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Pat Oliphant cartoon viewed as Anti-Semitic

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A recent cartoon by Pat Oliphant depicting a goose-stepping soldier pushing the Star of David (that looks like a snake head) toward a woman and child (labeled “Gaza”) is being condemned by the Anti-Defamation League which has called the cartoon “hideously anti-Semitic.”

From The Jerusalem Post:

“Pat Oliphant’s outlandish and offensive use of the Star of David in combination with Nazi-like imagery is hideously anti-Semitic,” said Abe Foxman, ADL national director. “It employs Nazi imagery by portraying Israel as a jack-booted, goose-stepping headless apparition. The implication is of an Israeli policy without a head or a heart.”

Daled Amos has a 10-point critique of the cartoon.

Community Comments

#1 Dave Stephens
March/27/2009
@ 12:08 pm

He dared to make a cartoon using a religious icon – WOW.

Now, if he had something positive to say with it, I wonder if anybody would say anything, hmm?

#2 Joe G Kushner
March/27/2009
@ 2:20 pm

If the goose stepping, murdering habits fit, mock them. If Israeli doesn’t want to be seen as well, crazy, then stop acting, well, crazy.

#3 Wiley Miller
March/27/2009
@ 2:22 pm

It is NOT a religious icon in this instance. It’s the symbol of the nation of Israel, as used on their flag. It’s simply a commentary on Israeli policy, and the reality is, those who are trying to call it “anti-semitic” fully understand what the point of the cartoon is, just that they have nothing to refute it. So they pull out this tactic in order to divert attention from the actual issue and make themselves out to be a victim of a phony issue.

#4 Rick Stromoski
March/27/2009
@ 2:27 pm

Isn’t Oliphant also heavily referencing the Robert Minor “perfect Soldier” cartoon from WW1?

#5 Mike Lester
March/27/2009
@ 3:05 pm

“heavily referencing”

is being kind.

#6 Darrin Bell
March/27/2009
@ 3:39 pm

“He dared to make a cartoon using a religious icon – WOW.”

If people don’t want religious icons used in cartoons, they shouldn’t include them in their flags. As a Jew, I’m not offended by a cartoonist who’s obviously using the Israeli flag to comment on Israeli foreign policy. What annoys me is how some Americans can’t (or won’t) tell the difference between the STATE of Israel and Judaism. It’s not Oliphant’s fault the state of Israel chose to appropriate the Star of David.

#7 john Bergstrom
March/27/2009
@ 3:52 pm

isn’t the washington post one of those papers that didn’t have the stone to publish the mohammed cartoons?

#8 Wiley Miller
March/27/2009
@ 3:53 pm

“Isnâ??t Oliphant also heavily referencing the Robert Minor â??perfect Soldierâ? cartoon from WW1?”

Robert Minor’s iconic image has become the visual symbol representing mindless, brutal warfare for editorial cartoonists in same vein as Thomas Nast’s image of the donkey representing the Democratic Party and the elephant representing the Republican Party. I’ve seen it used many times in such a fashion as we see here.

#9 Darrin Bell
March/27/2009
@ 4:07 pm

“isnâ??t the washington post one of those papers that didnâ??t have the stone to publish the mohammed cartoons?”

Again with the conflation of Judaism and Israel. Comparing it to the Mohammed cartoons is comparing apples to oranges. Oliphant’s cartoon doesn’t have anything to do with religion, it’s a critique of a STATE’s foreign policy.

#10 Ethan MacWilliams
March/27/2009
@ 4:07 pm

Wow… freedom of speech sucks doesn’t it? I’m Jewish and I don’t give a crap.

#11 P.S. Mueller
March/27/2009
@ 4:44 pm

It’s seems to me that the man was doing his job–well.

#12 Dan Collins
March/27/2009
@ 10:10 pm

This has to be one of the most unusual Oliphant cartoons ever. The composition is uncharacteristically two dimensional as well.

#13 Garey Mckee
March/27/2009
@ 11:23 pm

I’d say the cartoon depicts the current accusations against the Israeli army very well.

#14 Wiley Miller
March/28/2009
@ 7:54 am

“Wowâ?¦ freedom of speech sucks doesnâ??t it? Iâ??m Jewish and I donâ??t give a crap.”

