depicting political figures holding their talks around the fireside. in the 1980s, the games comic Diceman ran one game story in which the reader played Ronald Reagan, desperate to save the world from nuclear war. One scene showed him and Gorbachev holding talks around a blazing fire. As Reagan droned on, Gorby dozed, and the artist, Hunt Emerson, had great fun drawing all kinds of figures in the fire. At one point the flames made little KKK figures, who joined hands and danced. I’m afraid I can’t put my hands on the issue at the moment, otherwise I’d put up the image, but it’s around here somewhere. There is nothing as strong as that in Bell’s cartoon.

And the Guardian has always, like other newspapers, been under pressure to spike any reports of Israeli atrocities. Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of the Guardian, described in the Channel 4 Despatches documentary on the power of the Israel lobby, how after accurately reporting them, he would be visited by someone from the Israel lobby or the Board of Deputies of British Jews, complete with their pet lawyer, who would rant and rave about how such reports were anti-Semitic. After his reporting of the Gaza bombardment, the two visitors claimed that the newspaper’s accounts were anti-Semitic, because they would encourage people to attack Jews in the street. Which didn’t happen.

Since then, the newspaper has been the conduit for the Israel lobby’s propaganda. For example, they once ran an article by Steve Pollard of the libel organisation the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which claimed that the far-right, anti-immigrant president of Poland couldn’t be anti-Semitic, because ‘he was a good friend of Israel’. Well, the Israelis have all kinds of ‘good friends’ who are Fascists and anti-Semites. They’ve welcomed Alt-Right leader Steve Bannon to one of their military jamborees, and had Richard Spencer, the founder of the Alt-Right, on their television. Why? Spencer describes himself as a ‘White Zionist’, who admires Israel as the kind of racially pure ethnostate he’d like America to become, but for Whites only. Tony Greenstein was so angered by the Groan’s switch from objective reporting to servile pro-Israel commentary, that he wrote Viner or her subordinates a letter of complaint.

This isn’t about real anti-Semitism in the press. This is about censoring criticism of Israel, using the horrific suffering of Jews in the Holocaust as a pretext. It’s a disgusting desecration of their memory as well as a gross libel on the cartoonists. Viner, Klein and Regev should be ashamed.

Refuting Anti-Semitism Smears with the Reasonableness Test: Part Two

May 25, 2018

The claims that some of the comments made by critics of Israel are anti-Semitic because of their imagery and language used also reminds me very strongly of the claims made by some of the paranoid conspiracy theorists themselves. For example, Israel has constructed a wall around itself designed to keep the Palestinians out. This is very controversial, and the great British caricaturist, Gerald Scarfe, drew a cartoon of the Israelis building it using the blood of the Palestinians as mortar. The picture was published either in the Independent, or the I. The Israeli ambassador, an odious creep called Mark Regev, immediately declared that the cartoon was anti-Semitic. The inclusion of blood in the picture was a reference to the Blood Libel, the murderous lie that Jews kill Christians and use their blood in the matzo bread at Passover.

In fact, the cartoon contained no reference to this vile libel. There were no references to either the Passover, matzo bread or ritual murder. It was purely about the wall, and the Israelis’ butchery of the Palestinians. But the accusation had the intended effect. The I or Independent caved in and made an apology. But blood and its imagery is a very common image used to portray the brutality of oppressive, violent regimes and groups of all types around the world. It is certainly not confined to Jews. Regev was, of course, making the accusation of anti-Semitism to close down a graphic portrayal of the Israeli state’s brutality, as the Israel lobby has been doing to its critics since the 1980s. But his accusation bears less relation to objective fact than to some of the really paranoid theories that have circulated around America about secret cabals of Satanists plotting to destroy American society from within.

One of these, which surfaced c. 1982, concerned Proctor and Gamble and their logo, as shown below.

As you can see, this shows a ‘Man in the Moon’ surrounded by thirteen stars. According to the rumour, which was boosted through its inclusion by several Southern fundamentalist Christian preachers in their sermons, the imagery reveals that the company is run by Satanists. The thirteen stars represent the thirteen members of a witches’ coven, and the ‘Man in the Moon’ is really Satan himself. Especially as the curls of the figures hair is supposed to show the number 666, the number of the Beast, the Antichrist, in the Book of Revelations. See the illustration below, where I’ve circled where I think these ‘Satanic’ curls are.

Now if you applied the rule adopted by the lawyers for the Israel lobby to the imagery here, you could argue that it is fair to accuse Proctor and Gamble of Satanism, because that’s how its logo and its imagery has struck thousands of Americans. But you be ill-advised to do so, because the company vehemently denies any Satanic connections. It’s actually a patriotic symbol, with the thirteen stars representing the thirteen founding colonies of the USA. The company has also redesigned the logo to iron out those curls, so that they no longer appear to show 666, and engaged the services of other right-wing fundamentalist preachers, like Jerry Falwell, to show that the company is not run by Satanists. They also have a very aggressive legal policy, so that if you do claim that they’re a bunch of Satanists, they will sue. And I very much doubt that the court will be impressed by claims that the company must be Satanic, ’cause somebody can think that looking at their logo.

