Washington Post removes cartoon because it was offensive—to Hamas

November 10, 2023 • 12:08 pm

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.

Editor’s note: As editor of the opinion section, I am responsible for what appears in its pages and on its screens. The section depends on my judgment. A cartoon we published by Michael Ramirez on the war in Gaza, a cartoon whose publication I approved, was seen by many readers as racist. This was not my intent. I saw the drawing as a caricature of a specific individual, the Hamas spokesperson who celebrated the attacks on unarmed civilians in Israel. [JAC: it was!]

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 ShipleyOpinion 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?

25 thoughts on “Washington Post removes cartoon because it was offensive—to Hamas

  1. I did enjoy the complaint this cartoon was offensive because it portrays ‘women in derogatory stereotypical roles’, because it is the Islamists themselves who ( mostly ) coerce women to cover almost all of their bodies in black clothing, and to not encourage women to work outside the home. Mutatis mutandis, doesn’t mostly the same apply to Ultra-Orthodox Jewish women?

    BTW Thomas Friedman’s column yesterday in the NYT ‘I have never been to this Israel before’ was an excellent read for me.

    1. As far as I know, there is no prohibition on orthodox Jewish women working outside the home. Many ultra orthodox women have husbands who do no paid work but spend their time in study and prayer. Supporting such men is common among orthodox women. Ramesh asks whether women working outside the home is discouraged among the ultra orthodox, suggesting a similarity with the portrayal of women in Islam. While Ramesh is simply asking, i think the underlying point is that problems in the treatment of women emerge differently in Islam and in Orthodox Judaism.

      1. And from a purely selfish point of view, I don’t worry about what would happen to the women of my society were a Jewish theocracy to take over. I do very much worry about what would happen to them if a Muslim theocracy took over. But maybe the women themselves don’t worry too much, going on the cricket sounds we have heard from organized feminism. So maybe it doesn’t matter to them.

        1. I do worry. But people who worry and speak up are called names and that’s all. During the migration crisis of 2015, progressive commenters here were up in arms against me because I wanted the tide of supposed refugees stopped. They accused me of lying when I wrote that these were overwhelmingly military-age men, most of them not even from Syria. My country was on one of the migration routes, and this information had been reported by our border guards. A little later, Western mainstream media reluctantly admitted the same. Nobody ever apologized to me, of course. I am glad that I don’t see those commenters anymore.

    1. It is Ahmed Yassin, the deceased founder and spiritual leader of Hamas. He did indeed bear more than a passing resemblance to Saruman, as played by Christopher Lee.

  2. Wapo also seems to have quietly morphed its references to the Israel-Hamas war into an Israel-Gaza war. Individual writers or Wapo style guidelines?

    1. I’ve seen this transition in WaPo and in other news outlets, including PBS NewsHour and Amanpour & Co. (also via PBS), as well as on local news channels in the San Francisco Bay Area. Also, since Hamas started the hot war, it seems that it should really be referenced as the Hamas-Israeli war…

  3. If people didn’t need to be challenged and offended sometimes there would probably be little need of an editorial section of the paper. Gratuitous offense should be filtered out but potentially offensive content that makes a valid point is the reason the editorial section exists. Pulling it to appease the offended only feeds their sense of weakness. A publication that can’t handle offending people might better stick to bedtime stories for toddlers.

    1. At what point did left-of-center institutions lose their philosophical liberalism? There is nothing encouraging coming from them, and that’s not even touching upon how they’re cozying up to supernaturalism and anti-scientific thinking.

  4. It’s quite clear that Hamas is not to be ridiculed or even questioned in the WP. There have been entire articles in the that rag on this conflict that never once refer to “Hamas”, but have no problem identifying Israel as a belligerent.

    If you only read the WP, then Israel is a bully and warmonger that is grossly overreacting to the actions of a few rogue Palestinian freedom fighters.

    It really is bizarre, and I wonder what is going on there.

    1. “It really is bizarre, and I wonder what is going on there.”

      I’ll take a stab at it. Sometime in the last decade, newsrooms and traditionally left-of-center organizations shed any liberal clothing for postmodernist thinking. In doing so, they because these emotionally reactive grotesque cliques. They have attacked science and mathematics as “social constructs” and “fictional,” advocacy of free speech as “intellectually dark,” and impute racial issues to situations where none exist (this being a replay of the “colonialism” trope that was played out over the past couple decades in Europe).

    1. FWIW (redux), i live in Virginia adjacent to DC and the Post has a pretty good metro section that covers Virginia news and politics. And on some days, their Style section has some interesting arts. I dropped my nyt subscription years ago and went to wapo; i would drop wapo if it weren’t for the Virginia statewide news and politics coverage. The national news front section really stinks; it’s a helluva a note that I subscribe to a so-called national paper of record simply for the local news.

  5. I believe our host is one hundred percent correct in his assessment of the fear that muslims might go after the WAPO. No anti Islam comment or criticism is allowed, full stop! This violent misogynistic religion has special clearance as do its adherents.
    Its time we stopped this.
    In the case of Obama, does anyone still take any notice of what he says?

    1. Finally! Someone who talks sense. The liberal betrayal when it comes to Islam is really upsetting to me. Time to speak up!

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