Both the New York Post (in an editorial-board opinion piece) and the Free Press‘s Nellie Bowles, in her TGIF column this week, report that this political cartoon appeared in the Washington Post, but then was taken down by the editor. It was drawn by Pulitzer-Prize winner Michael Ramirez:
Of course it satirizes Hamas’s tactic of using human shields, thus upping the number of civilian deaths among their civilian countrymen—something that Hamas, for some strange reason, doesn’t seem to mind at all. Nellie has the best take on it:
Deep apologies to Hamas: The Washington Post is very sorry for running a cartoon that is very, very bad. It made light of Hamas’s legitimate wartime tactic of hiding military operations under Gaza’s schools and hospitals. A Post editor took it down and offered an abject apology for implying there is anything wrong with that: “I had missed something profound, and divisive, and I regret that.” Those Palestinian children (sorry, martyrs) love knowing that Hamas is firing rockets from the schoolhouse, and it’s racist to imply otherwise. The Post included letters from readers calling the cartoon “deeply malicious” and “enabl[ing] genocide.” We preserve it here only in solidarity with The Washington Post’s in-house Hamas advocates.
Here’s the apology from David Shipley, the Post’s editorial-page editor, followed by a number of outraged letters from readers that I haven’t reproduced (go to the first link), but whose publication under Shipley’s apology apparently serves to justify his cowardly decision.
However, the reaction to the image convinced me that I had missed something profound, and divisive, and I regret that. Our section is aimed at finding commonalities, understanding the bonds that hold us together, even in the darkest times.
Since when is an editorial page a place for kumbaya and reconciliation? Look at that last sentence again. Does it match your idea of what an editorial section is about? Shipey goes on, unbelievably asserting that he will CONTINUE to publish views and perspectives that “challenge readers.” Well, this one surely challenged some readers, so why was it deep-sixed? If an editorial cartoon—or an editorial itself—doesn’t anger some, it hasn’t done its job.
In this spirit, we have taken down the drawing. We are also publishing a selection of responses to the caricature. And we will continue to make the section home to a range of views and perspectives, including ones that challenge readers. This is the spirit of opinion journalism, to move imperfectly toward a constructive exchange of ideas at all possible speed, listening and learning along the way. —David Shipley, Opinion Editor
Now you might say that it’s “racist” because it exaggerates the noses of Palestinians, the way the Nazis exaggerated the noses of Jews in their antisemitic literature, but that’s not what most people objected to, although one reader said this:
The caricatures employ racial stereotypes that were offensive and disturbing. Depicting Arabs with exaggerated features and portraying women in derogatory, stereotypical roles perpetuates racism and gender bias, which is wholly unacceptable.
The fact is, though, that Nazi propaganda is not the same as exaggerating features in individual editorial cartoons, a tactic that has been used for ages. Just google any public figure along with “cartoon”, and you’ll see. (Boss Tweed, trying to escape prison, was in fact recognized in Europe from the exaggerated editorial cartoons of Thomas Nast.)
What really riled up most people in the letters seemed to be that the cartoon appears to excuse or neglect Israeli “war crimes”, even though Hamas is a regular practitioner of war crimes, beginning with terrorist attacks on civilians, continuing through firing rockets at civilians (this is still happening), and then the butchery of October 7 followed by the continual practice of using human shields and building headquarters in or under schools or hospitals. That’s what this cartoon is trying to say.
Apparently you cannot criticize Hamas unless you criticize Israel equally—or more so. Such a view implies that you can’t even draw a political cartoon, which always criticizes one side more than another. As the increasingly anodyne Barack Obama said the other day (also quoted by Nellie):
“If you want to solve the problem, then you have to take in the whole truth. And you then have to admit nobody’s hands are clean, that all of us are complicit to some degree.”
What Obama fails to recognize is that some hands are cleaner than others, and if I’m assessing whose hands are cleaner, it’s Israel’s by far. (Just compare the adherence of both sides to wartime morality.)
The cartoon makes a point, and it should not have been taken down. Of course it’s divisive: the whole war is divisive! But defending Israel and going after Hamas is not something a good progressive Leftist does these days, and thus the cartoon had to go. Shame on the Washington Post! (Editorial cartoons, by the way, don’t have to always go along with the paper’s own political slant. Like editorials themselves, they should inspire thought and discussion, and this cartoon surely did.)
Finally, it has not escaped my notice that perhaps there’s a wee bit of fear in the Post‘s decision, fear that irate and violent Muslims might go after the paper or the artist. Remember Charlie Hebdo and the Jyllands-Posten cartoons?