Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Arab cartoons: antisemitic, anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli? Does it matter!?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/06/2007

untitled2_w.jpguntitled3_wa.jpguntitled4_wa.jpgYediot 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?


14 Responses to “Arab cartoons: antisemitic, anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli? Does it matter!?”

  1. I believe it does matter. The blurring of the legitimate distinction between those who rightly criticise Israel’s policies (many of them Jewish and Israeli themselves, increasingly subject to absurd “self-hating Jew” tags) and genuine anti-Judaism (more specific than the misnomer “anti-semitism”) only serves those who would wish to thwart much needed scrutiny and debate and serves to narrow the debate and deflect criticism.

    Perhaps you might be interested in this related piece by Judith Miller in the London Review of Books, entitled, No, it’s not anti-semitic. Miller directly engages with and refutes this claim that there is no difference between so called ‘intentional’ and ‘effective’ anti-semitism. Its a good read.

  2. The article is extremely interesting. thanks for the link.
    I just skimmed throught it because I have to rush to the Library (a dissertation to save), will go back to it tonight and give it a thought. I understand your point and the distinction between intent and effect is very interesting, and seems to contradict my point 🙂 which is good.
    But to make one thing clear, I am not against criticism of Israel, Zionism or even Judaïsm. I think every individual has the right to disagree with an act, an idea or even a belief system. What I do not accept is how this disagreement is sometimes expressed, especially if it is expressed in an ambiguous and hateful way, which is the case of these cartoons I posted.
    Thanks again for your input… very stimulating!

  3. Marji said

    Well, I think these cartoons indirectly serve the cause of Israel. By being ambiguous, they only help consolidate the Israeli-sionist ideology. The question to be asked : does the State of Israel distinguish between Israelis and Jews? I don’t think so. There’s no clear Israeli identity and if there is one, the Israeli state wouldn’t let it come out clearly. After all, Israel wants to be the State of all the Jews. Many jewish religious aspects have been instrumentalized in order to serve the sionist cause (Sion- ; David’s star ; the name of the Ministry of Defense in Hebrew ; etc.). Actually today in the Media, the “Jewish State” became a synonym for Israel. And this is wrong, so wrong.
    All this to say is that these cartoonists and the Arab opinion should be more careful and try not to fall in the sionist trap by establishing clear frontiers between Israeli/Sionist/Jewish.

  4. Hey Marge (to give it a Simpsons twist),
    I’m going to answer a couple of your assertions in an independent post, but I would like to give you a couple of examples to show you how hard it is to seperate a national identity (and its symbols) from that of the dominant ethnic group that historically gave it its name and its symbols.
    You are very well familiar that Iran, the meaning of its name, and its political structure. Here you have a state that has chosen a name that means the land of Aryans. If one considers that this word refers to Indo-European speaking people, well up to 30% of the population speak a language belonging to another group (mostly turkic, but also semitic) as a first language. Neither the Azeri-speaking group nor the Arab-speaking group can consider themselves to be “Aryans”.
    Furthermore, the Iranian state defines itself as an Islamic state, although some of its citizens are Christians, Jewish, Baha’i, Mandians or Zoroastrians (and they account for 2 % of the population). The Iranian parliament is called the Islamic Shoura Council.
    As for the Guardians of the revolution, probably Iran’s most powerful body, 6 clergymen are appointed in it, all of them are Shiite, although one out of ten Iranians is non-Shiite (8% are Sunnis).
    As for Israel, its fundemental law, its declaration of independence, and UN resolution 181 define it as a Jewish state! But all these texts specify that the state is a state for all its citizens – ie democratic – be they Jewish or non-Jewish…
    As for the symbols… well the country of which you and I are a citizen of has a name that was chosen by one of its communities in the Middle-Ages to refer to the territory it inhabited (and its progressive expansion) because it gave it a biblical resonance, and chose the Cedar as the symbol of its church for the very same reason…
    There is nothing truly exceptional in that. Many national symbols are ethically based and charged, and most nations are multi-ethnic…
    You raise important questions to real problems, only you make them sound exceptional, while they are in fact very wildly shared (ie Macedonia, India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Russia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Greece, China, Iraq…).

  5. السلام عليكم ورحمة الله
    قول :سبحان الله وبحمده سبحان ربي العظيم

    هذا موقع يشرح كيفية ربح المال من الانترنت بطرق شرعية
    مع اثبات المصداقية

    ويعلمك ايضا كيف تشهر موقعك او مدونتك
    وبه مقاطع من اجمل السرحيات الكوميدية
    وتصفح مخفي ،
    كيف تجعل موقعك اول نتائج بحث جوجل
    والكثير…كل ذلك بالمدونة
    سوف تضيفه لمفضلتك

  6. drwilly said

    Worriedlebanese you are right, mixing ethnics and states is more the rule than the exception.
    The only problem with the international attitude towards Israel is that Israel is singled out.
    It is as if only Israel made the sin to protect its citizens with its army and its security fence.
    The Maoccan/Sahraoui and Indian/Pakistan wall are far larger than the Israeli one and although criticized don’t create hate campaigns such as against Israel.
    The legitime occupation of vast parts of Germany by Russia made more German refugees than Israels legitime occupation of occupied territories from Jordan and Egypt in 1967. Not to forget the Jewish refugees that were ethnically cleansed out of every single Arab state.
    What is antisemitic is not the criticism of walls and occupation, but is the singling out of the Israeli wall and occupation as a psychological war-tool to let Jewish politicians, soldiers and sympathisants feel guilty for something others inflicted to them. Comparing Israel to Nazis is on one side negationist because it minimizes the crime of the Nazis, and on the other side antisemitic because it creates hate against citizens of a country which inhabitants are for a great part survivers of the shoa.

