Saturday, November 22, 2008

Meeting with Emory's "Infamous" Cartoonist: A Learning Experience

Yesterday afternoon I met with Dylan Woodliff, the young man who drew the cartoon in the Emory Wheel comparing the wall/fence between the West Bank and pre-1967 Israel to the ghettos under the Nazis. For background on this see here.

After hearing from some of his teachers and his fellow students that he was a "good guy" who got into something way over his head. I had emailed him offering to meet him. He readily agreed.

My motivation for doing so was twofold. I felt, based on what I had been told and on his "explanation" which accompanied the cartoon, that he had gotten in way over his head. Maybe there was room to do what it is our job to do, educate. I wanted him to understand why what he did was so wrong.

Secondly, he had been subjected to a barrage of criticism, well deserved criticism but criticism nonetheless. Rarely does a single student do something that gets 46 professors to unequivocally condemn his actions. I was concerned about him. It's pretty heavy stuff for one person -- particularly a student -- to face. I wanted him to know that though I felt strongly about what he did but felt empathy for him as a person.

I found a contrite student who was worried that people thought he was an antisemite and that he had ruined his future. [In the age of Google these things don't go away.] I found a student who tried to make a point about the politics of the Middle East and did so in a thoughtless and ill informed fashion.

We did not talk that much about the cartoon itself because by this time he knew full well that he had really messed up and that he should never have made the analogy. In fact I told him about how, in the past, I had tried, on occasion, to make a point about something and, in the course of so doing, said something stupid, angry, or extreme. My point was lost because all anyone could focus on was the extreme way in which I had expressed myself.

I assured him that I had no doubt that he was not an antisemite. In fact, if I had thought otherwise I probably would not have bothered to meet him.

The previous evening I had also met with Sal Rizzo,the editor of the Wheel. I think he too realizes that he and his editorial board failed in their job of ensuring responsible journalism. I am not talking about censorship. Obviously they have the freedom to screw up... as they did royally. I talked about judgment.

Both students realized that by using this false and hurtful analogy they had ultimately shot themselves in the foot. No one had discussed Middle East policy. All people had discussed was the thoughtless analogy.

These two meetings reminded me that we do a lot of our educating in the classroom but sometimes we do our most important educating outside of it. I think they learned something... and so did I.

13 comments:

Tamar Orvell said...

This is how to educate: Leading out... not hiding in an ivory tower denigrating students and publishing scholarly works. I am so proud of you, the faculty, Dylan, and Sal for doing the hard work of discussing the "Infamous" cartoon, not circling the wagons and firing off emails — accomplishing nothing but increased distance, ignorance, and arrogance.

Scoring points is appropriate on the court, not in real life, and never in an educational setting.

Bravo to all players. I'm almost happy this publishing nightmare happened. And, if a scholarly work, term paper, cartoon, film, or You Tube video come of it — on how to manage a campus crisis: turning it into a dream lesson, that would suit me fine.

dan said...

I just saw the cartoon here on your blog. And to be honest, I didn't feel it was anti-semitic or offensive. I didn't LIKE it, but I think the young student was expressing a common feeling among Americans about Israel. Okay, he didn't get the entire story, but I really didn't feel the cartoon was anti-semitic at all. And I am Jewish, deeply Jewish. So what does this mean? That I cannot see antisemitism when it appears? Or that people see things in different ways? I wonder if there are any other Jewish readers who also felt like me, that the cartoon was NOT antisemitic. Just a bit sophomoric.

Danny

Rebecca said...

It's not offensive to compare Israel to Nazi Germany? The conditions in Gaza are horrible, and Israel has a large role in making them horrible - but Israel is not trying to exterminate the Palestinians of Gaza, as the Nazis were trying to do in the Warsaw Ghetto.

dan said...

Rebecca, good question to me.

re: "It's not offensive to compare Israel to Nazi Germany? The conditions in Gaza are horrible, and Israel has a large role in making them horrible - but Israel is not trying to exterminate the Palestinians of Gaza, as the Nazis were trying to do in the Warsaw Ghetto."