The point, Ethan, is that it has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.

#15 Chris Hardiman
March/28/2009
@ 8:28 am

Agreed. This is absolutely preposterous; this cartoon obviously is criticizing Israeli policy and has nothing to do with Judaism beyond the fact that Israel is a Jewish state and uses a Jewish symbol on its flag.

#16 alexander matthews
March/28/2009
@ 2:52 pm

I think everyone here is missing the point entirely. Yes, Israel uses the Star of David on it’s flag, but have you noticed the shark-like features on the symbol? It can surely be construed as saying that Judaism is evil. Why not simply have an Israeli flag with shark teeth? I think he missed his mark quite badly here.

#17 Ted Rall
March/28/2009
@ 4:10 pm

It’s subtle, but the two horizontal lines of shading–taken in conjunction with the Star of David–resemble the Israeli flag.

To me that indicates Oliphant’s intention to criticize the State of Israel rather than Jews in the abstract.

#18 Lynne Matzke
March/28/2009
@ 7:32 pm

I sincerely hope that was sarcasm, Alexander, because if it’s not, it’s a blatant display of purposeful ignorance in the name of an imaginary fight against prejudice that simply isn’t anywhere to be found in the cartoon. Please see Wiley Miller’s comment in post number three. He stated it better than I ever could.

Aside from that, I am sincerely sick of the ‘prejudice’ card getting used as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It’s not. And even if the country of Israel = All of Judaism in this case, which it doesn’t, historical abuse does not ever, in any way, shape or form, excuse the abused from doing the same blessed thing to anyone else. If the shoe bloody well fits, then WEAR IT.

#19 Phil Wohlrab
March/28/2009
@ 10:40 pm

He forgot to include the Jihadists firing their RPG’s from behind the Woman and child.

#20 Jim Lavery
March/28/2009
@ 11:03 pm

But in the same vein, if drawing monkeys, even in indirect criticism of Obama or anyone black is a no-no, isn’t having goosestepping militant Israeli’s also asking for trouble? Or is some trouble more acceptable than trouble?

#21 Jim Lavery
March/28/2009
@ 11:03 pm

oops, more acceptable than OTHER trouble.

#22 Darrin Bell
March/28/2009
@ 11:52 pm

“But in the same vein, if drawing monkeys, even in indirect criticism of Obama or anyone black is a no-no, isnâ??t having goosestepping militant Israeliâ??s also asking for trouble?”

Apples and oranges AGAIN. Black people-as-monkeys is a well known stereotype. Goosestepping militants-as-Jews is not. Although if the ADL keeps pretending criticism of Israel equals criticism of Judaism, they’re liable to make it so.

#23 Mike Peterson
March/29/2009
@ 4:14 am

I called the monkey cartoon an incompetent but inadvertent case of racial insensitivity that required an apology for the poor choice of images. Using a monkey intentionally, of course, would have been outright racism.

This is neither. With the specific label of Gaza on the victimized people in the panel, there is no doubt that the star of David is representing Israel and not all Jews.

Any Jews that have a problem with this cartoon need to complain to Israel for co-opting a religious symbol for their flag, not to the cartoonist for using the only available symbol of that nation.

#24 Jim Lavery
March/29/2009
@ 5:51 am

The state of Israel didn’t choose the Star of David as a symbol for their flag because they liked the design. Likewise, Hitler didn’t have the Star put on the armbands of Jewish captives because he couldn’t think of any other symbol to immediately identify them. The Star of David means “Jewish”. The nation of Israel is known as the “Jewish State.” “Jewish” denotes a religion, a particular people and a national state. Some Jews identify with all three aspects, some with only two, some with one (and I wouldn’t be suprised if some identified with niether). The Star symbolizes all of those, whether together or separately.

Israel was founded because of what happened with Hitler–Jews wanted their own state as a haven so what happened in Europe in WWII (and for centuries beforehand) would never “happen again”. The symbol of their armband in captivity and slaughter (for both “religious” Jews and ethnic Jews)became the symbol for their state. I’m sure the cartoon is using the star as the national image, but the image of the star includes every aspect of Jewish identity and history.

