In Which Publication and Which Year Was This Cartoon Printed?

Why, in 2006, as the editorial cartoon in the alt-weekly Sacramento News & Review. I should note that Si Frumkin, who alerted me to this, reports that the News & Review responded to a complaint with this:

We have received your letter to the SN&R; thank you for your input. As a result of the outpouring of Emails that have come to us related to the Kloss cartoon of August 3rd, we'll be running a special full page of letters on the topic in our issue of 8/17/06, as well as an editorial statement about the decision to publish the cartoon.
Should be interesting to see what that editorial statement says.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Sacramento News & Review Cartoon:
  2. In Which Publication and Which Year Was This Cartoon Printed?
Isn't it interesting how the splotches on the wall almost completely reverse the first impression of the cartoon? Nice trick.

OK, before the flaming starts, let me explain. First look at the cartoon and ignore the blotches. This suggests that Uncle Sam is a fool who is locked up and held captive by Israel. But now add in the blotches. They suggest that he's being abused by critics.

So what does it really mean?
8.12.2006 4:52pm
It doesn't seem to actually "reverse" the meaning. Rather, it is suggesting that because the U.S. is a captive, it is subject to attack, whether that means abused by critics or targeted by terrorists. It might be interpreted as sympathetic to the U.S., i.e. this country is blameless because it is involuntarily held captive. But it is that the portrayed as a captive, that makes it offensive.
Secondly, where do you get that the Jewish star means "Israel" as opposed to Jews? The cartoonist wrote "Master Lock" but could not be troubled to label the star "Israel" to avoid confusion? And what is supposed to be the significance, if any, of the "Master Lock" label? Locked by the Master? It doesn't matter. It looks like a David Duke ZOG cartoon to me.
If the Jewish community were to react to this as some Muslims did to cartoons that offended them, the cartoonist would now be in hiding and an around-the-clock guard would be on the newspaper's offices.
As it is, I will await the "explanations" of this facially antisemitic cartoon. I can see none now. But yours does nothing to explain the cartoon as inocuous.
8.12.2006 5:42pm
Tareeq (www):
It means the editor at the Sacramento News &Review who ran this publicity stunt is an ass.

Even accounting for the blotches (rotten tomatoes?)there isn't a more charitable meaning that can be ascribed to this cartoon than that which you first suggested. In either case, it says that the United States is captive to Israel, with the implication that American policy is captive to some Jewish lobby, along with their supposed dupes in the Christian right.

Taint cool.
8.12.2006 5:46pm
I don't see anything wrong with the cartoon if you see the Star of David as representing Israel, as opposed to "the Jews". In that context it seems acceptable criticism along the lines of Blair being called Bush's poodle, or John Howard as "America's Deputy Sheriff". The troubling aspect of the cartoon is the lock at the bottom, giving the connotation that America is locked in against its will in its partnership with Israel. That does seem to go over the line suggesting that a Jewish cabal is running America's foreign policy. I don't think many people would disagree with the premise that US foreign policy places a great deal of value on Israel's well being, and those policies do hurt our interests in some parts of the world. Many people were making a similar argument at the outset of WWII that standing with Britain against Germany was irrationaly putting cultural and historical ties above our real interests.
8.12.2006 5:54pm
Stash, you write, But it is that the portrayed as a captive, that makes it offensive. I see nothing offensive in it; but then, I saw nothing offensive in the Danish cartoons, either. Political cartoons are expected to be caricatures. Would you object to the statement, "US policy is influenced in Israel's favor by Jewish Americans"? That statement is true; this is a caricature of that concept.

Next you write, where do you get that the Jewish star means "Israel" as opposed to Jews?

Perhaps it's because the Star of David appears on the flag of Israel.

Yes, the explicit reference to "Master Lock" is certainly odd; it's unnecessary to the meaning of the cartoon (unless the cartoon is deliberately cryptic).

I don't see anything antisemitic in this cartoon. Remember, opposing the policies of the State of Israel does not constitute antisemitism.
8.12.2006 5:59pm
Tareeq (www):
So it's the lock that pushes this satire over the line.

"There such a fine line between clever and, and stupid."

-- David St. Hubbins
8.12.2006 6:00pm
TO (mail):
I'm not sure what I think of it, and--like Prof. Volokh--I'm curious to hear the newspaper's reaction.

Even so, as Stash hinted, it gives me some amount of comfort to know that Jews across the world won't react by taking to the streets and blowing things up, and that the cartoonist isn't in hiding and fearful for his life.
8.12.2006 6:04pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
It looks like a David Duke ZOG cartoon to me.

Me too.

I don't see anything wrong with the cartoon if you see the Star of David as representing Israel, as opposed to "the Jews".

While this distinction is possible in the intellectual abstract, in reality the distinction between "Israel" and "the Jews" is not one that is drawn very easily. Furthermore, the cartoon clearly uses the Star of David, which is a universal symbol of Judaism the religion and the people, not only of Israel. Had the cartoonist wanted his message to be clear that it was directed only against Israel, he could have gone about doing it by using another symbol. Whoever drew this may be young, but they were not born yesterday, and they know that use of the Star of David would be interpreted by many, if not most, as a symbol of "the Jews" and not of Israel.
8.12.2006 6:18pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Even so, as Stash hinted, it gives me some amount of comfort to know that Jews across the world won't react by taking to the streets and blowing things up, and that the cartoonist isn't in hiding and fearful for his life.

As a Jew and an American, I find that offensive. The norm is that you do not go after people physically for drawing a cartoon. Americans and Jews should not be measured against how terrorist sympathizers react to cartoons that they find offensive. Rather, we should be measured against our own societal norms. Another example of this lowering the baseline for our own expectations and societal norms is the right wing's constant harping over the fact that Bush is not Stalin --- yeah, no sh#t, but that's not who we measure our leaders against. The fact that terrorists behead us without providing us due process is besides the point as to whether we want to give our leaders the power to round up US citizens and lock them in a naval brig without a right to seek court intervention (which is precisely what Bush is doing). We do not compare ourselves to the terrorists; we compare ourselves to ourselves and our own constitutional tradition.
8.12.2006 6:24pm
AppSocRes (mail):
The only things missing here are the gloating figures of the stereotyped Jew, international banker, Bolshevik, and perhaps Mason. By the way I am not a Jew. (I was raised and think of myself as an Irish-American Catholic.) Nor am I a knee-jerk supporter of Israel. (I remember the attack on the USS Liberty and hope all US citizens who spy against the US for Israel or any other country rot in prison till they die.) However, the anti-Semitism lurking within this cartoon should be beyond question except perhaps to those who are themselves subtly tainted with the disease.
8.12.2006 6:27pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
In regard to my above comment re low-expectation-having right wingers, I would refer you to Chris Rock's routine quoted below. Bush and his followers remind me of those whom Mr. Rock is attackign.

They'll brag about stuff a normal man just does. They'll say something like, 'Yeah, well, I take care of my kids.' You're supposed to, you dumb motherf***er. 'I ain't never been to jail.' Whaddya want? A cookie? You're not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherf***er

Taking comfort in the fact that Jews are not going to riot over that cartoon is insulting to Jews, as we have never given you any reason for people to have such low expectations of us.
8.12.2006 6:29pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Remember, opposing the policies of the State of Israel
does not constitute antisemitism.

Yes. But that statement has absoluely nothing to do with the whether the above cartoon is anti-semitic, which it appears to clearly be, by buying into the centuries-old blood libel that Jews are not loyal to the nation state in which they live and are in fact controlling the state through their special subversive means (by controlling the banks, controlling the media, controlling foreign policy establishment etc.).
8.12.2006 6:36pm
Greedy Clerk, you raise a good point. Given the ugly history of anti-semitism, it is prudent to avoid any imagery that smacks of past crimes. Still, it is undeniable that American Jews constitute a political special interest that, like every other special interest, pressures the government towards its preferred policies. I don't think for a minute that this constitutes disloyalty, but like any special interest, it works against the interests of other members of society. Thus, American Jews are no different from American potato farmers -- they want to make sure that the government expends resources in a manner that is not necessarily in the interests of others. Thus, there is a grain of truth in the cartoon. I agree, however, that this grain of truth could easily be lost in the other associations that people might bring to the viewing.

Somebody suggests that it is the use of the Star of David that targets Jews as people. Well, perhaps so, but it's also a perfect symbol for the State of Israel, given that they put it on their flag.

