Arab cartoons: antisemitic, anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli? Does it matter!?
Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/06/2007
Yediot Aharanot showed 4 cartoons that were published in the Arab media, commenting on the Hamas/Fateh struggle in Gaza and the West Bank. The article’s subtitle states “Inter-Palestinian fighting in Gaza has unleashed barrage of virulently anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic cartoons in Arab and Muslim media, Anti-Defamation League says”.
After reading this I remembered an argument I had with Ali A., a Syrian anti-baath journalist residing in Lebanon who argued that there was no anti-semitism in the Arab world, only hostility to Israel (he distinguishes between Antisemitism and anti-judaïsm). He sees Antisemitism as a totally European phenomenon.
Well, it’s true that as an ideology and a construct, antisemitism was born and raised in Europe, but since the 1940s, the Arabs have had time to import it and develop it. As these cartoons and many other cartoons cleary show, even the iconography of anti-semitism was borrowed. It is true that the Arab blend is of a particular kind. There are different levels to it. There is a hostility to the West seen as antagonistic towards Islam and the Arabs. Here Israel is seen as a mere imperialistic tool in the hand of the West. The fact that many Israelis are of European origin and that they have created a settler’s community much in the same way as the European colonisers in the Americas, Oceania and parts of Africa, reinforces that idea. Those who adopt this approach usually call themselves “anti-zionist”. And they spend much time trying to distinguish anti-zionism and anti-semitism.
While in the realms of ideas the distinction is quite easy to draw (in the same way they distinguish between Arab and Muslim), in practice, especially in the iconography, it becomes almost impossible. How can one distinguish a Jew from an Israeli in a drawing? especially when the Israeli is charactrised by jewish religious traits. How can one keep on distinguishing anti-jewish sentiment and anti-semitism when the arab cartoonist and commentators are massively borrowing from the european antisemitic tradition?!
In the end of the day, if u call it antisemiticism, anti-judaism or anti-zionism, doesn’t all that have the same effect on Jews worlwide? What is more important in the condemnation of hate speach, the intentions of the perpetrators or the effect it has on its victims?