The supposedly anti-Semitic New York Times cartoon

April 29, 2019 • 9:00 am

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.

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.

Stephens continues:

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:

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.

h/t: Malgorzata

“Peanuts” and theology

August 10, 2018 • 12:30 pm

I used to assidulously read “Peanuts” cartoons when I was a kid, but the religion in them—and apparently there was quite a bit—went over my head. Atlantic has an 2016 article called “The Spirituality of Snoopy,” which recounts how often the artist Charles Schulz used religious themes in his strips.

“Many familiar with the Peanuts strip don’t think of Charles Schulz as a Christian pioneer,” said Stephen Lind, the author of A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz. “But he was a leader in American media when it comes to both the strength and frequency of religious references.”

More than 560 of Schulz’s nearly 17,800 Peanuts newspaper strips contain a religious, spiritual, or theological reference. To put this into perspective, Schulz only produced 61 strips featuring the famous scene where Lucy pulls the football away from Charlie Brown as he tries to kick it. Particularly later in his career, the religious references came so frequently that pastors and religious publications regularly requested permission to reprint Peanuts strips, which Schulz almost always granted.

Although Schulz was a Christian and often preached and quoted Gospel—sometimes indirectly—he became less religious as he aged:

Later in his life, Schulz’s began to refer to himself as a “secular humanist,” as his theology became less traditional. This did not mean he was no longer a Christian, but rather that he now believed other faiths might also provide legitimate paths to God. He was also less certain about other Christian doctrines, such as the existence of a literal heaven.

The more Schulz wrestled with faith, the more he led his readers to do the same. In a 1985 strip, Sally asked Charlie Brown, “When we die, will we go to Heaven?” Charlie responded, “I like to think so.” This mixture of hope and skepticism reflects Schulz’s own evolving faith, which came to assume an increasingly central role in his work. When you map religious references in Peanuts over time, the trend line shoots up and to the right.

At any rate, here are two of Schulz’s more thoughtful cartoons about theology, with the first reflecting his doubt about the claims of a given faith:

I don’t have the dates of these, but this one sounds a bit sarcastic:

Anti-Semitic cartoons start appearing in Turkey

May 22, 2018 • 8:30 am

As I’ve mentioned here repeatedly, anti-Semitic cartoons are a staple of the media, both state and private, in the Middle East, and especially Palestine, although Israel does not purvey such hatred in its media. This disparity is, of course, ignored by the Control-Left, who will excuse the Palestinians anything, including homophobia, misogyny, and anti-Semitism, because they’re perceived as people of color. But if these cartoons appeared in the Western press, they’d be universally decried and vilified. Such is the hypocrisy of much of the Left.

And sadly, the cartoons, often displaying Jewish stereotypes that would befit the Nazi’s Der Stürmer, are now spreading to the once-secular land of Turkey, turning, under Erdogan, into an Islamic state.

MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute), whose work is scrupulous, has presented a selection of cartoons from a Turkish newspaper. Thankfully, the paper isn’t the nation’s most popular, but I predict this stuff will spread. Their explanation:

İbrahim Özdabak is a Turkish cartoonist whose personal website includes cartoons dating back to 2005 covering many subjects relevant to Turkish society and politics. Many of his cartoons have antisemitic themes, depicting Jews as blood-soaked butchers, vultures circling over Palestinian land, and vampires drinking Palestinian blood. These cartoons present the same images of Jews as those circulated in the antisemitic tabloid Der Stürmer and other Nazi-era publications. His cartoons are printed in the Turkish daily newspaper Yeni Asya (“New Asia”), which sold 11,245 copies during the week of April 9, 2018, making it the 29th most popular print newspaper in Turkey.

Here are a few of those cartoons’s with MEMRI’s explanations. Note the big-nosed depiction of the Jew that’s always used by anti-Semites. If you think that these cartoons are only anti-Israel rather than also being anti-Jewish (they are of course deeply intertwined), you’re just wrong.

A Jewish Nero plays the harp while the “Islamic world” burns. (, August 1, 2016.)

The Jew plotting to take over the entire region “east of the Nile” and “west of the Euphrates” (, June 26, 2016.)

A Jewish man praying at the Western Wall laughs at the message on his phone, which reads: “Turkey and Israel have come to an agreement.” (, June 28, 2016.)

My emphasis in the explanation below. This cartoon is particularly invidious:

The cartoon below was a response to an open letter published April 22, 2018 in the French-language Le Parisien newspaper proposing that “the verses of the Quran calling for murder and punishment of Jews, Christians, and nonbelievers be struck to obsolescence by religious authorities,” so that “no believer can refer to a sacred text to commit a crime. The letter drew harsh criticism from French Muslims, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded harshly to it in a speech on May 8, saying: “In France, some group came out and published a communique calling for the removal of certain verses from the Quran. Even though it is very clear that the people who said this do not know anything about the Quran, I wonder, in their lives, have they ever read their own books, [such as] the Bible? Or have they ever read the Torah? Or have they ever read the Book of Psalms? If they had read it, they would probably also want the Bible to be banned… When we warn the Western countries about anti-Muslim sentiment, anti-Turkish sentiment, xenophobia, and racism, we get a bad reputation. Oh West, know that while you attack our holy book, we are not going to attack your sanctities, but we are going to take you down.”

Solving the puzzle of the Büyük Ortadoğu Projesi (“Greater Middle East Project”) reveals the Star of David. (, July 20, 2017.)

“Here there is a bit of Palestinian land left!” (, November 18, 2016.)

You have to be insane if you think that Jews control the United Nations, but of course the stereotype is that they control everything.

(, April 28, 2018.)

This one’s pretty nasty, too:

“Gaza Chambers.” This cartoon plays on the similarity in Turkish between the words “gas” and “Gaza.” (, date unknown.)

h/t: Malgorzata

A New Yorker evolution-cartoon contest

April 23, 2018 • 3:15 pm

In a recent post on The New Yorker, several readers beefed that they no longer like the cartoons. Well, I still like most of them, and always read the cartoon contest on the magazine’s last page, where an artist submits a cartoon drawing without a caption; readers submit their own caption, and the editors pick three of the best. The next week the winning caption is announced.

Reader Mark sent this one, but I don’t know if it’s new. He says the last caption is the best. Judge for yourself—and invent your own caption if you wish, though it’s too late to enter the competition.

When evolution goes wrong. . .

July 30, 2017 • 2:30 pm

Here’s a cartoon sent by reader Thomas; it’s from “Wrong Hands“, drawn by John Atkinson:

I don’t mind the birds evolving from dinosaurs, or the evolutionary stasis of the platypus (if indeed there was any stasis, for the earliest monotremes, which did exist about 110 million years ago, looked nothing like a platypus). But oy, those Crocs!

Calvin and Hobbes and Cultural Studies

May 28, 2017 • 8:30 am

There’s been lots of pushback against Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay’s “conceptual penis” paper hoax, in which they submitted a meaningless (but ideologically correct) paper to the journal Cogent Social Sciences, where it was published. The main defenses are that the journal was a “pay to publish” open-access journal, and that one hoax by itself doesn’t prove that the entire fields of cultural and gender studies are afflicted with creeping obscurantism. Well, every journal I’ve ever published in has charged me (“page charges”, they’re called), and the second criticism is true, but there are plenty of other reasons to decry the way cultural studies have gone in universities (see here for a defense; others are on the way). A few people, whom I won’t name, have been driven into unhinged rage at the hoax, emailing and tweeting at Peter (and me!) repeatedly.

I won’t speak of this further now, but let an old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon stand for what many think:

h/t: Barry