Tuesday, November 18, 2008

An Antisemitic Cartoon in Emory's Student Newspaper Generates a Torrent of Criticism from Across the Campus

Last Friday an unquestionably antisemitic cartoon appeared in Emory's student newspaper, The Wheel. I was sent the cartoon and the cartoonist's accompanying explanation.

The cartoon was split into two sides. One side showed the wall/fence between the West Bank and Israel with Israeli soldiers in front of it and on the other side were Jews in a ghetto with a Nazi guard in front of it. Underneath in caps was the following sentence: EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER.

The accompanying explanation decried the wall and accused it of creating the economic gap between Israelis and Palestinians. It also claimed that it was NOT comparing the situation on the West Bank to the Holocaust. [Despite the fact that the cartoon did exactly that.] The cartoonist also said he did not mean to be offensive. [Despite the fact that he was.]

The cartoon was also accompanied by a dissenting op-ed by two students saying that this was a form of Holocaust denial and antisemitic.

What's most interesting than the cartoon is what happened next.

Faculty began to hear about this on Sunday. Within a day and a half 40 faculty members had signed a letter to the editor decrying the cartoon. They included people of at least 4 different faiths [Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist], different ethnic groups, and different disciplines [Jewish Studies, African American Studies, Islamic Studies, German Studies and many many more]. In addition a number of other faculty wrote their own letters to the editor.

To my mind this is the story. Not the cartoon and the cartoonist's misguided attempt to create a cartoon about a serious problem.

is what people should take away from this story: People with widely different views of the political situation and with disparate attitudes about the Israeli/Palestinian situation were able to set those differences aside to condemn a blatantly ill informed and prejudicial cartoon.

What follows are the joint faculty letter, an op-ed by me on the topic, and some other letters regarding the cartoon:
The Emory Wheel
November 17, 2008

Faculty Letter in Response to Cartoon:
To the editor:

The cartoon published in the Emory Wheel comparing Jews to Nazis is historically inaccurate, belittling to the Holocaust, slanderous to Israel and the Jewish people and, in our view, frankly antisemitic. The Wheel owes all its readers a retraction and an apology. We acknowledge the Wheel’s First Amendment rights, and we assert our own right to denounce the bigoted and irresponsible content that it may print.

Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science

Frank S. Alexander, Professor of Law

Angelika Bammer, Associate Professor in the Institute of Liberal Arts

Robert Bartlett, Arthur Blank/National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professor

Michael Berger, Associate Professor of Religion, Law and Religion, and Jewish Studies

David Blumenthal, Jay and Leslie Cohen Professor of Judaic Studies

Oded Borowski, Professor of Biblical Archaeology and Hebrew

Michael Broyde, Professor of Law

Rudolph Byrd, Goodrich C. White Professor of American Studies

Vincent Cornell, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Middle East and Islamic Studies

Richard Doner, Professor of Political Science

Tara Doyle, Senior Lecturer in Religion

Marshall Duke, Candler Professor of Psychology

Astrid M. Eckert, Assistant Professor of History

Shoshana Felman, Woodruff Professor of Comparative Literature and French

Sander L. Gilman, Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Hazel Gold, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Benjamin Hary, Associate Professor of Hebrew, Arabic and Linguistics

Ann Hartle, Professor of Philosophy

Peter Höyng, Associate Professor of German

Herbert Karp, Professor Emeritus of Neurology and Emeritus Medical Director, Wesley Woods Hospital

Walter Kalaidjian, Professor of English

Harvey Klehr, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Politics and History

Melvin Konner, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Anthropology

Howard I. Kushner, Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Professor, Rollins School of Public Health and Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts

Scott Lilienfeld, Professor of Psychology

Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies

Judd Owen, Associate Professor of Political Science

Edward L. Queen, Director, Ethics and Servant Leadership Program and Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies, Center for Ethics

Dan Reiter, Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science

Mark Sanders, Associate Professor of African American Studies and English

Caroline Schaumann, Assistant Professor of German Studies

Raymond F. Schinazi, Frances Winship Walters Professor of Pediatrics

Joseph Skibell, Associate Professor of Creative Writing and English and Director, The Ellmann Lectures

Barbara J. Stoll, George W. Brumley Jr. Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics

Donald Stein, Asa G. Candler Professor, School of Medicine

Kenneth W. Stein, William E. Schatten Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science and Israeli Studies

Brian Vick, Assistant Professor of History

John Witte Jr., Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and Director, Center for the Study of Law and Religion

Paul Root Wolpe, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics and Director, Center for Ethics

In addition there were letters by Professors Don Seeman [who was at Hebrew University the day the cafeteria was bombed], Laurie Patton and Gordon Newby, Michael Berger, Mark Bauelein, Paul Wolpe

And there was a separate op-ed by me:

My op-ed on the topic:

A Spurious, Prejudicial Cartoon

By Deborah Lipstadt Posted: 11/17/2008

In Friday’s Wheel there was a disturbing cartoon directly comparing the Nazi ghettoes with the separation fence the Israelis have erected on the West Bank. This equation is historically spurious and highly prejudicial. The Germans put Jews from throughout Europe in ghettoes to either die a slow death of starvation, deprivation and disease or a faster death with a bullet or poison gas.

Irrespective of what one thinks of the fence/wall (most of it is a fence), it was not built for this purpose. It was built as a defensive mechanism. Even if one opposes it, one cannot ignore the fact that it has tremendously reduced homicidal bombings (sometimes mistakenly called “suicide bombings”) of Israeli targets. There was no fence/wall before there were these bombings of busses, schools and other civilian targets. It was built in response to them.

Regarding the disparity of wealth which Woodliff seems to blame on the wall/fence, this existed long before the wall/fence was ever there. The Palestinian Authority has received countless billions of dollars to help its people. During the corrupt regime of the late Yasser Arafat most of these funds disappeared. (Look under Swiss Banks to find some of them, or in Paris, where his widow lives a life of supreme splendor.) The funds obviously were not used to aid the Palestinian people, many of whom are suffering terribly.

When Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, it left behind fertile farms, hothouses filled with advanced hydroponic systems for growing vegetables, and other installations which could have been used to better the Palestinians’ lot. Most were destroyed by the Palestinian people. International funds were raised to help the residents of Gaza. These too have resulted in little improvement. Meanwhile, rockets from Gaza continue to be fired into Israeli towns. A barrage Saturday put 18 people in the hospital. In response, Israel has shut the border between Gaza and Israel, further increasing the suffering of the residents of Gaza.

There is a serious problem in the Middle East but Woodliff’s glib comparison of Jews to Nazis is not only ill-informed, it demonstrates a certain prejudice — antisemitism — which will never help resolve the situation. Whatever one thinks of Israeli policy, to describe it as akin to the Nazi policy of murdering all of European Jewry is to engage in antisemitism and a form of Holocaust denial.

Finally, I was struck by the explanatory note the Woodliff appended to the drawing. No editorial cartoon should need an explanation or an addendum. If the cartoonist is any good, his work should speak for itself. With that I rest my case.


Unknown said...

Great article. Thank you for writing about this matter. BTW, thought you might be interested in another female, Jewish, blogger that I read regurally, hers is israeljewishnews.blogspot.com

liberal white boy said...

Gosh someone needs to write a another book on the new new newiest form of anti-Semitism.

Charles said...

of course you'd screen your comments as well.

istrick said...

Relax, it's one man's view and I find it accurate.

Antisemitism is quite a bold statement for a cartoon.

Freedom of Speech. That is all.