  7. Dear Drwilly, I’m not very comfortable with two of your arguments: the first being that of “legitimate occupation” and the second being the idea that “singling out Israel”.
    I personally cannot understand the notion of legitimate occupation. What makes an occupation legitimate? Who decides if it’s legitimate?! Your notion keeps me perplexed.
    As for the argument pertaining to the singling out of Israel as being antisemitic, I find it actually assumes too much about the criticts intentions. I believe that one has every right to criticise the conduct of the Israeli army and policy makers. And it is absurd to ask someone to make comparisons with other countries every time this person wants to criticise Israel.
    As for the use of these criticism as psychological war tools (as u call them), I don’t see any problem with that. I’m sure you are aware that there is a war going on in this region and that peace hasn’t been reached. I personally prefer the use of “psychological tools” to real weapons. If these “psychological tools” are used incorrectly, one can always try to combat them by showing the inaccuracies, the declared intent… Can one do the same with other “war tools” such as bombs, planes, missiles, mines… I don’t think so.
    And I really don’t see what’s wrong with making politicians and soldiers feel guilty for their acts. This is what democracy is all about. And saying that what they did is a reaction to what was done to them is childish. People are responsible for their acts and calling an action “retaliation” doesn’t absolve you from the wrongs you did (even if your action were a reaction).
    The problem with any discussion surrounding the Israeli/Palestinian question is that there are too many labels, rigid notions and assertions going around: negationist, antisemitic, imperialist, colonialist, progressive, fascist, traditionalist, nazi, self-hater, islamophobic…
    If one wants to get anywhere, i feel it is better to go beyond these references and labels.

  8. drwilly said

    Dear worriedlebanese,

    Words can kill. They are not just labels.
    The Nazis used to villify and denigrate the Jews not for what they did, but for what they were.
    After a campaign of denigration and false accusations constantly repeated by all media, men, women and children were deported, tortured, hungered, frozen, and burned.
    Those Nazis exported their hatred by means of their payed agents, just to mention some: Hadj Amin El Husseini, Fawzi El Kawukji, Khomeini, etc..
    Instead of turning against those who were responsible for the misery of the fellahin, for the oppression of women, for the exploitation of oil, the Arab masses turned against the easiest target, the dhimmis which could be beaten, stoned and insulted as they were not worth more than dogs: “al yahood kelabna”
    Instead of showing gods attribute “al rahman” and giving shelter to the survivers of the holocaust, the mobs shouted “Itbach al yahood”,kill the Jew.
    But unexpectedly, the chidren of Israel, “bani Israel” came back just as it was written in the kuran and defeated those who prefered to kill then to work.

    The book “Mein kampf” from Hitler and “the protocols of the elders from zion” two Nazi propaganda books were translated in arabic and are still poisoning the minds of arabic people.
    It’s time to throw away that poison and to start living together and building a new Middle East that once was the craddle of civilization.

  9. Yes D Willy,

    Words can kill. Calling Gaza an “enemy entity” and trying to strangle the most densely populated area in the world kills. Checkpoints kill. Theft of land, illegal settlements, house demolitions, uprooting of olive trees, withholding of tax credits that belong to the Palestinians, kills.

    Cluster bombs launched in the last 72 hours of the Summer War last year, when a ceasefire was known to be imminent, kills and continue to kill. Over a thousand Lebanese civilians, killed.

    Israel singles itself out and thumbs its nose at several UN resolutions, perpetrates its own genocide against the Palestinian people, attacks and vilifies the Arab world, supported the invasion of Iraq, and has its own special brand of racism. “Do unto others”, D Willy, and at least sharpen your propaganda because it is woefully simplistic and dismissible.

  10. And the books you mentioned have been translated into many languages, including Hebrew. Your point?

  11. drwilly said

    Dear Ann,

    You have beautifull eyes on your icon.
    I completely agree with you that the reactions of the Israeli army are painfull and kill.
    And I must tell you that they are especially painfull to Jewish soldiers educated according to the laws of Mozes forbidding to kill.
    But they are the result of the simple law of physics “action causes reaction”.
    And those reactions, occupation, wall and population control are legitimate, which does not mean legal.
    When somebody wants to kill you, which is not difficult to assume listening to Arab media shouting “itbach al yahood!”, it is not legal according to the bible to kill the assassins with their knifes, bombs and hate, but it is legitimate to do everything you can in order to protect the life of wife and children.
    So if you want the reactions of the Israeli army to stop it is very easy:
    put love instead of hate in the mind of your children…

  12. I think you mistaken offense for defence; Zionist exceptionalism and hate for Jewish humanism; and chauvinism for chivalry.

    As for children and their minds, education — as with charity — starts at home.

    See Nurit Peled-Elhanan: For the children: Education or mind infection?

  13. […] in “anti-israeli” or “anti-zionist” overbidding (c.f. my former posts  1 2 on the inoperative distinction between “Jews” and “Zionists”). Two days […]

  14. Christian said

    Anti-jews, bad; Anti-isreael, good.. Can you tell the difference?

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