If I were to draw such a cartoon, I certainly wouldn't use a Star of David alone. I would somehow try to communicate the notion of entanglement rather than entrapment, and I'd visually denote the Israeli connection with either an Israeli flag or an Israeli warplane with the Star of David on its tail, or a caricature of Ohmert -- but who recognizes him? It's common to use distinctive hats and clothing to represent nationalities: the Frenchman is shown in a beret, the Englishman in a bowler, the American in a cowboy hat, the Mexican in a sombrero. Perhaps such could be done here.
8.12.2006 6:50pm
JosephSlater (mail):
The cartoon is offensive, but I did get a kick out of Tareeq's "This is Spinal Tap" reference.
8.12.2006 6:54pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Why is it going to take them so long to compose an explanation of their reasons for publishing the item? Don't they already know them?
8.12.2006 7:07pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
I can't tell what it means, beyond that the cartoonist is an idiot.

Throw in a black man just to get another symbol in there.

It still doesn't mean anything.

Perhaps he can restate the cartoon.
8.12.2006 7:09pm
Why is it going to take them so long to compose an explanation of their reasons for publishing the item? Don't they already know them?

They publish only every other week. They probably have their explanation already, but haven't gone to the printers yet.
8.12.2006 7:11pm
Michael Benson (mail) (www):

Thus, American Jews are no different from American potato farmers -- they want to make sure that the government expends resources in a manner that is not necessarily in the interests of others.

I find this statement to be incorrect.

American potato farmers presumably share a pretty easy to define common interest. They purchase similar things to grow their crops, and sell them in similar markets. Like any industry they have a certain common economic interest, that one can see a reason for them to combine in support of.

What particular interest, beyond a concern with anti-semetism, do all Jews share? Are you supposing that all Jews supports Israel? Do all Jews work in similar jobs, and have similar economic interests? What is it about being Jewish that gives Jews a common interest in the same way a potato farmer does? The notion that there is a "Jewish interest" is immediately disturbing to me.
8.12.2006 7:54pm
anna (mail):

Similar accusations are made all the time about interests groups be they gun owners or environmentalists.

Israel has powerful interest groups.

In my opininion it was not to our advantage to risk destruction of the Cedar revolution, increase the power of Hezbullah and have the IDF shown to be incompetent. This and the resentment is going to increase our problems.

We are supposed to support this because Israel was getting hit by rockets, but the rockets started after the bombing and Hezbullah offered to stop the rockets if Israel confined itself to attacks on Hezbullah troops. And Israel didn't eliminate many rockets.

So yes we were lead to support an ineffectual, counterproductive action because of our tendency to support all Israel does. And we will pay.
8.12.2006 7:57pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Michael Benson -- your sentiments I agree with one-hundred percent. I would note that today right-wingers are the ones who are brandishing about the stereotype that Jews should have one common interest and are fools for not following it. I note the blog Powerline, a favorite of certain posters here (er, Jim Lindgren &David Bernstein), which in response to the fact that a broad majority of Jews in Connecticut were supporting Ned Lamont chastised those Jews for not voting with "their interests" and for a fellow Jew, as if all Jews must support other Jews and as if all Jews must blindly support, a la Lieberman, the continued American presence in Iraq because Saddam hated Jews and Israel (the irony of course is that this is exactly like the current Iraqi government that PowerLine, et al. support).
8.12.2006 8:22pm
frankcross (mail):
Eugene Volokh on the more offensive examples of the Muhammad cartoons

Yet these sorts of overgeneralizations and rhetorical excesses aimed at historical or religious figures as symbols for a movement are an inevitable part of free debate about ideas. This is especially so for cartoons, slogans, and jokes, which because of their conciseness will almost always oversimplify. It is also so because many of these images are necessarily ambiguous. I do not, for instance, understand the Mohammed with the bomb in his turban as accusing Islam generally; it seems to me to be a condemnation of one particular aspect of Islam — militant Islam that often centers on murderous violence against those it sees as its enemies. Again, as an editor I would probably have avoided items with this sort of ambiguity; but it is perfectly understandable that other editors would have a different view. To the extent there is a transgression of editorial judgment or good manners here, it is a relatively minor one.
8.12.2006 8:45pm
Michael Benson (mail) (www):
Frankcross, that's an interesting point. It would be interesting to see someone who believes the Muhammad cartoons to have not been in very bad taste, and who believes this cartoon to be objectionable explain what they think the distinction is. Volokh hasn't yet said he condemns this cartoon, though the tone of his writing would make me suspect he does. And he doesn't quite agree with the editorial decision regarding the Muhammad cartoons.

My own take would be that both represent lapses in editorial judgment. While I support the freedom of editors to make such lapses as they see fit; I disagree with their decision to print it.
8.12.2006 8:57pm
Michael, you ask What particular interest, beyond a concern with anti-semetism, do all Jews share?

Your question assumes that all Jews must participate in a pressure group in order for it to function. This is not true. Yes, there are many Jewish people who are opposed to Israel's current policies; indeed, I suspect that a greater percentage of American Jews oppose current Israeli policy than Israeli Jews. However, the issue I was addressing was the *existence* of a special interest group advancing the interests of the state of Israel, and I think we can all agree that such a political force exists.
8.12.2006 9:05pm
Human, not just Jewish, rights (mail):
Brilliant and insightful comic. God bless people who focus on communicating the whole story, and not just Zionist propaganda.
8.12.2006 9:38pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Let's look at what this cartoon really represents: the utter cravenness of the press. If Kloss thought the Jewish Defense League were going to kill him, he would never have never dared drawn it. Ditto for the publisher who would have found it highly insulting to the Jews and refused to publish it.

BTW to me the master lock represents the claim that Jews think of themselves as a "master race."
8.12.2006 9:40pm
Human, not just Jewish, rights (mail):
Also, great post by Frank Cross. I hope he's not labeled an anti-Semite for pointing these things out.
8.12.2006 9:45pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
First, the title of Eugene's post is obviously meant to convery that this cartoon looks just like Nazi-era German cartoons.

Also, the Star of David is made out of wood, which I suppose can be interpreted as a stockade, but is also reminiscent of a crucifix. Either way, I don't associate a wooden Star of David in any way with Israel. The cartoon's particular offensiveness may well come from ignorance rather than malice, but if the cartoonist didn't know better than to play around with images reminiscent of Nazi images, and that could be interpreted as suggesting "the Jews" crucifying Uncle Sam on a Star of David, the editors should have.
8.12.2006 10:07pm
It shouldn't be held against a editorial cartoonist that Israel chose the Star of David as its national symbol and put it on its flag. If they hadn't it would be a lot easier when the Star of David is depicted in a negative light to view it as an offensive expression of anti-semitism. But Isreal did put the six pointed star on its flag, and to be fair I have to try to interprate the cartoon in that context to see if I think it is reasonable. In this case I think it does go over the line, because of the lock which depicts the Uncle Sam in stocks, involuntarily in that prediciment. If the cartoonist had depicted Uncle Sam as in a dunking booth, in an uncomfortlbe and possibly humiliating situation voluntarily whether or not the Star of David was used in the symbology, then I would have to conclude the cartoon is making a defensible point.
8.12.2006 10:26pm
frankcross (mail):
I have no reason to think that EV's take on this differs from that on the Mohammad cartoons. I'd say I personally find both a greater transgression of editorial judgment. I suppose itt's good for both sides, though, to see their ox gored.
8.12.2006 10:37pm
goldsmith (mail):
The editors of this unimportant rag knew exactly what they were doing when they published this cartoon, and knew exactly how it would be read. Bernstein is right, the crucifiction inference is not an accident and is one of the things that makes this so offensive. But, like Madonna and countless art students the world over, they understood that toying with sacred meaning and offensive symbols is a certain way to attract far more attention than things like Madonna in 2006 or student art exhibitions or the Sacramento News &Review deserve on their own merit.