The Muslims/Arabs who want to wipe them off the face of the earth (like the Nazis) know this too. They know them as Jews plain and simple. I’m sure Oliphant’s cartoon is going to make a nice poster somewhere in Gaza (and Tehran probably)just as Delonas’ toon will no doubt make it onto KKK recruiting brochures.

#25 Bearman
March/29/2009
@ 6:55 am

What’s with the unicycle?

As the debate goes on about whether this is an anti-israel or anti-jewish cartoon, there is one similarity to the “monkey cartoon”.

Both artists could have looked at the work and asked themselves if somehow their cartoon could be easily interpreted to have a meaning they didn’t intend. If so, adjustments might need to be made prior to publishing.

#26 Ted Rall
March/29/2009
@ 11:30 am

He forgot to include the Jihadists firing their RPGâ??s from behind the Woman and child.

Criticize jihadis if you want, but this oft-stated canard is a silly complaint.

All indigenous resistance groups (or, if you’re in the government or occupying army that opposes them, “terrorist groups”) live among the local population. Like the guerilla fighters of the American Revolution, Gaza-based jihadis are fighting at a disadvantage against a better-equipped professional army. They live and move among the indigenous population. Hamas militants hold jobs during the day and fight at night.

In short, they’re not “hiding” among the locals or using them as shields. They are the locals. As Ché Guevarra wrote in his classic book “Guerilla Warfare,” they would be turned into the authorities if they didn’t enjoy popular support.

That said, you may feel free to criticize jihadis’ ideology or bombings of civilians as much as you like.

#27 Mike Peterson
March/29/2009
@ 1:37 pm

“The Star of David means â??Jewishâ?. The nation of Israel is known as the â??Jewish State.â? â??Jewishâ? denotes a religion, a particular people and a national state. Some Jews identify with all three aspects, some with only two, some with one (and I wouldnâ??t be suprised if some identified with niether). The Star symbolizes all of those, whether together or separately.”

Okay. What’s the symbol with which a cartoonist can criticize Israel’s policy without criticizing the Jewish religion? Or is it your position that, given that “The nation of Israel is known as the Jewish State,” there can be no criticism of the nation that isn’t also criticism of Judaism?

I know Jews — Israelis — who are very critical of the Israeli expansionists and of Israel’s policy towards Palestinian Arabs. And they sometimes get accused of being “self-loathing” for their criticism. Is that how it ought to shake down?

Serious question: What’s the answer? Help the cartoonists here. Is there a way to use symbols to criticize Israel’s policies?

#28 Garey Mckee
March/29/2009
@ 2:56 pm

“Whatâ??s with the unicycle?”

That’s it. As a unicycle riding juggling clown, I am offended at this cartoon. It is obviously a direct attack against juggling clowns. First I’m going to look past the REAL meaning of the cartoon and write a nasty letter to all the editors of all the papers that published the cartoon. Then I’m calling the ACLU (Association of Clowns Loving Unicycles) and use their mighty influence to try to put a stop to this senseless hatred of unicycle riders once and for all!

#29 Jim Lavery
March/29/2009
@ 3:20 pm

Don’t even get into the unicycle angle.

#30 Jim Lavery
March/29/2009
@ 4:30 pm

My answer to Mike might not be THE answer that you might get from a Jew, whether religious or not or Israeli or not. To ME, anyway, I don’t have a problem with the Star of David. Like you said you have to use some symbol to criticize the Israeli govt. To me it’s not so much offensive to Judaism, the religion, but to the Jewish people, whether religious or secular–their background, their history, their struggle. The real crux of the offensiveness(should I say “crux” in a discussion of Judaism?),to ME,is the goosestepping jackbooted automoton. It’s the association of THAT with JEWS that’s the real problem. Being that it’s a complete visual, pictures are doing the talking, and it’s saying “The Jewish State is going all Nazi”.

In other words, like the monkey cartoon, where even if you have a legitimate criticism you’d like to express,you better not put any kind of simian in close relational proximity to a black man and you should also not put Jews in a Nazi context as the visuals–which have been used by the haters of both these groups–may wind up saying something you didn’t intend (look up cartoons done by Israel’s sworn enemies and you won’t see hardly any difference in Oliphant’s).

