I was alerted to The Cartoon by this tweet from Bari Weiss, a Jewish op-ed columnist for the NYT, and someone I much admire. However, in this case I don’t agree with her.
How does a cartoon worthy of Der Stürmer get published in the paper of record? @BretStephensNYT explains how: https://t.co/9mpYjcBv9f
— Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) April 28, 2019
She’s referring to this cartoon, and to the op-ed by NYT columnist Bret Stephens below it. The political cartoon appeared in the print version of the NYT’s international edition, not in the U.S. edition or online.
Stephens has no doubt that the cartoon’s publication was ignorant, playing into the hands of anti-Semites:
Here was an image that, in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer. The Jew in the form of a dog. The small but wily Jew leading the dumb and trusting American. The hated Trump being Judaized with a skullcap. The nominal servant acting as the true master. The cartoon checked so many anti-Semitic boxes that the only thing missing was a dollar sign.
Wily? I don’t see that. Dumb and overly trusting of Israel? Well, that is Trump, isn’t it? Bibi, regardless of what you think of him, is certainly smarter and savvier than Trump. In fact, had the cartoon had depicted Kim Jong-un as a dachshund leading a blind trump waving a DPRK flag, nobody would have batted an eyelash. The point would have been similar.
The image also had an obvious political message: Namely, that in the current administration, the United States follows wherever Israel wants to go. This is false — consider Israel’s horrified reaction to Trump’s announcement last year that he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria — but it’s beside the point. There are legitimate ways to criticize Trump’s approach to Israel, in pictures as well as words. But there was nothing legitimate about this cartoon.
. . .The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t. The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism — and that, at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia.
Imagine, for instance, if the dog on a leash in the image hadn’t been the Israeli prime minister but instead a prominent woman such as Nancy Pelosi, a person of color such as John Lewis, or a Muslim such as Ilhan Omar. Would that have gone unnoticed by either the wire service that provides the Times with images or the editor who, even if he were working in haste, selected it?
The question answers itself. And it raises a follow-on: How have even the most blatant expressions of anti-Semitism become almost undetectable to editors who think it’s part of their job to stand up to bigotry?
The Times of Israel adds this:
The cartoon was drawn by António Moreira Antunes, 66, a well-known and sometimes controversial Portuguese political cartoonist for the Lisbon-based Expresso weekly who has published caricatures critical of Israel in the past.
. . . The cartoon, carried in the paper’s international edition, showed Netanyahu as a guide dog wearing a Star of David on his collar leading a blind US President Donald Trump seen wearing a skullcap.
“The anti-Semitic caricature published by the New York Times is shocking and reminiscent of Nazi propaganda during the Holocaust,” Erdan said. [Gilad Erdan is Public Security Minister and a member of the Likud]
But now there has been an explicit apology by the NYT:
An Editors' Note to appear in Monday’s international edition. pic.twitter.com/1rl2vXoTB3
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) April 27, 2019
My take? Although I’m often accused of being reflexively pro-Israel and too quick to call out anti-Semitism (I maintain, for instance, that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, and that the BDS movement is almost overtly anti-Semitic), I am not as quick as Weiss, Stephens and others to claim that this is a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon. In fact, when I first saw it—and I like to think I’m as sensitive as anyone to Der Stürmer-like tropes—I didn’t see it as anti-Semitic. I saw it as anti-Trump and anti-Netanyahu: the point was that Netanyahu, like a guide dog for the blind, was leading around a blind Trump, getting the President on board with all of Bibi’s policies. It seems in line with how many political cartoons are drawn.
Now there are aspects of the cartoon that could be seen as anti-Semitic if you squint hard, like the Star of David and Netanyahu’s big nose, as well as Trump’s yarmulke. But the Star of David could be taken to show that this was indeed Netanyahu, the nose may be simply part of the normal caricature of such cartoons (let’s face it: Bibi’s proboscis isn’t small), and the yarmulke represents Trump’s claimed unthinking support of Israel. In short, while I find the cartoon misguided and somewhat offensive, I don’t see it as explicitly anti-Semitic. Had I been an editor, I’m not sure I would have approved its publication. Yet now that it’s published, I can’t really join the offense brigade on this one.
That said, I do think that the New York Times has bent over backwards to criticize Israel and extol the Palestinians, and that this cartoon is part of the paper’s growing Wokeness and Authoritarian Leftism. Its long and tendentious article from last year dissecting the errant path of a bullet that killed a Palestinian medic seemed a gratuitous way to demonize Israel by implying it was deliberately killing civilians. In my view, the article didn’t show that, but its length and the amount of money spent on the research bespoke the paper’s animus against Israel. So if the cartoon shows anything, it’s the Times‘s (or rather, an overseas editor’s) annoying and kneejerk dislike of Israel, which goes along with the Time’s history of biased and laudatory articles on Palestine.
Offensive, yes, and certainly biased. But not anti-Semitic. Or so I think, and I already know that some people will disagree with me vehemently. But if an editor didn’t spot it as anti-Semitic, and I didn’t either, does that make me, a secular Jew, blind to one of the “most blatant expressions of anti-Semitism”?
For opinions opposed to mine, arguing that the cartoon was indeed blatantly anti-Semitic, see The Jerusalem Post, CAMERA, the Spectator, and Elder of Ziyon, which claims that the dog is a dachshund because it has been used as a symbol of Germany.
As always, you’re invited to give your opinion below, whether or not you agree with me.