It's also possible to read the Star of David in this context as a pillory, which would explain the "splotches" as things thrown at Uncle Sam as he's ridiculed. But the meaning of this would be unclear. It could suggest that poor, unwitting Uncle Sam, the aged white patriarch, is being tortured by the instrument of those wily Jews. But in this instance why should we want the approbation of a jeering, missile flinging mob? Taking the example of the crucified Christ, shouldn't we understand that the taunts of the crowd stem from their ignorance and darkness, and that we must suffer the pain of following the righteous path of supporting Israel? But then why the lock? Is it to suggest that if we weren't held against our will that we would turn tail and run away from our "captors" and the jeering crowd (as so many on the left and far right counsel us to do)? The thin metaphorical membrane of this editorial cartoon is already stretched past its breaking point, so I'll stop. I will note that editorial cartoons are NOT supposed to be ambiguous (which accounts for everything having labels); I take the careful labelling of the lock in this cartoon and the lack of "Israel" labels on the Star as evidence that the cartoonist and the editorial board of this publication knew exactly what they were suggesting and are taking advantage of the purposeful ambiguity to give themselves a way out after they've received the desired publicity.
8.12.2006 10:39pm
Average Joe (mail):
David, thanks for explaining the title of the post, which had not made sense to me because I had make the connection with Nazi-era German cartoons. More specifically, I remember having seen many similar cartoons in "alternative"/left-wing publications from the late 1980's onward, so I immediately thought the the cartoon was published in just such a venue (which it was). From my experience (which admittedly may not be the same as that of other VC readers), I naturally associate this sort of political cartoon with the left-wing alternative press.
8.12.2006 10:43pm
Kazinski gets at the point I was going to make. The clear implication is that the US is forced to support Israel, as opposed to freely aiding a kindred ally.
8.12.2006 10:45pm
Speaking the Obvious:
GC: "Taking comfort in the fact that Jews are not going to riot over that cartoon is insulting to Jews, as we have never given you any reason for people to have such low expectations of us."

Save for the little matter of bombing all those civilians, or attempting to justify it. (Not ALL Jews, of course...I'm sure GC wouldn't want to suggest we're a monolithic interest group...)
8.12.2006 10:58pm
Alan Gura:
The cartoon is obviously anti-semitic. People who cannot see that are, at best, hopelessly naive.

Would a cartoon using a crescent in an offensive manner be suggestive of nothing more than disagreement with the policies of the Turkish government?

There are many, many cartoons that criticize Israel, use a Star of David in doing so, yet are not anti-semitic. It's not so hard to add two horizontal stripes and thus make clear that the objection is to Israel, or to place the star on something that is, within context, clearly identifiable with the Israeli government or some instrumentality of it.

There are several differences between this and the Mohammed cartoons:

Most of the Mohammed cartoons could not be said to be inherently anti-Islam, unless one either accepts that the act of doing something forbidden by Islam (depicting the prophet) is inherently anti-Islamic, or believes the cartoons sought to denigrate all Muslims as opposed to some subset of Muslims.

It is possible to reject the first ground outright (which could otherwise turn a bacon cheeseburger into an act of hate), and otherwise believe that the cartoons were aimed at only a subset of Islam, one which invokes the religion in the name of the specific activities being criticized.

There is no analog in this cartoon to the Mohammed blasphemy charge. That leaves the second issue, the substance of what is being depicted. Are there any Jews involved in crucifiction? Do "Jews" control the U.S.? If you believe that, then you are an anti-semite.

However, if you believe that some people invoke Islam to blow things up, you are merely watching the news. Whether, in that context, you view the Mohammed cartoon as applying to all or to some Muslims, that is subjective and open to debate. Many people did not view these cartoons as offensive because they saw them as limited to criticism of fundamentalists, not as applicable to all Moslems.

At the very least, the debate about the cartoons as a criticism of Islam concerned what the cartoons may have suggested about the Islamic religion, or some branches of it. They did, after all, focus on a prophet of the faith, its religious founder, and inherently, the question of what he taught. This cartoon is aimed not at any aspect of the Jewish faith, but Jews as an ethnicity, as a people. That it draws upon well-established historical anti-semitic themes confirms it in case there is any doubt.

The Mohammed with a bomb in the turbin, for example, would have been more obviously offensive if we did not know it was supposed to be a depiction of Mohammed, but rather a generic Arab person. Making it about a generic "Arab" would have been racist. Making it about a specific individual, even if that individual is Mohammed, limits the application of the cartoon.

In any event, it appears the main beef with the cartoons was the fact that they depicted the prophet, which Islam considers blasphemous without the need to show him doing anything.

And that, after all, was the original point of the cartoons. They were designed to test the limits of free expression against religious disapproval. Whether that was done in good taste or whether it should even have been done is an interesting debate.

The anti-semitic cartoon, on the other hand, does not appear to obviously violate any well-known or particularly stringent tenet specific to the Jewish faith. Judaism condemns hatred and stupidity, but so do most religions. I doubt many Jews would object to it on religious grounds. The revulsion is much more basic than that.
8.12.2006 11:22pm
Originalist Texan (mail):
My immediate gut reaction to this cartoon was that it was depicting the US chained by the Zionist conspiracy. I suspect my reaction was not unusual.

I compare this to sensationalist newspaper headlines - but at least sensationalist headlines have a newspaper story (that most people don't read) to explain it.

The cartoon is either:
1. Meant to generate controversy, thus generating more sales and/or ad revenue; or
2. The cartoonist really believes the Zionist conspiracy theories and is expressing them through his/her work.

Both explanations are morally reprehensible.
8.12.2006 11:48pm
Bleepless (mail):
Has no one noticed that Uncle Sam is imprisoned in a Jewish combined stocks and pillory? The crud on the wall is what has been thrown at him by the mob, presumably those who agree with the punishment.

BTW, one does not need ESP to predict that the mini-Volkischer Beobachter will defend itself by saying that they are in favor of freedom of expression and that those complaining are not. This keeps happening whenever the media are criticized. It has gotten automatic and very old.
8.12.2006 11:52pm
liberty (mail) (www):

I agree that there is something cross-like about it; I think DavidBernstein explained that pretty well. I also agree that it is reminiscent of NAZI imagery and of leftwing publications since the 1980s. None of that is contradictory. I do believe that it smacks of anti-Semitism.

Its also true that it could be taken as simply against the policy of Israel and saying that the US is beholden to Israel, just as we could be beholden to any other country. Just as the UK is portrayed as beholden to us -- yet there is little to support this notion; we have not sent troops in to help Israel, but at the drop of a hat these folks portray the most extreme caricature with the US crucified for Israel.
8.13.2006 12:18am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
eras: "like any special interest, it works against the interests of other members of society"

Not exactly. Your comment embodies a zero-sum perspective that is sometimes appropriate, but not always.

It is not necessarily the case that a special interest "works against the interests of other members of society." Advocates of any "special interest" (whatever that means) are likely to say "we advocate what we advocate not just because we think it's good for us, but because we think it's ultimately good for everyone." And this statement might be not only sincere but also correct.

When we use the tag "special interest" we're already taking a position, because the tag itself implies your attitude, which I've criticized. That attitude is often justified, but not always. It's not so much that I oppose the attitude. I just oppose adopting the attitude unconsciously.
8.13.2006 12:29am
David M. Nieporent (www):
David, thanks for explaining the title of the post, which had not made sense to me because I had make the connection with Nazi-era German cartoons.
Speaking of the title of the post, it has too many "In"s in it.

2. I don't know what the cartoonist was trying to say, but Master Lock is a major brand of padlock. I don't know why the lock would need a brand name on it, but I'm not sure "Master race" is the right allusion.
8.13.2006 12:36am
Alan Gura:
"Master Lock" are the only words in the cartoon.

Obviously the reference is not to a brand. It is explicitly saying that Jews are the master of Uncle Sam.

It also makes the cartoon doubly anti-semitic, since it highlights the absence of even a disingenuous attempt to have the Star of David associated with "Israel."
8.13.2006 12:48am
glangston (mail):
I'm just trying to see if I get the symbols correct. Stocks or pillories were used to punish people publicly for misbehavior. The shape implies Jews are exacting the punishment and the master lock implies that they are not ordinary law or government but "masters", as in masters and slaves. Then the splotches imply that others are in agreement that the US has misbehaved. This is what is confusing. For what I "think" is being proposed a puppet/master relationship would be more accurate.

I checked a criticism of Kloss and he was fairly defensive, if not dismissive that he did not properly differentiate between a Coastal Redwood and a Giant Sequoia in a cartoon depicting a tree called Luna.
8.13.2006 12:49am
BGates (mail) (www):
Greedy Clerk, conversations involving Stalin and Bush typically run like this:
Lefty: Bush is just like Stalin!
Righty: No, he's not.
Lefty: Oh, that's your standard, that he's better than Stalin?

Jews are not monolithic - many do not leap at the opportunity to take offense at the suggestion they're not prone to violence - but I would think they do share a common interest in opposing people who want to kill all Jews.

