by Adam Levick
Published September 2010
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
No. 101, 1 September 2010 / 23 Elul 5770
Anti-Semitic Cartoons on Progressive Blogs
- Political cartoons often have more of an immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than a lengthy essay. By far the largest output of anti-Semitic cartoons nowadays comes from the Arab and Muslim world. A yet uncharted field of hate cartoons against Jews is that in progressive blogs.
- Anti-Semitic cartoons found - and seemingly tolerated - on progressive blogs such as Daily Kos, MyDD, Mondoweiss, and Indymedia are mainly expressions of anti-Israelism, a more recent category of anti-Semitism than the religious and ethnic-nationalist versions.
- Traditionally the core motif of anti-Semitism is that Jews represent absolute evil. The cultural notion of what that means has changed over the centuries. Nowadays absolute evil is often expressed as Jews or Israelis being Nazis. Indeed, the cartoon motif most frequently appearing on the progressive blogs is imagery equating Israel with Nazi Germany. Others reflect Jewish conspiracies, Zionists controlling the world, the blood libel, or show Jews as animals.
- Most of the progressive blogs discussed, containing such anti-Semitic imagery cited in this essay, generally fail to remove such hateful cartoons, despite blog policies expressly prohibiting posts that contain "hateful" or "inflammatory" content.
Cartoons have to express ideas in an easy-to-understand way. Therefore they are often accessible even to people who cannot read. Cartoons are also an efficient way to transmit hate and prejudices, including anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism in cartoons has been investigated, among others, by the Belgian political scientist Jöel Kotek in his book Cartoons and Extremism. Political cartoons often have a more immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than a lengthy essay.
The largest output of anti-Semitic cartoons nowadays comes from the Arab and Muslim world. Outside it one also finds a significant number of anti-Semitic cartoons in many countries. In Europe, for instance, over the past decade such imagery has been particularly strong in countries such as Norway and Greece.
A yet uncharted field of hate cartoons against Jews is that in progressive blogs. They are mainly expressions of anti-Israelism, a more recent category of anti-Semitism than the religious and ethnic-nationalist versions. Traditionally the core motif of anti-Semitism is that Jews represent absolute evil. The cultural notion of what that means has changed over the centuries. In current times absolute evil is often expressed as Jews or Israelis being Nazis. This charge is usually identified with the virulent anti-Semitic cartoons on right-wing extremist sites and in Arab media. This motif, however, is also the main one found in anti-Semitic cartoons on progressive blogs.
Also the three major submotifs of anti-Semitism are expressed in cartoons on progressive blogs. The first one is that Jews lust for power. In progressive blogs this is manifested mainly as caricatures on Jewish conspiracies and Zionists controlling the world. The second major anti-Semitic submotif is that Jews lust for blood, and progressive blogs include cartoons accusing Jews of infanticide. The third anti-Semitic submotif, namely, that Jews are inferior beings, is expressed on these blogs in cartoons showing Jews as animals.
The cartoonist most frequently appearing on the progressive blogs analyzed here is Carlos Latuff. He is an extreme left-wing political activist who won second place in the notorious Iranian Holocaust Cartoon Competition. Latuff is one of the more prolific anti-Semitic cartoonists on the web, with a staggering amount of work dedicated to advancing explicitly anti-Semitic political imagery.