#31 alexander matthews
March/29/2009
@ 5:00 pm

Lynne, I’m sure that there is no anti-semitic intent behind this cartoon, but anyone who thinks it can’t be interpreted that way is living in a dream world.

#32 Wiley Miller
March/29/2009
@ 5:24 pm

“…but anyone who thinks it canâ??t be interpreted that way is living in a dream world.”

Any cartoon can, and is, misinterpreted by unintelligent people. So what? It is up to them, however, to smarten up, not for the cartoonist to dumb-down and insult the intelligence of the majority of the readers. Just because an idiot screams that they’re offended doesn’t mean they’re right.

#33 Garey Mckee
March/29/2009
@ 11:39 pm

“It is up to them, however, to smarten up, not for the cartoonist to dumb-down…”

A-freakin-men!!

#34 alexander matthews
March/30/2009
@ 3:52 am

Well, I think he’s played into the hands of those who want to scream anti-semitism at any criticism if Israel by not being smart enough.

#35 alexander matthews
March/30/2009
@ 3:52 am

of Israel that should have been.

#36 Wiley Miller
March/30/2009
@ 6:02 am

“Well, I think heâ??s played into the hands of those who want to scream anti-semitism at any criticism if Israel by not being smart enough.”

No, actually, you have. He’s ignored their idiotic ranting while you’ve given them credence. No matter how loud they scream, we need to stop listening to stupid people. Haven’t we learned anything from the past 8 years?

#37 Jim Lavery
March/30/2009
@ 7:32 am

“It is up to them, however, to smarten up, not for the cartoonist to dumb-down and insult the intelligence of the majority of the readers.”

Of course that’s exactly Sean Delonas’ rationale as well, “It’s up to people to be smart enough to know that Obama did not actually write the stimulus bill that this gunned-down monkey is accused of doing, therefore the monkey could not logically be Obama. So anyone screaming ‘RACISM!’ is an unintelligent idiot who I therefore will ignore.”

Self-righteousness exists in both wings, but like I said originally, one form is acceptable while the other isn’t.

#38 Wiley Miller
March/30/2009
@ 8:17 am

Yes, ironically, political correctness is, and always has been, an equal opportunity offender. Those on both ends use it with the least provocation.

#39 Terry LaBan
March/30/2009
@ 9:24 am

Is the cartoon anti-Semitic? I don’t think so–Oliphant clearly means to criticize the state of Israel, not the Jewish people generally.
Is it clumsy, simplistic and unworthy of the talent that created it? Yes, it is. Israel isn’t fighting mommies with baby carriages in Gaza. They’re fighting a hardened terorrist organization which openly calls for Israel’s destruction, violently expelled it’s own political opposition and has long pursued a policy of using the lives of it’s own people as a weapon of war. To deny that Israel faces a serious and ongoing threat in Hamas is just willful blindness. And what other reason could there be for randomly bombing Israeli cities except to provoke a harsh response which can then be used for political gain?
Does this cartoon liken Israelis to Nazis? Yes, it does. Israeli soldiers don’t wear jackboots. The reason Oliphant uses them is that they’re a universally recognized shorthand for fascist oppression. You may or may not think the analogy is fair, but it’s clearly made.
It’s always sad to see a once-brilliant cartoonist propogate this sort of crap. The Oliphant of 20 years ago would’ve been ashamed. It’s also sad to see how many people take statements like this at face value. But at this point, it’s not very surprising.
In any case, can we please stop saying that Israel was established as some sort of compensation for the Holocaust? That’s just nonsense. In fact, the UN approved the Partition of Palestine in 1948 between Arabs and Jews–exactly the 2 state solution people say they so want today. The Arabs tried to ethnically cleanse the Jews, the Jews fought back and the Israel we know today was born. It wasn’t given by anybody–it was won by force of arms, by people who were greatly outnumbered and largely unassisted by the world at large.
Darrin Bell’s Jewish? Who knew? Have a good Pesach, Darrin!