Good point, and you are right. But when i saw the cartoon I did not equate the drawing of the modern Israel part with the Israeli's being Nazis. Yes, the other side of the cartoon is definitely Nazi land. Sad. Tragic. Yes. But the Israel side of the cartoon, I didn't perceive it as antisemitic or comparing Israel to the Nazis. I just saw a sophomoric college cartoon, the kid doesn't really get it, but that is what he sees Israel as, and not just him. Many non-Jews see Israel that way. Israel has a PR problem of enormous proportions. The kid pointed this out. Just my two cents. I didn't like the cartoon, but sometimes reality stares us in the face and we don't like it. But I wouldn't reall ANTISEMITIC here. I would just quietly say, as I did above, sophomoric cartoon, but something we must face up to, and yes, as Prof L says, education is key. For all of us.

November 23, 2008 11:07 PM

hockey hound said...

Hey, Dan,
I'm a Noachide. I see the cartoon as a manifestation of the pr storm Islam is sending to the world. And, if we know anything about the Holocaust, we know that anti-Jewish hatred, specifically the kind disseminated by those of Islam who hate Jews simply because they're Jewish (that would include you and Rebecca both, Dan) is not difficult to find. Sophomoric the student may be, but let's remember that "what a child learns in his youth..."

I believe the intention, as opposed to what may appear [in the drawing] as extenuative, was anti-Jewish. Perhaps this is what Prof. Lipstadt was concerned about.

dan said...

Hockey Hound,

Good points. But I still feel the kid was just doing the PC thing, his cartoon shows how many young Americans feel about the Israel-Palestine issue......they are NOt antisemites and they are not anti-Jewish, but they probably feel that Israel is acting in an imperialistic, oppressor manner to the Palestianians, and that is how many Americans perceive the issue. It is not Islamic PR, it is the way Israel has treated the entire issue for 50 years......By the way, I am not Israeli, are you? Are any of those signatories to the protest letter? My country is America. Israel is a foreign country. I love the people there, but I also, as a Jew, do not like what the country has done for the image and reputation of Jews around the world since 1949.....I believe the entire thing was a mistake, putting the refugees from Europe there.......better would have been some lands in ARgentina or Alaska......this thing will go on forever, watch......it is a tragic story that continues. so the kid's cartoon was just mirroring this reality. Not antisemitism. We Jews must wake up to this fact. Bit it's all politicized now and too emotional for most people. Sad. We must face reality. Some Israelis are facing reality already, but nobody listens to them. WWII ended in tragedy and the creation of Israel creation a new tragedy....How many more Israeli soldiers and civilaisn must die before we wake up to this fact?

What's a Noachide?

dan said...

Just as a side note, this cartoonist Dylan Woodliff went to Israel last summer, as this article shows. Maybe his time there influenced his feelings, as an anthropology major.

"Archaeologist Digs up Secrets of a Forgotten Place in Time"


Emory Professor Oded Borowski took Dylan and other students to a
site about a 90-minute drive south of Tel Aviv, Israel and adjacent to Kibbutz Lahav, which Borowski joined when he was 18.

Borowski was a founding member of the archeological team that started work on the Tell Halif site in 1976, and he now serves as director of the team. The project is one of the longest-running and most comprehensive excavations in Israel, involving Emory and a consortium of nearly 10 other universities and institutions.


*Dylan Woodliff*, a junior majoring in anthropology, was one of six Emory students who accompanied Borowski this summer. He recalls the three days he spent working on the floor of one pit as especially challenging. As temperatures climbed past 100, he used a paintbrush and dental pick to remove dust and dirt from artifacts. “The floor of the pit was littered with pottery and you couldn’t step on it or move it, so you had to be in incredibly awkward positions,” Woodliff says.

One day, he was asked to remove dirt from a wall in a pit, to make the wall more vertical. “I was shaving off material with my trowel and I came onto a stone that was carved,” he recalls. “I started hollering. It was really exhilarating to find something so cool.”

“I went on the trip to see if archaeology is something I could really do and not just something I have a fantasy about,” he says. “I found out that I really do like it.”

hockey hound said...

"It is not Islamic PR, it is the way Israel has treated the entire issue for 50 years..."

Let's be fair, Dan. Let's not forget to mention the way the Muslims have treated the Jews before and after the Holocaust, and since the creation of the State of Israel. If Muslims, by reason of their religion, can build and visit a mosque arrogatively situated on top of the Temple of Solomon, why is it difficult to imagine Jews wanting to return to the land of their ancestors, to a land where they have lived incessantly since the first and ancient sovereign state of Israel (I'm using an argument here precisely similar but with more strength than Islam's argument, since Islam is an "occupying" religion).

