pageok
pageok
pageok
Sacramento News & Review Cartoon:

The newspaper publishes an explanation: "In this case, Kloss [the cartoonist] used the Star of David symbol — which is displayed prominently on the flag of the government of Israel — to depict his view that Uncle Sam is locked into a single position in that region." Here's the cartoon:

Seemed to me that when someone is in a pillory, it's because someone else has locked him into it, not because he's just abstractly "locked into" it. And it also seems to me that in context the Star of David, without the horizontal bars that distinguish the Israeli flag from the general symbol of Jews, is more reasonably interpreted as a symbol of Jews, not of Israel. As I read the cartoon, it was suggesting that Uncle Sam is locked in to something Jewish, not just something Israeli; but in any event, he was locked in by someone else, not by himself — could it be ... the Jews? (It surely can't be Israel, since Israel has very little power to lock the U.S. into anything.)

If you share my interpretation, then I suspect you take a pretty dim view of the cartoon. If, on the other hand, you think the cartoon is more reasonably interpreted simply as Uncle Sam having locked himself into support for Israel, then you would likely see little wrong with it. It's your call.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Sacramento News & Review Cartoon:
  2. In Which Publication and Which Year Was This Cartoon Printed?
te (mail):
I'll repeat a question I asked before: If one does hold the view that the United States foreign policy is overly focused on support of Israel - how could one depict that in a political cartoon without opening the door to charges of anti-semitism?

Or - even more simply - how can you depict "Israel" in a political cartoon?
8.18.2006 2:07pm
Christopher M (mail):
I think the second interpretation is more reasonable. Hypotheses about how Uncle Sam got into the pillory just seem outside the imaginative scope of the cartoon. (You could just as easily say, "Seems to me that when someone is in a pillory, he's going to be set free by the same authorities who locked him in, probably within a pretty short and predetermined period of time" -- but that's just carrying the analogy too far.)

Still, from a leftist perspective, blurring the distinction between Jewish ethnicity or religion and the political state of Israel only plays into the right's hands. So the cartoon is probably counterproductive.
8.18.2006 2:12pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
I wondered about the argument that a Star of David doesn't represent Israel, if presented without the bars on the Israeli flag, so I just looked at the site for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Their site has an abstract star without the bars (as well as having a picture of the flag). My conclusion is that the proposed convention that bars = Israel / no bars = Jews is not well established.

Seems to me that "blurring the distinction between Jewish ethnicity or religion and the political state of Israel" happens at least as much in the pronouncements of Israel's supporters in the US as it does in those of its critics.
8.18.2006 2:25pm
Ivan (mail) (www):
Te, the cartoonest could have labeled the Star of David "Israel," as he labeled the lock "Master Lock." Seems pretty simple. The lack of label suggests--to me--that the broader meaning was desired, rather than narrower. In other words, if the cartoonist wanted to represent Israel, he could have put that label on easily. If the cartoonist wanted to represent Jews, no label would be the better way to do it.
8.18.2006 2:32pm
Ken Arromdee:
I just looked at the site for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Their site has an abstract star without the bars (as well as having a picture of the flag).

If the site is explicitly about Israel and uses the word "Israel", that pretty much forces the interpretation of the star to be Israel even if the star, appearing alone, would signify Jews.
8.18.2006 2:35pm
James Ellis (mail):
It's not really fair to hold cartoons up to the same standard of precision we apply to written editorials. Sure, the ambiguity dilutes the impact but taken as a whole I agree with the other commenters that the star can be fairly taken to represent Israel and it would be artistically pretty cumbersome to clarify it more...what tilts the balance for me is the Uncle Sam character. If it were, say, Mel Gibson instead I think that the cartoon would take on an entirely different character and EV's observations would be spot on.
8.18.2006 2:46pm
Yaakov Menken (mail) (www):
As I wrote on Cross-Currents, a recent study observed that "anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed."

Thus whatever justifications they might provide, given that the Star of David is recognized across the United States as a Jewish symbol, independent of the flag of Israel, the cartoon is indefensible.
8.18.2006 2:55pm
Bob Miller:
If it quacks like a duck...
8.18.2006 2:55pm
Caliban Darklock:
I think the cartoon is accurate.

Specifically, I think there is a very vocal and very influential Jewish presence in America which interprets failure to support Israel as anti-Israel sentiment, which in turn it interprets as anti-Semitism (as Yaakov Menken quite rightly observes), which in turn it interprets as an inevitable downward spiral into Nazism.

So in order to demonstrate to these people that America is not and will never be another Nazi Germany, the American government must support Israel whether it agrees with them or not.

I've been saying this for years. I'm not sure I agree with the situation, because on the one hand, I think we should support Israel. On the other, I don't like the apparent coercive nature of America's support; it doesn't seem like America supports Israel because Israel is right, but because it is afraid of what Jews might think (or do) if it didn't.

Likewise, I have noticed other Jews don't seem to question whether Israel is right, they just support it because it is Israel - and while I generally believe Israel is right and therefore support it, I'm shocked and disturbed at the sheer lack of understanding other Jews often display toward it.

When religion and politics intertwine, political cartoons have to make religious statements, too. I also find the cartoon offensive - however, since I find the situation just as offensive, I'm unwilling to condemn the cartoonist for his depiction of it.
8.18.2006 3:39pm
Christopher M (mail):
Seems to me that "blurring the distinction between Jewish ethnicity or religion and the political state of Israel" happens at least as much in the pronouncements of Israel's supporters in the US as it does in those of its critics.