#40 Steve Greenberg
March/30/2009
@ 11:02 am

I’ve written my take on the matter on my blog, at
http://blog.cagle.com/greenberg/

Basically, no, it’s not anti-Semitic, but it is strongly anti-Israel, and no, it’s not an attack on the Jewish faith but a commentary clearly aimed at the state of Israel… many times, cartoonists confuse the use of the Jewish star (representing the religion) with the star and blue stripes of the Israeli flag, and often use the wrong symbol. in this case, though, the context is clear enough.

At the same time, Jews have reasons to be disturbed by the imagery, based on the vicious stereotypes they’ve historically faced in cartoons (and which are widespread in today’s Arab media) and the specific goose-stepping pose Oliphant used.

#41 Robert Stone
March/30/2009
@ 12:07 pm

Gee, another Jew hater in the left wing media, what a surprise….NOT.

But the cowards at the Washington Post and other left wing media don’t dare run cartoons that might “offend” Islam.

Any double standards exposed? It’s a joke.

#42 Wiley Miller
March/30/2009
@ 1:32 pm

“Gee, another Jew hater in the left wing media, what a surpriseâ?¦.NOT.”

Thanks for illustrating my point.

#43 Darrin Bell
March/31/2009
@ 9:28 am

“â??It is up to them, however, to smarten up, not for the cartoonist to dumb-down and insult the intelligence of the majority of the readers.â?

Of course thatâ??s exactly Sean Delonasâ?? rationale as well, ”

These comparisons fail for one reason: Sean says he didn’t mean to make the connection between Obama and a monkey. Oliphant seems to have meant to say Israel’s acting like jack-booted Nazis. The monkey thing was BESIDE the point for Delonas, the Nazi thing WAS the point for Oliphant.

#44 Jim Lavery
March/31/2009
@ 11:54 am

I don’t think the intentions matter as much as the result. In fact, if the intention WAS there for the one I would think it was a worse offense–even more so in that there are those who think the unintentional one was bigoted, intolerant and racist anyway and that editor and toonist fired, but they’re OK with the apparently intentional one.

#45 Garey Mckee
March/31/2009
@ 4:49 pm

I don’t think Wiley was making a comparison, I think he was stating a fact.

#46 Wiley Miller
March/31/2009
@ 5:06 pm

Darrin was referring to Mr. Stone’s post, Garey, not mine.

#47 Garey Mckee
March/31/2009
@ 5:30 pm

OOOps. My apologies to both Darrin and Wiley. I’m very easily confused.

#48 Steve Casper
April/1/2009
@ 12:24 am

I understand the idea of cartoons as entertainment. I also understand that generally speaking in an editorial cartoon the subject may get lambasted by said cartoonist. Are the Israelis so sacred that they cannot be the subject of a cartoon such as this?
There are simply too many people that confuse such simple issues. Just because you disagree with the political policy of Israel does not make you an anti-Semite. This is total nonsense.
I can understand that this might have offended certain people but
there again that’s kind of the point of any editorial cartoon it just depends on who the target is on any given day. I personally applaud Oliphant and the paper for having the courage to run this especially since most liberal papers would gasp at such a notion.
Lastly, many Americans are waking up to the fact that the Palestinians aren’t necessarily the bad guys all the time and are beginning to see the situation for what it is. Just because we don’t agree with Israel it doesn’t mean we are “Jew haters” as someone said earlier. Bravo Oliphant! Bravo 1st amendment.

#49 Lizze Moss
October/17/2010
@ 12:48 pm

I, as a Jew take this very offensively, How dare someone compare us to those who killed our families and destroyed us. When Ted Rall talked about the lines representing the Isreali flag, I looked back and it does look like that. I am only 13 years old, but still I want people to know that this is so not appropriate, and you would not like it if someone was bashing on your religion.

#50 Asher Garber
March/24/2012
@ 6:58 am

Maybe Pat Oliphant is just a frigging moron. I’m guessing he has no interest in the actual situation on the ground in the Middle East. That thousands of missiles launched into Israel deserves no response. Because, you know, they don’t kill thousands of people. Just less than 10. And all of them were Jews. Shit, 6 million Jews died during WWII, and the New York Times barely mentioned it at the time. Is the New York Times anti-Semitic?

Stay classy, Pat Oliphant.

Jewish blood = Cheap Cheap Cheap

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