If Lamont was running on a pro-Soylent Green platform, I'd say my grandmother was nuts to vote for him, and not because all old people think alike.

[My analogy of Lamont's position is, in the spirit of the thread, a caricature.]
8.13.2006 1:16am
NotShocked (mail):
I think it's merely a commentary on how blind support of Israel in this has put the US in the stocks and further damaged its reputation. There were many articles and media reports which branded the blind support of Israel causing the US to be paralyzed in response to this conflict (which it was/has/is). There was immediate condemnation from the rest of the world, and all the US could do was veto that action in the UN Security council.

To the "anti-semite" cheer squad: grow up! Commentary on a situation is not a reason to blunder in with the lack of any real comment on it by yelling "anti-semite"/nazi etc etc.

As for those talking about zionist conspiracy stuff: where exactly is that in the cartoon?

I think far too many Jewish people sit around waiting and trying to find anti-semitism so much so that any reasoned discussion is stifled completely.
Critical of Israel does not mean "jew hater".
8.13.2006 2:15am
Alan Gura:

There are many ways to criticize Israel without resorting to classic anti-semitic motifs.

Suppose you believed that Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, two prominent members of the clergy, were unduly seeking to impose their religious beliefs upon the nation. Would you protest them by burning a cross? Why not? Surely a burning cross can be interpreted as merely a protest against the undue influence of religion, but only by someone completely ignorant of cross-burning's symbolic history.
8.13.2006 2:24am
John R. Mayne (mail):
The cartoon strikes me as more misguided than evil. It appears to me to say that the US is beholden to Israel and Jewish interests, and is stuck in a bad position for it.

I don't think it's evil/Nazi/whatever to say that Jewish interests in the United States have an unduly disproportionate influence.

Given the current actions of the fine folks at Hezbollah, the cartoon seems to be taking rather the wrong side of this issue, and in a manner designed to inflame, but I think that's what editorial cartoons are often designed to do, even when the cartoonist is misguided.

I'm not prepared to string up the editors at the weekly paper this comes from. I'll save my invective for those who are using their straight news to publish posed pictures and run biased articles.

8.13.2006 3:02am
goldsmith (mail):
NotShocked: Why do you assume that support of Israel is "blind"? I think you're the one with your eyes wide shut.
8.13.2006 3:40am
Owen Hutchins (mail):
It is clear that many view what is and is not offensive only in the sense of whether it is offensive to them; if it is offensive to someone else, that other should grow a thicker skin, or has no right or reason to be offended. Or, if some members of an offended group react violently, then all members lose the right to be offended, while if none (or very few) do, then it is ok to ban what they find offensive.
8.13.2006 7:16am
Voice of Reason (mail):
David Bernstein,

I realize that the cartoon could be offensive, and recognize that its style mirrored that of Nazi-era cartoons. But, I also noticed that the Star of David was made of wood and inferred that Israel -- not Jews -- was the United States' cross to bear. Looking more closely, however, one can see that the beam that would be borne by Uncle Sam's shoulders is in fact not on his shoulders and in fact his neck is through the uppermost triangle, as if he is stuck in the gallows. That, along with the splatters on the wall behind, implies that Uncle Sam is subject to international ridicule and is a target because of his connection to Israel. The "Master Lock" I at first thought bizarre and possibly racist -- and I still think of it as possibly so, but it could simultaneously mean that the United States will be exposed to ridicule and be a target so long as its foreign policy connects it to Israel, which, practically, will be awhile. We cannot abandon Israel now, even if it would be to our obvious benefit. I think that is the gist of the cartoon. I certainly see, though, how the cartoon is offensive -- but not because the cross is meant to symbolize Jews.

Also, being a Jew is inherently linked with Zionism; accepting Zionism and pledging to support the territorial integrity of Israel is a condition of conversion to Judaism.
8.13.2006 7:34am
markm (mail):
I don't see anything wrong with the cartoon if you see the Star of David as representing Israel, as opposed to "the Jews".

If you saw a cartoon prominently featuring a wooden cross, would you think this referred to a national flag (Finland, Iceland, etc.) rather than to Christians?
8.13.2006 10:10am
Syd (mail):
Of course not, since the cross is on a lot of national flags, while the Star of David is on exactly one.

I interpret the star as being a pillory, not an means of crucifiction.
8.13.2006 11:26am
Alan Gura:
Voice of Reason:

Also, being a Jew is inherently linked with Zionism; accepting Zionism and pledging to support the territorial integrity of Israel is a condition of conversion to Judaism.

That is simply false.
8.13.2006 12:29pm
Kevin L. Connors (mail) (www):
I have to say, I'm with Erasmussimo here (imagine that). It's a political cartoon, and as such, I am not offended. Further, it reflects an editorial view which one can almost take as a given for an alt-weekly, before even scanning page one.

I think this cartoon is rather idiotic, but not offensive.
8.13.2006 1:04pm
I am puzzled buy some of the almost willfull misinterpretation (while agreeing that the cartoon is distateful and sophomoric at best.

Seeing anything crucifiction-like is just out of the question. No nails, no suspension, sitting posture, an, yes the lock. So its definitely that the US has been forced to be subjected for public ridicule and abuse.

Now, considering that I feel a sohpomoric transgressionism is part of the mix, as well as a potentially large heap of anti-semitism, I wouldn't read the rest to closely. I do not think the artist is that bright. But if we assume it is, we might come up with questions like...

- who is the sheriff who put him in stocks? Unlocking stocks would be cause reconfiguration of the pillary which cannot stand its current sahpe w/o the lock. Is it the existence of the Jeweish State. Is it encouraging Hezbollah to break the lock and set Uncle Same free? (now that is an incoherent message)

- I have never heard Jews as Master Race. I have heard it used on any mnumber of Nazi/Hitler/Aryan pride groups. Are Hitlerites using the state of Israel to pillory the mongrel nation - unlikely, but as plausible as some of the readings.

My point is that this cartoon has a clever cartoon about US being pilloried by its association with Israel and that most of the other details say as much about the viewer as the cartoon.

Still think it is poor taste (not to mention wrong) though.
8.13.2006 2:08pm
Michael Benson (mail) (www):

However, the issue I was addressing was the *existence* of a special interest group advancing the interests of the state of Israel, and I think we can all agree that such a political force exists.

I was objecting specifically to your analogy to potato farmers. Jews are not like potato farmers. Whereas potato farmers might all be assumed to have a fairly concrete agenda because of potato farming, being Jewish entails little in the way of a similar interest.

In my view this is the heart of the problem with the cartoon. The notion that "the Jews" are a group with an identifiable interest (usually seperate from or opposed to that of the nation) is a classic of anti-semetic propoganda.

The point that there are a group of Americans, many of whom are Jewish, who support Israel isn't in dispute. What is in dispute is whether it's fair to associate being Jewish with support for that group. I
8.13.2006 2:30pm
Michael, I'd like to respond to your point The point that there are a group of Americans, many of whom are Jewish, who support Israel isn't in dispute. What is in dispute is whether it's fair to associate being Jewish with support for that group.

It's a good point, I think. But isn't it fair to treat the Star of David as a good icon for that group? Iconicity is a highly subjective matter, you know. I agree that there are too many ancient meanings associated with that particular icon to make it an easy choice; I would not have done so. But I can acquiesce to the decision of an artist to use it for this purpose.
8.13.2006 2:50pm
Michael Benson (mail) (www):

But isn't it fair to treat the Star of David as a good icon for that group? Iconicity is a highly subjective matter, you know.

The meaning of iconography is always subjective. But, that doesn't mean that we can't say that some subjective uses of it are objectionable.

If someone asked me to draw a symbol representing Jews and Judaism, I could think of no better symbol than the Star of David. Could you? Because of this, I find using it in a cartoon to be plausibly suggesting (even if that isn't the intention) that the cartoon is refering to Jews as such. And hence I find it objectionable.
8.13.2006 3:33pm
NickM (mail) (www):
GreedyClerk - I think you are taking TO too literally. I interpreted his comment as a sarcastic swipe at Muslims (with a subtext that "of course Jews wouldn't do that").

8.13.2006 3:43pm
Justin (mail):
Quick question - if one can't use the official insignia of the State of Israel to represent Israel, what insignia may be used?