Oh, of course it does. That's my point: it's in the interest of many on the right to blur the distinction, because then they can characterize criticism of Israel from the left as anti-Semitism. Thus, as a practical matter, it's better for those on the left to leave no room whatsoever for doubt on the distinction.
8.18.2006 3:55pm
Daniel San:
EV: (It surely can't be Israel, since Israel has very little power to lock the U.S. into anything.)

Me: By entering Lebanon, Israel greatly limited the practical options of the U.S. and the perception of the U.S. In a very real sense, Israel did lock the U.S. into a difficult position. In so doing, they solidified the common Middle Eastern belief that Uncle Sam dances to a Jewish tune.

Yes, I intentionally confused Jewish and Israeli, as I think perceptions often do. To a certain extent, I think that confusion is justified when speaking of the Jewish Homeland.
8.18.2006 3:58pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
te,

I'll repeat a question I asked before: If one does hold the view that the United States foreign policy is overly focused on support of Israel - how could one depict that in a political cartoon without opening the door to charges of anti-semitism?

Very easily; cartoonists do it all the time. Incorporate an unmistakeable Israeli flag, or else label something "Israel," and make sure it isn't a hook-nosed man in black busy hacking up Palestinian children into matzo fixings, or anything else with that distinctive Nazi-propaganda tang.

Suppose we show Uncle Sam floundering in a body of water with a giant millstone labeled "Israel" chained round his neck. That's crude and unimaginative (there's a reason I'm not making a living as a political cartoonist), but it makes the point, and no one could possibly find it antisemitic.

In the cartoon we're talking about here, as I think I said in the comments to the earlier post, one obvious option would have been just to put horizontal strips of wood at top and bottom of the image, which would have harmed the composition not at all, but also made it into an obvious Israeli flag. Another would have been, as Ivan says above, to label the Star of David explicitly "Israel." There, not so difficult, is it?

I'm with EV; I think it's obvious that the cartoonist doesn't think Israel as such locked Uncle Sam in the pillory, and didn't represent that because he didn't intend to represent that.
8.18.2006 3:59pm
Anonymous777:
If most non-Jews (and proabably also many Jews) are asked to choose the main symbol of Judaism, they'd choose the menorrah. If asked the same question of Israel, the hexagram. Pretty straightforward, really. Leave it to the sensitive ninnies on Volokh Conspiracy to find anti-Semitism in every awkward and critical communication made by anybody related to the Jews or Israel. If Israel was not a theocracy that uses a religious symbol as its national symbol this confusion would not arise in the first place.

BTW, didn't Volokhers come out quite in favor of the cartoons mocking the Muslims' prophet? If a Muslim symbol can be mocked, why not a Jewish symbol?

Not that this cartoon mocks the Star of David. It mocks the United States for foolishly putting Zionism ahead of its own national interest, a political fact that practically everybody outside the United States recognizes. Many within it recognize it too, despite the risk of being labelled "anti-Semitic" by people like the Volokhers if one dares point it out.

Does the word "anti-Semitism" mean anything anymore, or is it just a gratuitous insult to be used liberally by Zionists against those opposed to Israel's oppressions and wars?
8.18.2006 4:05pm
Alan Gura:
If the Star of David means Israel, then I guess it is impossible to have any anti-semitism using that symbol.

What a relief.

I'm sorry, but anyone who defends this cartoon is either (1) an anti-semite or (2) an idiot.
8.18.2006 4:26pm
lucia (mail) (www):
Examining the cartoon, it does not appear Uncle Sam could have locked himself into the position. His arms are much too short to reach the lock.

The cartoon implies someone else locked him in that position.

The cartoonists may say this: "to depict his view that Uncle Sam is locked into a single position in that region."

But that seems a bit evasive. It seems to me that any decent cartoonist would be aware that nearly everyone looking at that picture would be prodded into asking:

Is the position desirable? Who locked him in the position? Can he get himself out? What is going to happen to Uncle Sam?

If the cartoonist didn't know people were going to ask this then he's not a very thoughtful cartoonist!
8.18.2006 4:28pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I think it blurs the line, although in the current context, you have to assume that it's primarily a criticism of Israel.

There's still the question of which line it blurs though. Could this be a criticism of Israel and Jewish conservatives, in the way that many might criticize the influence of Christian conservatives? In that sense, it could be akin to a depiction of a preacher beating someone with a bible, or a giant Christian cross being depicted in some malevolent way (that is, even if you take it as a criticism of Jews rather than of the state of Israel).

Very interesting, I just googled Christian right cartoons, and the third thing I found was this one, depicting a cross being used by the Christian as a puppeteer to control the FDA. Here's another with a cross depicted as the roadmap to peace... not sure I really get it, but probably something that would be more controversial as a Star of David. Here's another and another.

Of course, there's nothing racist about these various depictions, although you might call them anti-Christian, or especially anti-Christian-conservative. So if this cartoon is likewise criticising the political clout of Israel and Jewish conservatives, is that not comparable?

It's an unanswered question, I think: is religious and political conservatism only a facet that can be criticized in Christianity, or is there a parallel that can be legitimately criticized in Judasim? My guess is that you probably can, but you probably have to be very careful, and you probably basically can't use any symbolism (since the very idea of Jewish clout is considered an ethnic slur).
8.18.2006 4:33pm
Christopher M (mail):
As I wrote on Cross-Currents, a recent study observed that "anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed."

File this in the Department of Utterly Unsurprising and Virtually Useless Findings. There are too many issues here to get into, but just for starters: 1) correletion ≠ causation; 2) correlation doesn't even allow prediction without taking baseline rates into account; 3) the study you refer to only looked at European countries, not the United States.

