March 26, 2009
Is Pat Oliphant Anti-Semitic? No, He’s Pro-Stupid.
Jewish groups are livid at cartoonist Pat Oliphant for his recent cartoon depicting a jackbooted Israeli mowing over a helpless Palestinian woman and child.
Is it anti-semitic? In my original post I wrote that I wasn’t sure. That seemed to get some readers more upset than the cartoon. My point is that while people can debate whether Oliphant is anti-semitic, the larger point is that he’s pro-stupid.
The Jewish community assumes that by labeling something anti-semitic you automatically marginalize it. But in the broader world that doesn’t always fly: especially when Oliphant and others can always run and hide by saying they’re just criticizing Israel, not Jews. I say fine: let them have that argument. Let’s suppose that you love Jews, and that’s why you depict the most well-known image of their faith as a baby-eating monster. Maybe that’s your idea of tough love. Even if that’s the case, it still doesn’t get you off the hook for allying yourself with the forces in the Middle East who are against compromise and a two-state solution.
Oliphant is doing Hamas’s work for them: de-legitimizing Israel, suggesting it should be eradicated as evil, suggesting that the actions of some Israeli soldiers are representative of the whole nation. That’s what’s wrong with this cartoon, and in the larger world it’s a much more damning indictment than screaming anti-semitism. Oliphant’s cartoon is pro-Hamas: therfore it is anti-peace, anti-democracy, anti-compromise, anti-tolerance. Even if you hate Jews, you can’t hate all those as well… unless you’re Hamas.
There are two sides in the Middle East coinflict: Jews and Arabs who want compromise, and Jews and Arabs who want to demonize and eradicate their neighbors. Oliphant has just become the propagandist for the other side. Hamas would like nothing more for the world to see Israelis and Jews as Nazis who need to be destroyed, rather than as neighbors who need to be engaged. This cartoon has just become their best new weapon.
Meanwhile, even Palestinians and other Arabs opposed how Hamas endangered their fellow citizens by its reckless attacks on Israel. Painting Israel as purely evil and Palestinians as purely victims isn’t anti-semitic. It’s dumb.