I disagree with the message of the cartoon, because I don't think the US is beholden to ISRAELI interests, but EV's ability to find anti-semitism in left wing cartoons at every step but can't see anti-islamic prejudice in the most vicious of right wing cartoons is remarkably hypocritical. The fact that he has in the past defended this hypocracy by deceptively claiming that he gives he finds claims of anti-semitism in political cartoons overblown is prima facie evidence of this hypocracy.
8.13.2006 3:50pm
Justin (mail):
I just noticed the absurd interpretation of the star of david as a crucifix. First of all, the idea of Uncle Sam as Jesus? Um, get over yourself.

Second of all, what's missing from that interpretation? Oh wait, nails. And blood. And uncle sam being anything but being locked (complete with lock!) into what appears to be an Israeli version of the 18th century American stockade (is that the right word?). So yes, if you willfully and intentionally misinterpret it in a way to intentionally find malice out of nowhere, then you can find the cartoon antisemetic. But this has been an unfortunate attack of the neoconservative and Christian Zionist right to prevent Israel from correctly relying on a democratic and liberal defense of its right to exist, which contrasts with the more expansionist and militant version of Israel that these people want.
8.13.2006 3:56pm
Jeff Leyser (mail):
Those who think this symbolizes a Crucifixion need to take another look. Compare the cartoon to this picture, (quickly found on Google Image.) The position of Uncle Sam is identical to that of the people in the foot &leg stockade. And the "rotten tomato" spots are symbolic of the use of the stockade as a public shaming device. Can't find a source, but I recall that, in US Colonial times, petty criminals were put in a stockade in the public square to allow others to shame them with words &thrown food.
8.13.2006 4:04pm
Bleepless (mail):
Had the cartoonist meant it to refer to Israel, rather than to Jews, it would have been a symbol more specifically related to Israel (the flag, Olmert, whatever) and not just to Judaism. To claim otherwise is -- very strange.
8.13.2006 4:05pm
It is very clear from both the position of Uncle Sam and the way his hands and feet are restrained that the cartoonist is depicting the Star of David as stocks and not a crucifix. But any implication that the US relationship with Isreal is not of America's free will is offensive.
8.13.2006 4:22pm
McGehee (never been able to log in) (mail) (www):
Having had some prior experience with John Kloss as a political cartoonist, when he was drawing his screeds for the college paper at Sac State during the '80s, I am not in the least surprised at this cartoon.

Even the liberal journalism students running the paper were often embarrassed at the cartoons he was submitting back then. Clearly, he hasn't mellowed.
8.13.2006 4:36pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Bleepless is right. It would be very easy to take the cartoon as it exists, change the formatting slightly, and add wooden stripes above and below the Star of David so that the whole was unmistakably an Israeli flag.

I wonder whether the makers of Master padlocks have seen this. In their position, I'd be rather pissed off.
8.13.2006 5:08pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Voice of Making Stuff Up:
Also, being a Jew is inherently linked with Zionism; accepting Zionism and pledging to support the territorial integrity of Israel is a condition of conversion to Judaism.
Please stop making stuff up. You couldn't be more wrong if you tried. Zionism is not a religious doctrine at all.
8.13.2006 5:18pm
Michael Benson (mail) (www):
I'd like to concur with David M Nieporent. I have been through the Jewish conversion ceremony (my father is Jewish and my mother is not, so I had to go through the conversion ceremony to have a Bar Mitzvah). At no point was I asked "do you swear allegiance to zionism and the state of Israel." The very suggestion is absurd.
8.13.2006 5:37pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I can see now that the "Star" is definitely supposed to be a stockade; but that's just poor cartooning, because a wood star of David calls into my mind a "Jewish" wood cross much more than "Israel." The master lock still stumps me. Why label the lock? Especially when you haven't labeled the star? Still reminds me of Nazi/Soviet propaganda showing America under the thumb of the Jews, but, as noted before, this probably reflects ignorance by the cartoonist.
8.13.2006 8:40pm
At best, the cartoon is a stupid editorial stunt and a misguided attempt to contribute to an important dialogue. So, at best, they are a bunch of fools. They will run for the cover that the possible ambiguity the cartoon provides and the cover of the broad range of freedoms they are afforded in our society.

What concerns me is not that this fringe publication is run by foolish people who may be bigots. I am concerned that this sort of trash will spread more widely in our public discourse. Too often anti-Semitism grows not from what is evil or hateful, but instead from unchecked idiotic or foolish judgment. I hope that there are enough critical thinkers in the left-wing establishment to blunt attacks against innocent groups and institutions. Too many appear to generalize about Jewish people, American policy and the actions of Israel, while ignoring or rationalizing the savage acts of destruction aimed at Jews, Americans, the State of Israel, and all of Western Civilization be it in Europe, Latin America or elsewhere.

I am concerned that when the war against the minority of Muslims who attack Western civilization becomes a hotter war, the sort of stupidity exposed by the publication of this cartoon will not be intelligently discussed, critical opposition will fall further into jingoism, and the seeds for political movements based on ignorance, fear and hate will grow.

In our open society we must be vigilant against all forms of discrimination and all seeds of oppression. This discussion on this blog is helpful. I hope that even the people at the place that published this cartoon can see how foolish they have been. I doubt that they could see themselves as part of a process aimed at destroying the freedoms they enjoy, or see the similarity of their cartoon to Nazi or Soviet propaganda, at least in style.

Where is the critical thinking and historical analysis of a responsible editor? Are freedom and dignity not core issues that are attacked here? Is this where our political discourse is going? Am I crying wolf? Is my reaction over-vigilant? If so, without generalizing, and while recognizing the obvious right to publish, why should this publication not also be interpreted as a step towards a less open society?

I guess that the answer lies in the facts that they can publish it, and we can dissect it. But is this sort of foolishness entering the mainstream? Why does the mainstream appear more concerned with the rights of terrorists than the right of a liberal democracy to exist? While the rights of all people are very important, and there will always be unfairness even in free countries, aren't we at war and isn't Israel at war? Isn't the war very similar to the one Israel is fighting? Isn't this a good reason to have Israel as an ally, and doesn't this have absolutely nothing to do with Judaism?

I understand that there is a higher standard for democracies that are based on a rule of law and the consent of the governed, but why all the fuzzy thinking and the double standard against the State of Israel? Isn't this anti-Semitism and doesn't the ambiguity of this cartoon allow anti-Semitism at the basis of the interpretation of it?

Isn't this also a far cry from an offensive cartoon that shows a sacred figure as a terrorist, when there is a large terrorist movement that invokes this figure's name as the basis for their terrorism? Isn't offensive that such a cartoon be equated with another cartoon that uses religious symbolism to attack liberal democracies that are defending themselves from the same evil described in the first cartoon?

These are my thoughts. I could be wrong, or stupid. Please attack me, but try not to be stupid, or wrong.
8.13.2006 9:07pm
Kathy K (mail) (www):
That 'Master Lock' bit keeps nagging at me. And it's what convinces me that the cartoon is a case of judenhass. I've been seeing comments (I'd call them trolls) lately, in some of the middle eastern blogs (the pro-western ones), that call Jews 'the master race' - a more subtle than usual way of associating Jews with Nazis...
8.13.2006 10:00pm
Alan Gura:
The logic of the apologists for this trash is stunning.

Since every Star of David must be referring to Israel rather than to Jews, nothing that uses the Star of David can be judged anti-semitic anymore.

Notice this Star of David in the cartoon floats in a vacuum. Were it fastened to the wall by two horizontal planks, the cartoon would have merely been idiotic, but not anti-semitic.

Here's a simple rule of interpretation:

Star of David = Jews
Israeli Flag = Israel

Demeaning Star of David = jew hatred
Demeaning Israeli Flag = criticism of Israel

Why is this so hard to grasp?
8.13.2006 10:02pm
Especially given the timing of the cartoon, I find it hard to believe that this is some opportunistic anti-semetic political statement. Its much more likely that its making the statement that the US is "locked" into place by its ties with Israel into not pushing as hard as it can for a ceasefire in Lebanon, thus subjecting itself to public ridicule (or worse?). Or at least thats what makes the most sense given the context of current world events. Right or wrong, thats a valid opinion for someone to express if they so choose.

Also even though there could be some deeper meaning behind the lock, "master lock" is in fact an actual brand name of a lock.
8.13.2006 10:47pm
Ernest Brown (mail):
"Why is this so hard to grasp?"

