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    « How to demonize Israel: 2 | Main | Who claims to know what British Jews think of Israel? »



    Hard to say which part was more offensive. The "heavyhanded" portrayal is pretty standard. What was most sickening IMHO was the inference that Hizb'Allah are merely 'stinging' us when in reality men, women and children are dying. Still, they're only Jews.
    [Clarification: Obviously, I meant, it's okay if Israelis die not Jews. Who of course are wonderful people. Some of my best friends in fact are Jewish.]


    "What was most sickening IMHO was the inference that Hizb'Allah are merely 'stinging' us when in reality men, women and children are dying. Still, they're only Jews."

    And, ironically, two little Israeli Arab boys too.


    I see the problem. I remember when someone drew a "Muhammad" (pbuh) cartoon 2 years ago and claimed it wasn't about the religion but someones name, but it was very easy to catch a different and more bigoted meaning off of it.


    I wrote the following to the Guardian:



    In your "Corrections and clarifications" section of 20
    July, you write, regarding a Martin Rowson cartoon:
    "Yesterday's cartoon on page 29 (Comment) portrayed
    Israeli military action in Lebanon in the form of a
    mailed fist with Stars of David as knuckle-dusters. By
    failing to identify them in a specifically Israeli
    form - such as in the colours of the flag - the point
    the cartoon was making might have been interpreted as
    implicating Judaism rather than the Israeli government
    in the present conflict. That was not the intention,
    and we are sorry if anyone saw it that way."

    In other words, what "might have been interpreted" as
    offensive in this cartoon was in fact innocent - a
    case of poor judgement, perhaps, but a mistake in good
    faith. The problem with that is that it would involve
    believing that it never occurred to the cartoonist, as
    he laboured over those many Stars of David in all
    their bloody detail, that anything about his image
    might be understood as being aimed at Jews. That those
    sores he took the trouble to draw on the wrist of the
    Jewish fist might be taken as gratuitously hateful. It
    would involve believing that it never crossed the
    editor's mind that the cartoon would trigger
    associations, in many minds, with antisemitic imagery.

    Is such ignorance of past political imagery, European
    political history and today's political sensitivities
    plausible in a Guardian political cartoonist or in a
    Guardian editor? Would they themselves be willing to
    admit to such ignorance? One doubts it. And if they
    did plead such astonishing ignorance, one would find
    their claim quite honestly difficult to believe.

    But if they cannot admit to that ignorance, it is
    inescapable that they did this knowing the risks they
    were taking.

    So unless I am missing something, it seems the
    Guardian's cartoonist and the editors responsible for
    the decision to publish the cartoon must choose. They
    must either: a) admit to a level of ignorance that
    would immediately disqualify them from their jobs, or
    b) admit that they knew perfectly well what risks they
    were taking and that therefore their "clarification"
    is not the truth of the matter.

    Which is it to be?


    I am bloody disgusted how in the Uk. A gay death cult.(I was born a muslim so speak from the inside)is allowed to threaten anybody who questions their faith.
    Yet everybody else's faith is fair game.
    Allah Ackba BBC/Guardian/Times/Mirror.


    Just found this on USSNeverdock


    I stumbled upon your site twice in the last few days - once via a link from Pajamas Media, and the other doing a search for the aptly named Tim Butcher of the Daily Telegraph, who I see is not unknown to you. (I just read an article of his on the plight of refugees in Lebanon and was incensed at his insanely exaggerated anti-Israel bias.) Anyway, I wanted to let you know I love the site and will definitely be checking back often!

    - Sharon


    Given that the Star of David is part of the flag of Israel, are there any circumstances in which a cartoon critical of Israel, featuring the flag - and not the Star in isolation, as in this case - would not be perceived as anti-Semitic?


    John I trust you are not being naive. The Guardian insulted those it intended to, it has the reflex antipathy towards its caricatured hate figures and just lets go.

    It makes no distinction between Jews and Israel because it intends none; I wonder when Jonathan Freedland will pen an offended piece (when he finds a new job no doubt) or David Aaronovitch, or Nick Cohen ?

    What can they do, The Guardian has a smug and condescending attitude towards any who do not smoke spliffs after dinner and believe that manna from heaven is what taxation produces for the public sector.

    It wants to recycle Der Stuermer and Voelkischer Beobachter - so what ? It should just use Julius Streicher as a nom-de-plume and get in gear so we can all distance ourselves from a Neo-Nazi rag


    Rick, you have not answered my question. On the one hand, the state of Israel has incorporated the Star of David into its flag. That flag is designated as official shorthand for the state, its government, policies and citizens. On the other, as you remind us, the Star of David is routinely used by bigots as shorthand for the targets of their hatred. What I am trying to disentangle is the apparent elision between the bigots, and those - including cartoonists - who would legitimately use national flags as shorthand for the political entities that are the targets, not of hatred, but of criticism.

    If a cartoonist creates an image critical of the UK, the US or any other state with an instantly-recognisable national emblem, we would understand why they might include the Union Jack or the Stars and Stripes. In what sense is the Israeli flag any different? The Star of David is BOTH a political and a religious symbol, but the critique of this cartoon suggests that any use of it by Israel's critics can only ever be anti-Semitic.