I'd bet $500 that objection to (say) the policies of the Iranian government is statistically correlated with (or, as you put it, "predicts") being an anti-Arab racist -- how could it not be? That doesn't mean that all (or most) of us who criticize Iran are anti-Arab racists. And anyone who claimed such a thing would be engaging in a rather vile and prejudiced collective smear tactic.
8.18.2006 4:43pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Anonymous777,

If most non-Jews (and proabably also many Jews) are asked to choose the main symbol of Judaism, they'd choose the menorrah. If asked the same question of Israel, the hexagram. Pretty straightforward, really.

Right, because we all remember the yellow menorahs sewn onto Jews' clothing during . . . oh, never mind. The proportion of people who remember that is probably about the same as the proportion who brightly answer "the hexagram!" when they're asked to name a symbol of Israel.
8.18.2006 4:53pm
MDJD2B (mail):
To fisk this vile post:

If most non-Jews (and proabably also many Jews) are asked to choose the main symbol of Judaism, they'd choose the menorrah. [sic]

Do Jews who wear religious insignia wear menorah pendants? What world does this guy live in?

If asked the same question of Israel, the hexagram. Pretty straightforward, really.

Switzerland, Finland, the UK, and all the Scandinavian countries have crosses on thier flag. Is this their national symbol? Is there such a thing as a national symbol?

Leave it to the sensitive ninnies on Volokh Conspiracy to find anti-Semitism in every awkward and critical communication made by anybody related to the Jews or Israel.

I guess that Mr. Anonymous does not like Prof. Volokh.

If Israel was not a theocracy...

It is not. It is a secular state with about 1/4 of its members of the Knesset (Parliament) belonging to religious parties. Having a state official religion is not the same as being a theocracy, pace Japan, UK, Ireland, etc.

...that uses a religious symbol as its national symbol

Like the UK and Sweden


this confusion would not arise in the first place.
BTW, didn't Volokhers come out quite in favor of the cartoons mocking the Muslims' prophet?


They came out in favor of the right to publish these cartoons without threats or intimidation, and do not suggest that he Sacramento paper shoud not enjoy this right. Most of the cartoons did NOT mock Mohammed. The Islamic objections were to the pictoral representatation of Mohammed. Prof. Volokh criticizes the content of the content of the cartoon, and not the paper's right to print it.

If a Muslim symbol can be mocked, why not a Jewish symbol?

See above

Not that this cartoon mocks the Star of David. It mocks the United States for foolishly...

Your opinion, and the first legitimate opinion in this post

...putting Zionism ahead of its own national interest...


No— the cartoon neither mocks the hexagram or those it represents,nor does it mock the United states. It suggests that whatever that hexagram represents— either Israel (as you say), or Jews, or some soubset of Jews, have limited the power of the US to act in its interests.

...[A] political fact that practically everybody outside the United States recognizes.Many within it recognize it too, despite the risk of being labelled "anti-Semitic" by people like the Volokhers if one dares point it out.

If the point is (1) that some unnamed group of Jews have the United States in its thrall, (2) that this unnamed group is anyone other than the Israeli government— presumably American Jews or a subset thereof and that (3) they do not intent well for the US, then a reasonable person can draw reasonable conclusions about whehter this cartoon is anti-Jewish. If pro-Israel Jews, including the Israeli government held this kind of power, the US would never have signed on to a cease-fire just as Israel was gaining the upper hand militarily. So the cartoon is based on an exaggerated perception of the power of the Star-People represented in the cartoon.

Does the word "anti-Semitism" mean anything anymore, or is it just a gratuitous insult to be used liberally by Zionists against those opposed to Israel's oppressions and wars?

If they are not equally wrought up about, e.g., the US bombing of Serbia, or government actions that are far worse than the worst things Israel has been accused of (let alone done) like the Sudanese actions in Darfur, the Indonesian actions in East Timor, or the Rwanda mass murders, then they certainly are exercising a double standard in which Israel is judged by more stringent criteria.

And, while I'm on the subject, would you refer us to your equally emotional posts or writings in any forum on any of these actions, or on murder and harassment of Coptic Christians in Egypt, or on the mass forced exodus of Jews from Syria, Iraq and Iran, or about treatment of residual Jews in Syria?

And if such writings do not exist, what does this say about your motivations?
8.18.2006 5:01pm
MDJD2B (mail):
To fisk this vile post:

If most non-Jews (and proabably also many Jews) are asked to choose the main symbol of Judaism, they'd choose the menorrah. [sic]

Do Jews who wear religious insignia wear menorah pendants? What world does this guy live in?

If asked the same question of Israel, the hexagram. Pretty straightforward, really.

Switzerland, Finland, the UK, and all the Scandinavian countries have crosses on thier flag. Is this their national symbol? Is there such a thing as a national symbol?

Leave it to the sensitive ninnies on Volokh Conspiracy to find anti-Semitism in every awkward and critical communication made by anybody related to the Jews or Israel.

I guess that Mr. Anonymous does not like Prof. Volokh.

If Israel was not a theocracy...

It is not. It is a secular state with about 1/4 of its members of the Knesset (Parliament) belonging to religious parties. Having a state official religion is not the same as being a theocracy, pace Japan, UK, Ireland, etc.

...that uses a religious symbol as its national symbol

Like the UK and Sweden


this confusion would not arise in the first place.
BTW, didn't Volokhers come out quite in favor of the cartoons mocking the Muslims' prophet?