Because the THINGS that support it agree with the following attitude FOR REAL:
8.13.2006 10:48pm
Captain (mail):
My first thoughts are why is everytime Jews, be it in form of a Star of David, Israel, or just referring to the religion become anti-semitic? Are people of Jewish faith and the nation of Israel free from criticism in this country or else feel the wrath of being branded an anti-semite? I mean I don't see past the idea that the cartoonist is expressing that the seemingly blind way the US will follow (hence the master lock: our foreign policy towards the mideast is unwavering in this aspect) Israel's side into any conflict has this country shackled into the bullseye of criticism. Plain and simple and I think an accurate portrayal, and how we are seen in other countries. I do not support anti-semitism, but I also don't support blind support of Israel in anything they do just to appease what can be described as a special interest in this country. And this special interest includes the Christian groups who would have no problem watching American blood be shed in that reason in defense of Israel.
8.13.2006 11:40pm
MlR (mail):
Anti-semitic, obviously.

Doesn't refer to Israel, refers to Jews. Feeds off the idea of a Jewish conspiracy in charge.

Those denying it are idiots, willful or otherwise.

Frankly, I'm sick of people rationalizing the indefensible.

However, that does not mean that it cannot be published. Both it and the Muslim cartoons are fair game. People threatening violence over either should be told to shut up. Won't be needed in this case, however.

How's that for 'saying the obvious'?
8.14.2006 12:27am
MlR (mail):
To remind, the argument over Muslim cartoons was not whether they were offensive.

The truth can be offensive, whether it is Uncle Sam prisoned by Jews or Islam is connected with terrorism - either of which I may or may not believe.

The centrality of the previous debate was whether or not one group's offended feelings warranted violence and threats, and secondarily, whether those threats should be paid attention to.
8.14.2006 12:36am
Not that any of you are responding to my post, but:

Kathy - Interesting, but I think that the cartoon was purposely drawn to have possible ambiguity and the legitimacy that comes from people who are charitable with their reason and doubts.

Alan Gura— The ambiguity is what allows this statement to be published with a straight face.

perryair— The timing is exactly what gives this statement a cover that has some plausibility in contemporary public discourse and gives it the opportunity to speak where it will be heard.

Ernest— Great satire.

MIR— Well said.

Captain— You have a point of view. You want to express it. Your view is legitimate because other people agree with you. This cartoon merely uses religious imagery and support for Israel in this flair-up is limited to special interests in the U.S.

So these special interests must have undue control the U.S. policy? I'm not taking your argument to any logical extremes, am I? Maybe they rig presidential elections and keep our politics from straying into the national socialism that would enlighten us all. I'm putting words in your mouth? You're not a nut who believes in conspiracy theories or national socialism.

Seriously, you show no concern for the Nazi and Soviet propaganda that this cartoon clearly mirrors. You instead conclude that this image a legitimate response to "the blind way the U.S. will follow Israel's side into any conflict" and that it shouldn't raise the "wrath" of the Jews and the Christian groups "who would have no problem watching American blood be shed in that reason in defense of Israel." Now, continue in your seriousness, and ask yourself just how special is support for the only liberal democracy in a region while it is under siege by an organization who also wants to destroy the United States (and the rest of western civilization)?

Is it reasonable to lack historical perspective and to equate the activity of "special interests" to defense from terrorists who act in the name of the sacred to indiscriminately kill Jews while at the same time hiding behind the most vulnerable people in their own society? Does this "shackle" the U.S. to the "bull's eye of criticism" [sic]? You don't really believe that? Do the facts that this terrorist group is backed by a country that wants to nuke Israel and that this terrorist group also has killed hundreds of Americans matter? And will the so-called world opinion matter when it will not change until savagely attacked by those who want to destroy the west or because it is sympathetic to those who want to commit this destruction?

No, perhaps the U.S. is just shackled by a Jewish cabal (and by nutty Christians), so it is ok to use the same imagery used against the last Jewish cabal that famously brought about the last world war and the last holocaust. Don't worry about the nutty minority of Muslims; it is the nutty majority of religious people in the U.S. and Israel that are the threat to the world.

Please, forgive my sarcasm, because you couldn't really be so far removed from what is happening right now? Though, to judge from your statements, you might be a nut, or even, dare I apply my wrath, an anti-Semite? Please, as you apply your right to free expression, apply your intelligence to what you say and be ready for others to exercise their right to tell you exactly how you appear.

I wouldn't bother telling you my opinion, questioning your capacity to express yourself, or responding to this cartoon at all, but for the likelihood that we are just one spark away from the ignition of World War Three. Are you going to side with or appease the conspiracy theorists and the modern day Nazis (no false comparison or exaggeration), or do you favor rule by the consent of the governed, the rule of law, and the right to exist without having terrorists plotting your destruction (even when you are appeasing them)?
8.14.2006 1:47am
Voice of Reason (mail):
To those who accused me of lying and insinuated I am anti-Semitic:

I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone, but it is a fact that within the debate in Israel over the Law of Return, at least some Jews believe that "one who is devoted to Zionism, believes and lives in the modern State of Israel, serves in the Israel Defense Forces, and works for the Ingathering of the Exiles from the diaspora, is 'the real Jew.'"

It is certainly such Israelis who would reject Reform converts but accept Orthodox or Conservative ones. I probably should have been clearer in making sure it was understood I was talking about Israel - or perhaps it was clear I was talking about Israel and I simply revealed that I do think there is merit to the idea that you aren't a real Jew if you aren't permitted right of return and won't pledge to fight for Israel; otherwise, all Palestinians would convert and eliminate Israel with a demographic boom.

Thanks to David Bernstein for impliedly responding to my post.
8.14.2006 3:07am
jso (mail):

I suppose itt's good for both sides, though, to see their ox gored.

In this case, the ox is Israel's right to survive. "Goring" it shows support for terrorism and senseless murder.

Interesting how leftists always show support for people who hate jews, yet when someone points that out they claim it's not anti-semetism.
8.14.2006 3:51am
Grumbly (mail):
I don't see anything wrong with the cartoon if you see the Star of David as representing Israel, as opposed to "the Jews".

Except that the Star of David isn't the symbol of Israel. The Israeli flag has a Star of David *on* it, but taken by itself the SoD no more represents Israeli than a red stripe represents the USA.

What a star of David symbolizes is Judaism and Jews. The cartoon is saying that Uncle Sam is a captive of Jews, not of Israel.
8.14.2006 5:10am
Can't the antisemites make up their minds? Does Israel control America or America control Israel?
8.14.2006 5:20am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone, but it is a fact that within the debate in Israel over the Law of Return, at least some Jews believe that "one who is devoted to Zionism, believes and lives in the modern State of Israel, serves in the Israel Defense Forces, and works for the Ingathering of the Exiles from the diaspora, is 'the real Jew.'"
Nice try, "Voice of Reason," but even if Wikipedia really were a good reference, you didn't read it very carefully.

That quote -- and you'll note that Wikipedia explicitly says that there's no source for this information -- is from the section entitled Secular Israeli views. It explicitly is not about "conversion to Judaism," but rather about "a minority of secular Israelis," and it's about the definition of "Israeli," not Jew.

Whereas your completely false claim was about Judaism.
8.14.2006 5:40am
Rob Crocker (mail):
Simple really.

If all of us mail in one of the Mohammed cartoons to the letters do you think it will get published?
8.14.2006 8:21am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):

Perhaps a better analogy than a red stripe would be a cross. A simple cross represents Christianity. A white cross on a red flag respresents Switzerland. If you want to mock the Swiss without mocking all Christians, you have to be specific: you need a stubby and symmetrical white cross on a red background. If you just slap up any old cross when you're aiming at the Swiss, people will think you're aiming at all Christians, plus non-Christians living in other countries with crosses on their flags, such as Sweden. The same goes for the crescent on the flags of various Muslim countries and the star of David on the Israeli flag.
8.14.2006 10:45am
mojo (mail):
It means Kloss is an anti-semitic moron. But I already knew that.
8.14.2006 11:55am
DHBerger (mail):
Thank you, Frankcross, for pointing out Professor Volokh's hypocritical stance, given his comments about the Muhammed cartoons. Clearly, both cartoons should be allowed to be printed, and anyone can feel offended if he chooses. As for this particular cartoon, Professor Volokh is over-reacting.
8.14.2006 1:01pm
te (mail):
Is it "anti-semitic" to believe that US foreign policy is too beholden to the interests of Israel?

If not, is it possible to present this view in the form of a cartoon without being "anti-semitic"? How?