"I believe the entire thing was a mistake, putting the refugees from Europe there.......better would have been some lands in ARgentina or Alaska"

How much have you studied about the Holocaust, Dan. I don't mean to sound unctuous, but you don't know why living in Argentina or Alaska just wouldn't do after the horrors of the Holocaust?

A Noachide is a gentile who observes the Seven Laws of Noach (intended for gentiles) as taught by Orthodox Rabbis. This is a very short explanation.

Again, I'm sorry if I sound unctuous.

dan said...

Dear HockeyHound,

Yes, you sound unctuous. You are not even a Jew, and you are telling me what Jewish history is all about? What chutzpah? Yes, sir, or m'am, you are extremely unctuous here, but I believe you are a very nice person underneath all that cockamie brainwashing you have recieved. I like you. But you are speaking out of turn.

dan said...

Dear Hockey Hound from Canada

I had to look it up to make sure, smile.

DANNY

UNCTUOUS

3: full of unction ; especially : 'revealing or marked by a smug, ingratiating, and false earnestness or spirituality''...

hockey hound said...

Yes, Dan, I do think I'm a nice person underneath, in spite of all that cockamamie brainwashing I've received. (a very broad smile)

I'm sure you know Jewish history, Dan. I wasn't sure, however, that you were aware of all of Islam's history. And by that I mean the darker side of that history; how religious Muslims have denigrated the Jews of Israel, long before the Holocaust and after, for no other reason than their "Jewishness". This hatred should engage our knowledge of the Holocaust and the lessons the world should have learned (but did not) from that horror.

I like to ask the apologists the question, "Why, if Muslims of the Middle East hate Jews because of the "Occupation" (their term, not mine), why then did they hate the Jews of "Palestine" BEFORE the advent of the State of Israel? I'll tell you why: because their religion's malefic shibboleths have effectuated within their masses this same hatred. Most Muslims of the Middle East do not hate Jews because of Judaism's Zionism, and Zionism is not the reason for the political/religious imbroglio of that region. Muslims of the Middle East hate Jews because of their Jewishness, because these Muslims have been religiously inculcated with such hatred. It's as simple and as ugly as that. This is not a politically correct observation, but hey, I'm not a politically correct person (although quite nice underneath).

And since you debate in terms universalistic as regards who should live and who should not live upon the land of Israel, let me say this: Yes, I am not Jewish. But when the citizens of my country become threatened by Islamic terrorism because of my country's friendship with Israel (and the United States) and our public policy of recognizing Israel's right to exist in the Middle Easst, then I have a an incumbent right (if my life is of any value) to overtly seek a denouement to the complex problems that exist for the Jews of Israel as regards their Muslim enemies. Unfortunately for all of us, Jew and non-Jew alike, the uncomfortable and politically incorrect realities of this debate verify the proverb, "Follow not the truth too near the heels, lest it dash out thy teeth."

dan said...

Hockey Hound,
I am sure you are a good guy. But when you write "Dan. I wasn't sure... that you were aware of all of Islam's history. And by that I mean the darker side of that history; how religious Muslims have denigrated the Jews of Israel, long before the Holocaust and after, for no other reason than their "Jewishness". This hatred should engage our knowledge of the Holocaust and the lessons the world should have learned (but did not) from that horror. "

I wonder, dear Hockey Hound, who calls himself a Noachite, if YOU are aware of all of Christianity's history. And by that I mean the darker side of that history; how religious Christians have denigrated the Jews of Israel in their New Testament ramblings, long before the Holocaust and after, for no other reason than their "Jewishness". This anti-Jewish religious superiority on the part of most Christians, then and now, should engage YOUR knowledge of the Holocaust, sir, and the lessons the world should have learned (but did not) from that horror. You apparently have never examined what your own inherited religion has done to this world of ours!

That said, good sir, Godspeed!

hockey hound said...

Dan, I am not a Christian, I'm a Noachide. Noachism is taught by Orthodox Jews. I repudiated Christianity decades ago precisely because of its anti-Jewish New Testament and its "dark history".

I don't understand why you're so angry with me??? Because I questioned you knowledge of Islam's history? That offends you?