They came out in favor of the right to publish these cartoons without threats or intimidation, and do not suggest that he Sacramento paper shoud not enjoy this right. Most of the cartoons did NOT mock Mohammed. The Islamic objections were to the pictoral representatation of Mohammed. Prof. Volokh criticizes the content of the content of the cartoon, and not the paper's right to print it.

If a Muslim symbol can be mocked, why not a Jewish symbol?

See above

Not that this cartoon mocks the Star of David. It mocks the United States for foolishly...

Your opinion, and the first legitimate opinion in this post

...putting Zionism ahead of its own national interest...


No— the cartoon neither mocks the hexagram or those it represents,nor does it mock the United states. It suggests that whatever that hexagram represents— either Israel (as you say), or Jews, or some soubset of Jews, have limited the power of the US to act in its interests.

...[A] political fact that practically everybody outside the United States recognizes.Many within it recognize it too, despite the risk of being labelled "anti-Semitic" by people like the Volokhers if one dares point it out.

If the point is (1) that some unnamed group of Jews have the United States in its thrall, (2) that this unnamed group is anyone other than the Israeli government— presumably American Jews or a subset thereof and that (3) they do not intent well for the US, then a reasonable person can draw reasonable conclusions about whehter this cartoon is anti-Jewish. If pro-Israel Jews, including the Israeli government held this kind of power, the US would never have signed on to a cease-fire just as Israel was gaining the upper hand militarily. So the cartoon is based on an exaggerated perception of the power of the Star-People represented in the cartoon.

Does the word "anti-Semitism" mean anything anymore, or is it just a gratuitous insult to be used liberally by Zionists against those opposed to Israel's oppressions and wars?

If they are not equally wrought up about, e.g., the US bombing of Serbia, or government actions that are far worse than the worst things Israel has been accused of (let alone done) like the Sudanese actions in Darfur, the Indonesian actions in East Timor, or the Rwanda mass murders, then they certainly are exercising a double standard in which Israel is judged by more stringent criteria.

And, while I'm on the subject, would you refer us to your equally emotional posts or writings in any forum on any of these actions, or on murder and harassment of Coptic Christians in Egypt, or on the mass forced exodus of Jews from Syria, Iraq and Iran, or about treatment of residual Jews in Syria?

And if such writings do not exist, what does this say about your motivations?
8.18.2006 5:02pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Christopher M,

I'd bet $500 that objection to (say) the policies of the Iranian government is statistically correlated with (or, as you put it, "predicts") being an anti-Arab racist -- how could it not be?

Well, rather easily, given that Iranians aren't Arabs. If I did not think it impossible to judge "anti-Arab racism" in the sense that would be needed, I'd want my $500 now. As it is, I've never heard of anyone who hates Arabs as such.
8.18.2006 5:06pm
SenatorX (mail):
"As it is, I've never heard of anyone who hates Arabs as such."

Could I argue self loathing?

Anyway those kind of look like stirrups on uncle sams feet. And he has no balls either, kind of spread there waiting to be...

The hands are large and brutal looking too.

"Master lock" a reference to "Master Race" as in a reversal of the Nazi claim projected on Jews?

Seems to me to be a brutal anti-Semitic cartoon pushing the conspiracy theory that the USA is controlled by JEWS. "Locked in" so to speak and because of it miserable and waiting to be screwed.
8.18.2006 5:38pm
Jens Fiederer (mail) (www):
My reading, based as much on the "Master Lock" label as the Star of David: Uncle Sam's Jewish "master"s have locked him locked up in their star.

That doesn't mean it is the only interpretation, but it is the first that comes to mind. I generally give people the benefit of the doubt, but maybe in an organization that has editors somebody should have spotted the viler interpretation.

I don't think EV tries to spot anti-Semitism wherever it might be suspected. If that one is not anti-Semitism, it is at least numbingly careless to print something in such poor taste (as an editorial - I would not oppose, for example, showing some of the examples from the Iranian contest that are in bad taste as part of reporting on that contest).

Oh, and Michelle: if nobody hated Arabs as such, the term "sand-niggers" probably would not exist. Bigotry exists against almost anything you can imagine!
8.18.2006 5:48pm
Christopher M (mail):
Michelle,

If you've never heard of anyone disliking Arabs, I'd suggest you get out more. (Or glance at the picture in this article, with the graffiti: "ABARB PEOPLE SUCK" [where "ABARB" is clearly either a spelling mistake or wordplay on arab + barbarian].)

And the fact that most Iranians aren't Arabs is true but really beside the point. People who are generally prejudiced against Arabs are surely likely, as an empirical matter, to dislike the Islamic governments of the Middle East in general, including Iran. If you're hung up on the Iran point, though, substitute Syria and the point still holds.

Or just move closer to home. Surely you admit that there are at least some anti-black racists still out there in America. Now let's say someone does a poll showing that most of those people are Republicans. Can we now infer that when any Republican opposes affirmative action, it's probably motivated by racism? I'd say not.
8.18.2006 5:54pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Jens,

Oh, and Michelle: if nobody hated Arabs as such, the term "sand-niggers" probably would not exist. Bigotry exists against almost anything you can imagine!

Yes, you are right. You name it, someone somewhere hates it. But the sort of person who uses a term like "sand-n*gg*r" likely doesn't care whether s/he's talking about an Arab or a Persian or, for that matter, an Afghani or Pakistani. There are idiots who think anyone in a turban is a terrorist (I think a few American Sikhs were assaulted right after 9/11). There are people of like intelligence who think any Muslim is a terrorist. But I'd guess that the only people who assume all Arabs are terrorists are people dumb enough to assume that all Muslims are Arabs. Or, for that matter, that all Arabs are Muslims.
8.18.2006 6:07pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
>As it is, I've never heard of anyone who hates Arabs as such.<

I've heard more people say we should mass-murder Arabs than I have any other group.
8.18.2006 6:10pm
Caliban Darklock:
Let's step back and ask a rather disturbing question.