Just wondering . . .
8.14.2006 2:14pm
I don't find the Kloss cartoon all that offensive. The United States does pay a heavy price for its support of Israel, and the position of the United States really doesn't make all that much sense unless you factor in groups like AIPAC. Does the U.S. really have any compelling interest in Israel that would cause the country to so forcefully support Israel in the absence of lobbying and political pressure?
8.14.2006 2:28pm
Four points:
1. I thought that the Mohammed cartoon with the bomb on his head was anti-Muslim and the most troubling of the cartoons. Just as clearly, the death threats and violence were wrong. (Need one say that being anti-terrorist is not being anti-Muslim?) It seems to me that in some anti-terrorism quarters, and some anti-zionist quarters, provoking charges of Islamophobia or anti-semitism has become a perverse way of establishing one's bona fides on these issues. I have seen innumerable comment strings with "Get ready for charges of Islamophobia" or, comments as here by "not-shocked" and the "Human, not just Jewish, rights." These gleeful invitations to knock the chip off the shoulder do not contribute to the debate, but instead are designed to discredit all such charges. Perhaps charges of Islamophobia and anti-semitism are improperly used by some pro-terrorists and Zionists to discredit critics. But it is abundantly clear that real Islamophobes and anti-semites use anti-terrorism and anti-zionism as a cover for their bigotry. During the sixties many people claimed that they were not racists and against integration per se, but merely for State's rights, or anti-busing. These were not objectively racist positions. But for many it was only a convenient pose to disguise their racism.
2. Ultimately the argument that the use of the Star of David or Mohammed can always be interpreted to only mean "some Jews" or "some Muslims," fails, because as we say in the law, the argument proves too much. Under this interpretation, these symbols can be used in any manner, to make the most vicious attacks imaginable, but then, if the author can identify any subgroup or collection of individuals that can colorably be subject to such charges, he is off the hook. Absent context or content of a cartoon that make clear that an otherwise universal symbol is being used with regard to a limited subgroup, the cartoon is objectively offensive. Goldsmith makes a good point that "editorial cartoons are NOT supposed to be ambiguous," which convinces me that, at the least, the cartoonist and the editors were culpably irresponsible. Further, I have been reading the posts, and have still found nothing to convince me of a non-offensive meaning, and am pretty much persuaded that the editors will be unable to provide a satisfactory explanation.
3. I have noticed a disturbing practice, such as certain defenses of Mel Gibson, and the Hamas Charter's citation to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and statement that Jews (along with the Masons) have started all the wars in the world, to suggest that vitriol directed against Jews generally is merely anti-zionism. [See U.K. Telegraph (columnist): "Dangerously worded as it was, Gibson's drunken comment was, it could reasonably be argued, a statement against the arrogance of the Israeli military."].Thus, presto-change-o, anti-semitism no longer exists--there is <i>only</i> anti-zionism. From a strictly tactical viewpoint, this strategy is a huge mistake for those opposing Israeli policies, because it does precisely what non-anti-semitic anti-zionists complain of: conflating anti-zionism with anti-semitism.
4. A more disturbing result of actively allowing anti-zionism to serve as a cover for anti-semitism is the legitimacy it lends to the spreading of rank anti-semitic lies. Voice of Reason first stated:
Also, being a Jew is inherently linked with Zionism; accepting Zionism and pledging to support the territorial integrity of Israel is a condition of conversion to Judaism.
I hasten to add that VOR concludes that the cartoon is offensive, showing that VOR resisted the intent of whatever hate-peddling source first led VOR to so believe. (I attribute VOR's later lame explanation dissected in other comments to mere defensiveness, and expect that VOR will not make the above claim again). Mars is absolutely correct: "Too often anti-Semitism grows not from what is evil or hateful, but instead from unchecked idiotic or foolish judgment." The personally not anti-semitic neighbor and friend of my grandparents in Berlin defended her vote by saying, "Oh, Hitler doesn't mean <i>you</i>. But something has to be done about those other Jews." The fact is, that like the communists who continuously seek the social issue that will "radicalize the masses," real anti-semites can only be expected to use legitimate anti-zionism to provoke "anti-semitism of the masses." Why would they not? As a long-time anti-occupation Peace Now-type, I am saddened and disillusioned both by the outpouring of bile against Jews and the defense of and legitimacy lent to such acts by otherwise well-meaning and personally unbigoted people. I am not alone. See, e.g., Josh Marshall, (shocked at email comments.)
8.14.2006 2:51pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
I can't help but think of the "ambiguity" as intentional cover. Look -- the cartoonist used text to label the "Master Lock" (whateve the heck the significance of *that* is). He could just as easily have used text to label the wooden star "Israeli interests" if he had wanted to ... but he didn't.
8.14.2006 3:57pm
Harrison Bergeron (www):
Alas...truth and beauty is in the eye of the beholder which has more to do with spectacles than vision.

I'm surprised no one picked up on the stirrups yet as in "stir up"...get with the program people!
8.14.2006 4:26pm
te (mail):
Wonder what the reaction would be if the lock had been labeled "YALE" which is another lock company.

Would that imply some sort of conspiracy among the jews and the trilateralists and the skull and bones and the Bushes ???
8.14.2006 4:36pm
Mr. Snitch! (mail) (www):
"OK, before the flaming starts, let me explain... So what does it really mean?"

Any cartoon requiring an outside explanation is a lousy cartoon. That's what it means.
8.14.2006 5:26pm
Person of Choler (mail):
Much of this discussion reminds me of the "Jew eat?" sequence in Annie Hall.
8.14.2006 5:49pm
1. I noticed that several commenters spelled "crucifixion" as "crucifiction." Is that some kind of crucifixion-denial commentary? Just wondering. (Please note: the preceding was a JOKE.)

2. What does "the red, white and blue" mean to you? If you said the U.S. flag, you probably don't associate closely with the British flag, the Australian flag, the French flag, or probably a dozen other national flags. Personally, when I see a Star of David, I think of Judaism long before I think of Israel, regardless of current events.

3. The concept of freedom of the press has nothing to do with taste, decency, or good judgment.

4. Expressing of opinions in a political cartoon usually has nothing to do with taste, decency, or good judgment.

5. We should be less concerned about the offensiveness of some dumb cartoon and more concerned about crusading journalists with chips on their shoulders who think the most reasonable course of action is to print national security secrets for all the world to read (including our enemies who are sworn to destroy us). I find that offensive, since it indirectly could have the effect of putting my loved ones and fellow countrymen in greater danger. An offensive cartoon may stir up hateful sentiments, and that can be dangerous; but telling the enemy how we're trying to stop them is giving valuable intelligence to people who are already stirred up in hatred.

6. I generally find double standards to be distasteful and annoying (eg. either the Mohammed cartoons AND the Star of David cartoons are beyond the pale, or they're both an unpleasant but acceptable component of political dialog). Please pick one.

7. I find generalizations to be generally problematic. they can be useful, but they are also annoying. For instance, generalizing that all Jewish people are trying to control the U.S. government is absurd. Implying that any criticism of Israel's policies is "anti-Semitic" is equally absurd. Folks need to be more specific in their criticisms, and need to make clarifying disclaimers about their generalizations, and need to not have knee-jerk reactions. They also should try to seek common ground from which to politely discuss their differences. Why can't we all just get along??

Have a nice day.
8.14.2006 6:54pm
MattT (mail):
A crucifix? You've gotta be kidding. I see others have addressed the off-basedness of that interpretation in detail so I'll just say the pillory reference was obvious to me (a lapsed catholic who's pretty familiar with cross imagery).

Ambiguity in what the Star of David refers to - Israel or Jews on general - may be deliberate. The first message I took from the cartoon was that the transparent endorsement of Israeli conduct in Lebanon has opened the US for international rebuke (or "pillory") as a result of civilian casualties and allegedly heavy-handed Israeli tactics. Considering the ambiguity of the SoD symbology, he might also be suggesting that more generally, American policy in the Middle East is constrained by our loyal support for Israel - support which is maintained in part by a very active pro-Israel lobby.

I could argue that some of Israel's strongest supporters in America are fundamentalist Christians, but really both of these comments bear at least a grain of truth and are appropriate entries in the public discourse. Where the cartoonist loses me is with that Master-Lock. The label is too prominent to be a brand-name reference; he's telling us something. I think it's a reference not to Jews as the "Master Race," but to white Christians. The cartoonist is referring to ancient and not-so-ancient claims of Aryan superiority and attempting a wry comment at how Jews have turned the situation on its head, and "locked the master."