This is real, Alex Jones, tin-foil hat stuff. And stupid rumours of Satanic conspiracies have real consequences for ordinary people, just like the smears of anti-Semitism have been used to damage the lives and reputations of decent people. We have seen people falsely accused of child sacrifices and abuse, based on no more than fake recovered memories, in scenes that could have come out of the Salem witch hunt back in the 17th century. Some of them have even gone to prison. This is why it is absolutely important that people are always considered innocent until proven guilty, and that accusations of Satanic ritual abuse, and anti-Semitism, should always be held to objective, not subjective standards. The rule that such accusations must be believed, because somebody may think that a person is a Satanist or racist, simply on the way a comment subjectively strikes them, only leads to terrible injustice.

The Israel lobby here are showing the same paranoid psychology that permeates the racist, anti-Semitic extreme right. The type of people, who search the newspapers and other texts looking for proofs that the Illuminati really do run the world. Or that the Zionist Occupation Government really has taken over America and the West, and is attempting to destroy the White race through racial intermixing. Or that Communists have burrowed into the American government.

One of the proofs of this last conspiracy theory was the tiny lettering on the Roosevelt dime. Just below FDR’s neck and extremely small, were the letters ‘JS’. According to the rumour, the letters stood for ‘Joe Stalin’. This rumour first appeared in the Cold War, in 1948, when the scare about ‘Reds under the bed’ was just beginning. But it’s completely false. Oh, the letters are there, but they don’t stand for Stalin. They’re the initials of the coin’s designer, John Sinnock. You can claim all you want that the claim is subjectively true, because liberalism and the welfare state = Communism, or some such similar right-wing bilge. But it wouldn’t stand up in a court of law.

And some Christian fundamentalists in America have also seen in the colours used by state roads signs evidence of a conspiracy to put them in concentration camps. Back in the 1990s there was a rumour panic going around about the colours used in spots adorning the highway signs in Pennsylvania. These were supposed to show the location of the concentration camps, in which true Christians would be incarcerated when the Communists or one world Satanic conspiracy came to power. In fact they showed no such thing. The state’s highway department used the dots as a colour code to mark the year the sign was first painted. This was to show how old the sign was, and so indicate when it should be repainted.

Continued in Part Three.

CounterPunch’s Alexander Cockburn on Censorship and Abuse for Covering Palestine

May 3, 2016

Alexander Cockburn, one of the writers and publishers of the radical US journal, CounterPunch, described his experience of abuse and censorship in a piece on the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians in the chapter ‘Palestine Down the Decades’ in his and Jeffrey St Clair’s End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate (Petrolia: CounterPunch/Edinburgh: AK Press 2007) 327-333. He writes

The first time I ever wrote about Palestinians was around 1973, when I was just starting a press column for a New York weekly called the Village Voice. It concerned a story in the New York Times about a “retaliatory” raid by the Israeli air force, after a couple of Al Fatah guerrillas had fired on an IDF unit. I’m not sure whether there were any fatalities. The Israeli planes flew north and dumped high explosive on a refugee camp in Lebanon, killing a dozen or so men, women, and children.

I wrote a little commentary, noting the usual lack of moral disquiet in the Times’ story about this lethal retaliation inflicted on innocent refugees. Dan Wolf, the Voice’s editor, called me in and suggested I might want to reconsider. I think, that first time, the item got dropped. But Dan’s unwonted act of censorship riled me, and I started writing a fair amount about the lot of the Palestinians.

These were the days when Palestinians carried far less news value for editors than Furbish’s lousewort, and no politician ever held that this beleaguered plant didn’t actually exist as a species, which is what Golda Meir, Israel’s prime minister said of Palestinians.

Back then you had to dig a little harder to excavate what Jewish Israelis were actually doing to Palestinians. Lay out the facts about institutionalized racism, land confiscation, torture and a hail of abuse would pour through the mailbox, as when I published a long interview in the Voice in 1980 with the late Israel Shahak, the intrepid professor from Hebrew University. (p. 327).

He then goes on to say that there were plenty of testimony about the Israeli oppression, but very little of it ever got into print. And any suggestion that there was a long term plan to displace the Palestinians was bitterly attacked.

It wasn’t hard to get vivid descriptions of the increasingly intolerable conditions of life for Palestinians: the torture of prisoners, the barriers to the simplest trip, the harassment of farmers and school children, the house demolitions. Plenty of people came back from Israel and the occupied territories with harrowing accounts, though few of them ever made the journey into a major newspaper or onto national TV.

And even in the testimonies that did get published here, what was missing was any
acknowledgement of the long-term plan to wipe the record clean of all troublesome U.N. resolutions, crush Palestinian national aspirations, steal their land and water, cram them into ever smaller enclaves, ultimately balkanize them with the Wall, which was on the drawing board many years ago. Indeed, to write about any sort of master plan was to incur further torrents of abuse for one’s supposedly “paranoid” fantasies about Israel’s bad faith, which much pious invocation of the “peace process”.

But successive Israeli governments did have a long-term plan. No matter who was in power, the roads got built, the water stolen, the olive and fruit trees cut down (a million), the houses knocked over (12,000), the settlements imposed (300), the shameless protestations of good faith issued to the U.S. press (beyond computation).(Pp. 328-9).

We’ve seen a little of how the Israel lobby seeks to silence the country’s critics with the vicious accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone. But they certainly haven’t been alone, as this article shows.