What's wrong with hating Jews?

I mean, certainly it's unfair to say that you hate Jews knowing nothing about them, but it's not like Jews are all different in the same way that blacks or hispanics are. Fundamentally, Jews have very similar beliefs and very similar behavior.

So why can't you hate Jews in the same exact way you might hate conservatives, or liberals, or Democrats, or Republicans? Or, indeed, the christian missionaries and moslem radicals that habitually interfere with other cultures - the former with bibles, the latter with bombs?

I frequently encounter people who hate me because I am Republican, or because I am a conservative, or because I work at Microsoft, or because I listen to Marilyn Manson. Why exactly is it unacceptable for someone to hate me because I am a Jew? It's a much bigger part of my life than any of the other reasons.
8.18.2006 6:12pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Christopher M,

What I said was that no one I've ever heard of dislikes Arabs as such. There isn't a racial prejudice against Arabs, at least not in the US, except to the extent that people associate "Arabs" with "people who want to blow us all up." There is a prejudice against people who would dance in the streets if they saw a lot of us burned alive, and a not-entirely-unreasonable assumption that many of those people are Arabs, simply because a lot of the people who unquestionably attacked us were Arabs.

In short, the "prejudice" is, as I said, not against Arabs as such; it's against people who other people think resemble their idea of a terrorist. Since their idea of a terrorist has a turban and a Middle Eastern name attached, that's what they run with. But they don't know an Arab from a Persian from a Sikh. They aren't racists; they're just silly.
8.18.2006 6:34pm
Wireframe:
When I first saw the cartoon, I instantly (and perhaps incorrectly) interpreted the star to symbolize Israel. Hadn't really considered it to mean anything else. If it's intended as I interpreted it, it's stupid, offensive, and factually irrelevant in the same sense that much lunatic leftist cartooning is. If Volokh's interpretation is correct... then damn, that's just spectacularly, inexcusably offensive.
8.18.2006 6:36pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Marcus1,

I've heard more people say we should mass-murder Arabs than I have any other group.

Hmmm. Which other groups have you heard it about, and where? I don't generally hang out in places where people debate which population most deserves to be exterminated entire. Obviously I should get out more often. Not.
8.18.2006 6:40pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Caliban,

I mean, certainly it's unfair to say that you hate Jews knowing nothing about them, but it's not like Jews are all different in the same way that blacks or hispanics are. Fundamentally, Jews have very similar beliefs and very similar behavior.

Um, no. At least, if you try to persuade an agnostic of Jewish ancestry and a Hasid in, say, Kiryas Joel that they believe and behave the same, someone will slug you. Probably both of them. And frankly, you'd deserve it.
8.18.2006 6:49pm
anomdebus:
I am not sure I understand the splatters next to the figure (spittle, fruit?)
Usually, the people who throw stuff at the 'detainee' are in league with the people who put them there, ie both agree that they deserve punishment.
So, if jews put the figure in that position, who is throwing stuff at him?
8.18.2006 7:33pm
Caliban Darklock:
> if you try to persuade an agnostic of Jewish
> ancestry and a Hasid in, say, Kiryas Joel that
> they believe and behave the same, someone will
> slug you

And if you grab two random Jews out of any synagogue, I'll bet you DON'T get an agnostic and a Hasid.

The existence of an extreme case does not disprove the general case. The very idea that we have Rambam's thirteen principles in the first place demonstrates that there are very strong similarities among Jews of all varieties.
8.18.2006 8:01pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
I wonder how the Master Lock people feel about it...

http://www.masterlock.com/
8.18.2006 9:01pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Michelle,

If you haven't heard people say we should just carpet bomb/nuke/etc. the middle east, I think you may indeed need to get out more.

Really though, you're saying you don't think there's such a thing as anti-arab sentiment? Or wait, then you distinguished it from other types of bigotry by suggesting that unlike other bigotries, anti-arab hatred is just dumb? You could be digging yourself into a hole...

I agree, though, that there's not nearly the similarity among Jews that Caliban suggests. I'd say hating almost any group is pretty stupid, but especially a group that really doesn't necessarily agree on anything (or isn't even really likely to). A person could say that they disagree with Judaism (most people probably do), but I think it's safe to say that you don't hate groups of millions of people unless you're nuts...
8.18.2006 9:15pm
Can't find a good name:
Caliban: I don't even know what point you are trying to make anymore. There are a variety of beliefs and behavior among American Jews and indeed Jews worldwide. Suggesting that two Jews who attend the same synagogue are not likely to be extremely disparate in their religious beliefs does not disprove that.

Remember the Jewish folk saying: "Two Jews, three opinions."
8.18.2006 10:01pm
Christopher M (mail):
Michelle,
The people who have the prejudice think of the disfavored group as Arabs. (And as also as Muslims; many of them probably don't make the distinction, and even more probably mentally blur it over.) If someone has negative feelings toward category X qua category X, you can't deny that by saying that category X is more complicated than they think, they don't know about certain exceptions, they also dislike other related groups, etc.
8.18.2006 10:25pm
MDJD2B (mail):
Fundamentally, Jews have very similar beliefs and very similar behavior.