I have no idea whether the cartoonist is sympathetic with white supremacist notions. But he seems to accept as a given not just a sharp divide between Jew and Gentile, but an adversarial relationship between the two groups - and accepts it so completely that he thinks ironic humor flows naturally from this supposed natural antagonism.

While the politics expressed here may be reasonable - it's fair to question whether US support for any foreign nation serves our own interests - the underlying views of race and creed on display here are offensive, and the SN&R made a poor editorial decision in broadcasting them.

Likewise the more volatile of the Mohammed cartoons. Accusations of hypocrisy on the part of those who poo-poo one offense while huffing indignantly at the other merit some answers.
8.14.2006 10:25pm
randal (mail):
Keep crying wolf that all this garbage is anti-semitic at your own peril.

Americans have little tolerance for anti-semitism. But we also have little tolerance for whiners.

Also, do you expect me to believe that there's zero nexus between Jews and Israel? I don't buy that this cartoon would be qualitatively different if it unambiguously targeted the Jewish State.
8.14.2006 11:30pm
John H (mail):
I've seen a lot of tasteless cartoons from the progressives, but wonder if it's simply an editorial bias at work or am I reading too much into the decision to publish. There's always going to be an audience for it. I find a balance gets struck when I enjoy the frank statements from Cox &Forkum.
8.14.2006 11:33pm
randal (mail):
I took Master Lock to refer to what's generally accepted in the US as the premier brand of lock, i.e. that Uncle Sam is locked in pretty tight. Maybe that's too literal. I agree that the ambiguity with "master race" diminishes the cartoon and should have been avoided if not intentional (and is offensive if it is intentional).
8.14.2006 11:39pm
randal (mail):
Reading over this thread, a lot of you think this cartoon is "obviously" anti-semitic, but don't give much detail about why you think so. What, specifically, is anti-semitic about it? That is, what negative qualities is it ascribing to Jews? I'm not being facetious - I don't see it, so I'm wondering what it is.

I've seen similar cartoons bemoaning the power of Christians over US policy. Is such a sentiment bigoted toward Christians? If not, what is the distinction?
8.15.2006 12:12am
gravytop (mail) (www):
Whether or not the cartoon is offensive depends of course on what it means... what were the editors thinking when they OKd this?

As someone who reads Sacramento News and Review, I assure you there was likely little to no thought behind the editorial decision whatsover. When it comes to political rhetoric, SNR is less about thinking things through than it is about doing pure paint-by-the-numbers squawking points.

(You know the kind: "Rethuglicans are homophobic as*holes, especially Bush's butt buddy (fill in the blank.)"

So many commentors here are making the unfortunate mistake of thinking that the SNR staffers behind this actually were interested in what what the cartoon meant. Not even half-true.
8.15.2006 12:16am
This is unaccpetable. Jews should react as muslims do and maybe people will cower and appease the jews as the media doers to the muslims. the media ignores muslim bad deeds and pro-hizzbollah anti-american pro -terrorist demonstrations in their pro muslim propaganda.
8.15.2006 2:09pm
To Randal who asks:

What, specifically, is anti-semitic about it? That is, what negative qualities is it ascribing to Jews? I'm not being facetious - I don't see it, so I'm wondering what it is.

The answer is that deadly anti-semitism has never been about Jews supposedly being cheap, untrustworthy, neurotic, loud or having big noses. It has less to do with country-club discrimination, educational quotas, or restricted neighborhoods, although this was common into the 50s. It has always been about attributing control and responsibility to the Jews, whether it was for a cow going dry, a Christian child disappearing, the crops failing, WWI, communism, the depression, civil rights or an overarching conspiracy made famous by the notorious forgery by the Czarist secret police, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, now a TV mini-series in Arabic. In each of these cases, the charge of responsibility resulted.
Depending on the time period, this attribution of responsibility has come from both the right and left. During the 19th century it was the international Jewish Bankers (and Rothschild, the most famous Jewish Banker—though converted to Christianity—remains a central figure among conspiracy theorists today); then came the right's turn, with international communism a "Jewish Invention", i.e. Karl Marx, and other prominent Jewish communists such as Trotsky. In Germany, it was all these things, plus the charge that Jews caused Germany to fight and then lose WWI, controlled the media, were responsible for the awful inflation in Germany during the 30s. And by the way, that the Jews controlled the American government. Meanwhile, in the United States the American Bund (US Nazi party) marched, and no less a personage than Charles Lindbergh (Lucky Lindy) preached peace with Nazi Germany and that the Jews had too much control of the America. His movement was called "America First" the name Pat Buchanan chose for his new party. And of course, the KKK blamed the Jews for the civil rights. (An undeserved compliment). Now of course there is the Zionist conspiracy, neocons and the Jewish (as opposed to the Israel) lobby.
In each case, that "the Jews" were involved could be "proven" by a conspiracy theorist. Rothschild and other Jews were bankers, correct? Marx and Trotsky and innumerable other Jews were communists, correct? Lots of Jews were involved in the civil rights movement, correct? And now it's: Israeli's are Jews, correct? Lots of Jews support Israel, correct? A lot of neocons are Jews, correct? AIPAC is made up of Jews, correct?
It never mattered that most Jews were not bankers or communists, and it does not matter now that vast majority are not neocons and voted (80%) against Bush. It does not matter that while the rest of America was 70% in favor of war with Iraq the Jews split 50-50. In short, if the Jews did "control this country," there would have been no Bush administration, likely no Iraq invasion and middle-east policy more like that under Carter and Clinton.
That aside, showing Uncle Sam as a captive of the Jewish Star, and suffering for it, replicates the theme of control and responsibility for the ills of the world that have caused the oppression and murder, both retail and wholesale, of Jews for the last 2000 years. Furthermore, it is very similar to Nazi era cartoons that also depicted the U.S., the media and international banking as controlled by the Jews.
Maybe if this history of Jewish control and responsibility for "every war", economic crisis, civil unrest, Christ-killing or agricultural misfortune did not exist, the cartoon would not be offensive. If you think history should be irrelevant, why not start calling your African-American friends "boy," and saying they are over-sensitive if they object, because none of your white friends would mind that?
Even history aside, the unfairness that every minority has been subject to has historically been that any individual or group of individuals is taken to represent his race, religion or ethnic group. No cartoonist would depict all black people as gangbangers, all Italian-Americans as mafia, or all German-Americans as Nazis. Even if you believe that Jewish neocons, or the Israel Lobby/AIPAC control U.S. policy to our detriment, depicting the Jews as collectively responsible remains anti-semitic for the reasons stated above. That is why the argument here has centered on whether the Jewish Star is reasonably interpreted to mean "Jews" "some Jews" "the Israel Lobby/AIPAC" or "Israel."
For myself, upon reflection and review of everything stated in these comments, I have concluded that given the unlabeled star, where numerous options exist that could have been used to narrow its most obvious and historical meaning, that the only reasonable meaning is anti-semitic.
8.15.2006 8:12pm
randal (mail):
Stash, I don't buy it. It's a stretch to say that the cartoon is suggesting a Jewish conspiracy. But even if it were, I think it's also a stretch to say that hypothesizing a conspiracy amounts to bigotry. It seems to depend heavily on historical bigotries, which seem to me to have encompassed more than conspiracy theories. In any case, I don't like calling people bigots just because people in the past have been bigots.

I still don't see how this cartoon, in and of itself, disparages Jews.
8.15.2006 10:42pm
randal (mail):
If you think history should be irrelevant, why not start calling your African-American friends "boy," and saying they are over-sensitive if they object, because none of your white friends would mind that?

I didn't see this on first read and probably should respond.

Why would I call my black friends "boy"? If I called all my friends "boy", I would totally think my black friends were being over-sensitive if they objected. If I called only by black friends "boy" for some independent, obvious reason, I would totally think they were being over-sensitive if they objected based on some kind of historical claim.

A cartoon that claims that US policy is too beholden to a particular religious (or other) group when the claim has an obvious relevant context unrelated to historical bigotry is similar. It cannot be the case that suggesting that US policy is too beholden to Jewish interests is permanently banned as insensitive, just as it cannot be the case that referring to a black person as "boy" is permanently banned. People refer to people as "boy" all the time, and people suggest that US policy is too beholden to various interests all the time.
8.16.2006 5:09am