    I am an atheist. I respect the right of others of all faiths and none to their beliefs, and I also expect the same respect in return. I also believe there is no such thing as free speech, and that it is important that we understand how others may be deeply offended, particularly when ideas and symbols can be used to stir hatred against an ethnic, religious or other group.

    I suppose my question is therefore simple: does Jewish sensitivity about the Star of David supercede use of the Star as a political symbol? I might have logical and political objections to that position, but I can also respect it on social and cultural grounds.


    The star of David is not just there as an identification of the fist. It is the part of the glove that inflicts the bloody wounds.
    You tell me what you think is intended by this.



    Judy: I have another example from an Argentinian newspaper that I read. Take a look at the cartoon (translated) in my blog.

    Jerusalem Posts

    ISRAEL SOLIDARITY RALLY, London, Sunday, 23 July

    The call at the rally will be for peace and an end to terror. Peace for Israelis and peace with Israel's neighbours, but the terrorism has to end. Without a permanent end to terror there can be no peace because those who loudly and unashamedly call for Israel's destruction have shown that both in word and in deed, they are committed to this end. They shall not succeed.

    Those who claim as martyrs for their cause the two little Arab Israeli boys that they themselves murdered in Nazareth show an utter contempt for the lives of innocents, a fact repeated again and again as Hezbollah fights from amongst the civilian population centres of southern Lebanon. They will not prevail.

    The British Jewish community mourns the loss of innocent lives in this present conflict and as we send a clear and unequivocal message of support to the people of Israel as they face the terrorists onslaught, Hezbollah stands accused. They, the people of Israel, will not be cowed and we are proud to call them our brothers and sisters.

    Jon Benjamin
    Board of Deputies of British Jews

    Solidarity Rally, 5-6pm, Sunday, 23rd July, at:
    JFS, The Mall, Kenton, HA3 9TE.
    For more information: contact 0207 543 0105.


    That flag is designated as official shorthand for the state, its government, policies and citizens. On the other, as you remind us, the Star of David is routinely used by bigots as shorthand for the targets of their hatred.

    John, the flag of my country is a Red Cross on a White is the Cross of St George who is the patron saint of England, and of Moscow (The Third Rome).

    When you denigrate my flag you denigrate my nation and my Faith......



    Having been a cartoonist myself, I know how much attention is paid to symbols. Either Rowson is incompetent or he just doesn't care. Or worse. It should not have been difficult for him to include the entire flag of Israel (or some suitable substitute) if that was what he aiming for. The sores on the Jewish arm, I think, give us the answer.


    Rick, your argument suggests that you agree with my, that inclusion of a political symbol in a cartoon represents fair comment. I might also remind you that England is not a nation-state, does not have its own foreign or defence policy, currency, etc etc etc.

    Hal: That is my point. Would the flag of Israel have been more acceptable within the context of this cartoon than the Star of David knuckledusters?


    I suppose as a political symbol the Israeli flag would have been more representative of a polity than using a religious symbol. I don't think The Guardian confused the two.

    As for England it represents 80% UK population and like Russia it could easily recover its flag and sovereignty from within the artificial construct in which previous generations embedded it.



    Yes, as a general rule a nation's flag represents it. Care could have been taken to make the distinction. But it wasn't. And that's no accident. Even as a non-Jew, I can appreciate the emotional resonance to Jews of certain symbols, especially the swastika and the Star of David. AND... the flag of Israel. As someone above pointed out, this isn't ordinary political criticism; it's demonisation. A favourite device of political polemicists of a certain stripe is to link Israel with Nazi symbols or with contexts redolent of the SS. Sharon was never compared with Stalin, Mao or Mussolini, let alone Genghis Khan, but always Hitler. The mildest interpretation of this sort of shorthand is that it indicates a paucity of imagination. There are, of course, less charitible interpretations.


    Hal, I too appreciate the emotional resonance to Jews of these symbols, which is why I am - genuinely - interested in this question. Although I would point out that it is people on this site who have invoked Nazi symbols and contexts, not the cartoonist.

    The difficulty I have is that the Star of David, which is self-evidently an emotionally-charged symbol, was also adopted as a *political* symbol by the state of Israel. To my mind, a nation-state has little grounds for complaint if its national symbol becomes part of the discourse of political controversy, debate, protest, or whatever.

    So although I understand and share the legitimate offence that Jews (and non-Jews, me included) take when the Star of David is hijacked by bigots, I also detect here an attempt to have it both ways - this is the symbol of our nation as a political entity and *also* of our faith and our collective identity as Jews, which therefore renders any use of this symbol in a critical, political sense automatically anti-Semitic.

    Ultimately, as a non-Jew, of course it's not for me to dictate to Jews how they feel about this. But I would genuinely like to understand the basis for this.


    The question of the correct flag to fly from a flag staff on an English church was raised in February 1907, when Sir A.Scott-Gatty, Garter King of Arms, wrote that, "churches should not fly the national flag. It should be the cross of St. George impaling the arms of the See (arms in the hoist and cross in the fly ?), but until the sovereign has spoken on this matter by a Royal Warrant, there is no flag that can be flown with propriety." [HO 45/10287/109071]

    Whilst the Union Flag has never been officially adopted by law as the national flag of the UK,

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