Like Roy Cohn, Stephen Breyer, Felix Frankfurter and Joe Lieberman, I suppose.
8.18.2006 11:37pm
MDJD2B (mail):
The very idea that we have Rambam's thirteen principles in the first place demonstrates that there are very strong similarities among Jews of all varieties.

Yeah, and the fact that we have the Nicene Creed shows the similarity among all Christians. and the fact that we have the US Constitution shows the similarities among Americans.
8.18.2006 11:40pm
Christopher M (mail):
Caliban,

I think you're asking a very fair question. Religion is too often treated like ethnicity, as if it didn't inherently make truth-claims and affect attitudes and behavior and so on. But you're taking too black-and-white an approach, and kind of shooting yourself in the foot by doing so. It's just not true that "[f]undamentally, Jews have very similar beliefs and very similar behavior." There are Jewish people like Prof. Bernstein and Jewish people like Noam Chomsky and thousands (or more) of other variations on any number of spectra. And that's why, most of the time, it's basically illegitimate to stereotype people based on their religion. There are Christian assholes, Jewish assholes, and atheist assholes; liberals and conservatives of all religious stripes, and so on. In most situations we deal with in daily life, someone's religion just doesn't tend to have much of an effect on the factors that legitimately affect whether or not we "hate" them. (Prof. Volokh has posted on this empirical fact a number of times.)
8.19.2006 12:16am
Caliban Darklock:
The interesting thing here is that every criticism of my question centers around the idea that Jews are not fundamentally of similar beliefs and behavior.

So what, exactly, makes us distinct from anyone else? If Jews are not similar, why do we have our own name in the first place?

I had an interesting conversation the other day with another Jew in my office. We were observing that we're pretty much the only ones in the building, and I said "It's not unusual to me; I'm the only practicing Jew in my family."

He responded, "You practice?"

Again, if we do not share fundamental beliefs and traditions, WHAT ARE WE? An artifact of a once-proud people, hanging on to the tattered remains of a promise we no longer believe? Have we become nothing more than a loosely-bonded political interest group that persists only for the purpose of promoting Israel and complaining about anti-Semitism? What possible redeeming factor can a people have if they are no longer even a people?

It's simply absurd to claim that we share this rich tradition and heritage and legacy, and then turn around to claim that we're all just individuals with every bit as much differentiation as everyone else. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot stand up and proclaim your distinctive character, and then refuse to accept that someone else doesn't like it. You have to take the bitter with the sweet. If you refuse to accept that some people will hate you, you likewise refuse the opportunity for others to love you.

And the really sick part is, the people trying to *love* you will respect your refusal, while the people trying to hate you will just go right ahead and force it on you.
8.19.2006 1:40am
Christopher M (mail):
Caliban,

Do you listen to music? What kind? Do you work a job? What job? Do you enjoy talking about anything? Politics? Music? Sports? Art? Gossip about your friends and acquaintances? Do you drive a car? Does it ever break down? Do you worry about anything? Do you have children? Do things about them strike you as cute, annoying, impressive? Do you have a wife or significant other? Does that relationship have any issues? Do you have hobbies?

Those are some things that people talk about, and use to relate to other people. Some of them might be influenced by religion in certain cases, but very often they're not. I know Jewish boys who love hard-core rap, Christians who like really kinky sex, and atheists who worry about the moral environment their children are growing up in. Do you really think that your Jewish identity defines all those things? Or do you think they're illegitimate ways to relate to, or find common ground with, or even argue with (but not hate) other people?

Again, I think your fundamental question was a good one. Religion is an aspect of personality like anything else. Aspects of people's religion certainly affects how much I like them, relate to them, etc. But you seem to be taking an extremist view: because religion matters, it's always legitimate to hate people because of it. Sometimes it is! Sometimes it isn't. Is that so crazy?
8.19.2006 2:11am
douglas (mail):

"Again, if we do not share fundamental beliefs and traditions, WHAT ARE WE?"

Now that is an interesting question. How about: The most persecuted people in history. That'll bring you together, no matter your differences. Who knows, perhaps the only way to destroy Israel is to leave them in peace...
8.19.2006 4:21am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Well, Anonymous, it's easy to see why you're unwilling to give your name. Let's count your errors:

1. Israel is not a "theocracy."
2. Unlike the menorah, the Magen David is not a "religious symbol."
3. Israel doesn't use the Magen David as its "national symbol," whatever that means; it's one element of its flag.
4. It's hard to argue with a made up "fact" like your guess about the menorah, but that certainly hasn't been my experience, and a quick google certainly doesn't seem to support it. It would have been true a few hundred years ago, to be sure -- but this isn't a few hundred years ago.
5. The rioters were not objecting to the Danish cartoons because they felt that the cartoons "mocked" Mohammed; they were objecting to the Danish cartoons because the cartoons depicted Mohammed, and the rioters believed that their religion forbids this.
8.19.2006 6:54am
MDJD2B (mail):
Caliban,

Each Jew has one of a number of characteristics. These involve matters such as religion, diet, culture, birth, and experience. There is no commonly accepted algorithm to test for who is a Jew. There is a traditional religious test of having a Jewish mother, or having adopted Judaism and having undergone the appropriate ceremonies. (Nazis used the test of having a Jewish grandfather.) But Reform Jews do not accept matrilineal birth. furthermore, there is disagreement about which ceremonies are valid. Israeli Orthodox refuse to accept conversions of some American Orthodox rabbis-- there is some sort of political struggle going on there now.

So there is no way to define Jews.

As to your original point, it is reasonable to strongly dislike the beliefs of a certain religion. If is reasonable to dislike a group of people who determine their own mambership and who promote each others' welfate (Skull and Bones? Sigma Chi?) People who perceive Jews this way (or Koreans or Chinese or other religious or ethnic groups) may reasonably not like it, though most of this perception with regard to Jews is exaggereated. I have not seen any educational or workplace discrimination by Jews in favor of Jews in the last 25 years, except in Jewish institutions like Jewish day schools.

But-- hatred?
8.19.2006 9:41am
SenatorX (mail):
"Now that is an interesting question. How about: The most persecuted people in history. That'll bring you together, no matter your differences. Who knows, perhaps the only way to destroy Israel is to leave them in peace..."

It seems to me the irony of this is always missed on the ones persecuting. Very Nietzschian reversal of the cliché too. That which you persecute you make stronger or something. It certainly helps solidify group identity in the face of common danger. Since being "a Jew" is also an ethnic classification as well as a belief structure it seems a rather resilient meme.

From my perspective the Muslims tend to "cry persecution" where the Jews have a much clearer actual history of it. In either case it works to the same purpose in many ways. Though of course they would argue differently I can't help but feel that the Moslem cries of persecution are perhaps more of a mimicry or reflection of the more prevalent anti-Semitism. Maybe a direct projection for the most part even. Isn't anti-Semitism at core an admission of a kind of inferiority complex?(I'm not Jewish btw so I think I can at least make this statement with a straight face.)
8.19.2006 11:37am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I think you're free to try to talk about Jews as a group if you think there really is a common ground, but you'll have a pretty steep uphill battle to establish that there's actually some commonality that justifies hating (or loving) the whole group.

Of course, it can't even be about being pro-Israel or charging anti-semitism. I may be wrong, but I think it's a small subset of Jews who even focus a great deal on that.

One interesting thing: While Christians tend to make their Christianity a central issue in their political struggles, Jews don't seem to realy do this. If anything, the hard-right pro-Israel types seem to present it as an entirely secular political struggle, having nothing to do with being or not being Jewish. This may be why it's considered inappropriate for others to focus on the Jewish aspect, because it comes in the form of an accusation, "You're only arguing that because you're Jewish," which the pro-Israel types would deny and deem anti-semitic. This secular focus from the pro-Israel crowd makes it pretty hard, I think, to discern what the role of Judaism really is, or then to criticize it.

Which is why one ends up talking about the "pro-Israel crowd," I think, as opposed to a more politically effective moniker like the "Christian right" or "Christian conservatives," and which perhaps is part of which leaves a lot of people feeling like these issues are impossible to discuss.
8.19.2006 1:16pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Marcus1, Christopher M, Caliban Darklock,

There's a lot to respond to in there, and I'll try. But I'll try something else first.

Several people tell me that people hate Arabs as such, want to see as many Arabs dead as possible, &c. Remember the Saudi school fire, where schoolgirls who didn't come out in proper clothing were forced back in and died? Anyone remember anyone at all saying that the girls just got what "sand n-gg-rs" deserved? I mean, they were "Arabs," yes? Anyone who really wanted "Arabs" as such dead would have thrown a party when a bunch of them died at once.

Since they didn't, we need an alternative explanation, don't we? I suggest "people are hostile towards other people who would rejoice to see them incinerated alive." That would include many "Arabs," but not necessarily many Saudi schoolgirls. In other words, we are not talking about race or ethnicity here, and anyone saying otherwise is blowing smoke.
8.19.2006 4:19pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Michelle,

Well, acknowledging that you have a point, I'd suggest that hostility toward various groups takes various forms, and tends to be different in each case.

My pet theory is that when a group feels that it is being oppressed by the group it hates, or when the hatred is combined with a feeling of weakness and powerlesness, then its hatred tends to become a lot more vicious and grotesque. This is, I think, partially why so many in the Muslim world tend to rejoice at any Jewish or American death, regardless of the circumstances. It's the feeling of powerless that allows the bigotry/hatred to take that kind of form; they're simply unable to flex their muscles in a more dignified or noble manner.

Americans and Israelis, meanwhile, in our positions of power, don't have our own bigotries devolve to that point. Frankly, it's easy for us to show grace, because we don't have a complex. We flex our muscles however we choose, and in the end, we almost feel a bit sorry for those we end up flexing our muscles against.

It's hardly proof that no bigotry exists, though, simply because we don't rejoice at the death of children in the way you describe. I'd suggest that's an absolute extreme, which only happens in a sort of pressure chamber. Our bigotries simply take a different form, and is perhaps harder to detect, but equally manifested in ways such as our accepting the deaths of those we are bigoted against in ways that we wouldn't accept the deaths of our own people.
8.19.2006 8:08pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
(I see that I sort of blurred the line there between Israelis/Americans in general and the wacko bigots that we were originally talking about. That wasn't my intention; of course we're not all bigots. I suppose I am suggesting that the bigotry could have political effects, though, and possibly that there's a societal continuum from the wackos up to everybody else.)
8.19.2006 8:15pm
Christopher M (mail):
Michelle,

Not all prejudice (or even hate) takes the form of wanting all members of a group to die, die, die. Surely you wouldn't contend that no one in, say, the Jim Crow South was a racist unless they actively cheered for every black man, woman, and child to be burned alive. That's setting the standard for racism pretty damned high.
8.20.2006 1:54am
Yaakov Menken (mail) (www):
Caliban,

As a Rabbi, and an Orthodox one at that, I probably have a longer response to your question than is appropriate here. And indeed this topic might be more germane to the blog in which I participate (Cross-Currents) rather than this one, and our readership likes questions like yours.

So I took the liberty of posting your most recent, poignant question, and hope that we'll get some good comments there.

More thoughts of my own later...
8.20.2006 1:29pm
Paul Leslie:
I think Uncle Sam represents the U.S.A. and not just the current govt. in power. Thus the "who" that locked him into the isreali star would be the neocons and the Israel firsters.
8.20.2006 7:28pm
tzvee (mail) (www):
nope, not anti-Semitism, the SNR is entitled to run whatever cartoons it wants. in turn its advertisers and readers will have to decide whether they take offense. at worst this cartoon implies a jewish conspiracy is guiding american policy - something that iran is saying right now. seems foolish, but it is a free speech issue. if true i as jew would be overjoyed. i wish we had that kind of power. and if we did i'd be the first to broadcast it to the enemies of israel. alas it is bunk to make such a claim. so the SNR is just being provocative - i see no harm in trying to sell papers - jews is news as they say.
8.20.2006 10:35pm
AntiOppression (mail) (www):
Notice how the meaning of symbols (like the Star of David) and words (like "Jew") is morphed by the obsessive ethnocentrists and other Zionists on this blog, depending on how it suits their technique of smear rather than debate. If you make a an anti-Israel or anti-Zionist cartoon by using the main symbol of Israel, it must really be an anti-Jewish cartoon. Furthermore, the Judaism referred to must be the ethnicity, not just the religion, therefore the cartoon is anti-Semitic.

You think you're criticizing Israel for its ethnic cleansing in Palestine and destruction of Lebanon. You think you're criticizing the United States for supporting this activity. But actually you're just one step away from rounding up the Jews and putting them in ovens all over again. A good Zionist debater can easily prove this, using symbol and word morphing.

In the Zionist mind (even, weirdly, in the minds of Christian Zionists), pointing out or mocking Christian influence on politics using our holy symbol, the cross, is fine. If you mock the cross, it doesn't at all imply that you're about to feed Christians to the lions. But the negative portrayal of Jewish symbols is heresy. Mocking blonde people, or people in turbans, or evangelical preachers, or Catholic priests, or a wide variety of other crude media stereotypes is fine. Saying that we should just nuke all those Arabs is fine. But not only may you not portray a Jew as having a hooked nose (even though many do), you dare not use the national symbol of Israel in any way that might possibly be misinterpreted. If you do, you must be a "vile" or "disturbing", which I guess is meant to suggest that you sympathize with Nazis.

Mocking French nationality and ethnicity is fine, patriotic even. Not merely mocking, but preferentially searching and arresting Arabs is fine. It is only when Judaism is perceived to be mocked (after ignoring the probability that the cartoon refers to Israel) that the cartoon is "disturbing" and "vile", according to the Zionist smear technique.

Criticize Israel in an ambigious way one minute -- which can't be avoided because the Star of David refers to a nation, to a religion, or to an ethnicity, depending on whichever meaning is convenient to the smearer, the word "Israeli" refers primarily to Jews, and the word "Jew" can mean a religion or ethnicity -- allow your debating opponent to confuse any of these meanings, and the next minute it will be demonsrtated that you're one of those people who would secretly like to emulate Hitler.

If you point out similarities within the Jewish religion, you get a retort about Jewish agnostics. The meaning of "Jew" magically morphs from a religion to an ethnicity, and back again, depending on how well it suits the argument. The Israeli national symbol can have three different meanings, and if you use it negatively you can be sure what the Zionist will claim your intended meaning is and what that means about you. Zionists are full of convenient non-sequitors that tend to end by proving that you are a "vile" and "disturbing" anti-Semite, ready to help stoke the ovens with a new generation of Jews if you do not agree with them.

It's a technique of argument that's far too devastating for me try continually to rebut, so I give up. I'm anti-Israel, therefore I'm an anti-Semite. I'm proud to speak out against ethnic cleansing and massive destruction of the property of people who are already quite poor. I'm proud to be in favor of life, liberty, and property. Therefore, I'm proud to be an anti-Semite. Are you happy now?
8.22.2006 4:54am
another twist (mail) (www):
Actually, the Star of David has at least four possible meanings. Besides Israel, the Jewish religion, or Jewish ethnicity, it might also refer to Zionism or a pro-Israeli position generally. Plenty of opportunity for those with a persecution complex to read in the meaning that most disturbs them.
8.22.2006 6:34am
Yankev (mail):
Anti-Oppression, you claim to be against ethnic cleansing. Leaving aside that Arabs, Muslims, Christians et al are free to live anywhere within the State of Israel, that most of the settlements are built on land that was purchased from the legal who owners, and that claims of ethnic cleansing have more basis in Arab propaganda than fact, can I presume that you are also against:
1. The forcible uprooting and expulsion of some 700,000 Jews from millenia-old Jewish communities in Iraq, Morroco, Jordan, and other Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East in 1948, all of who were resettled at great cost by the then nascent State of Israel?

2. Laws across the middle east that prohibit Jews from owning property, make it a capital crime to sell property to a Jew, and legally bar Jews from various professions, immigration, emigration and other legal rights?

3. Laws in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere that make it illegal for a Jew to live or even visit the country?

4. Israel's forced uprooting of people who had bought property in Gaza, developed it into farms and business employing thousands of Jews and Arabs -- all because the people to be so uprooted were Jews?

5. The PA's insistence -- acquiesced in by the Clinton administration, the UN and may others -- that the future Palestinian state they claim to want must have no Jews living there?

You argue that you should be able to criticise Israel and Jews in the same manner as any other country, religion or ethnic group, yet why do I sense you apply different standards to Israel than to other nations?
8.22.2006 2:23pm