‘Liberal’ Cartoonist Draws Upon Antisemitic Stereotypes in Depicting Henry Kissinger
by Adam Levick
Here’s a recent photo of former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Now, here’s how Kissinger was depicted on June 8th by Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson, in a cartoon about the annual meeting of the Bilderberg Group in Watford. (The Bilderberg Group is a policy forum consisting of influential people in business, finance and politics which consistently provides fodder for conspiracy theories due to the relative secrecy of the meetings.)
Here’s a closeup.
A few observations:
- Though the Bilderberg meeting includes other former political leaders vilified by some due to their involvement in foreign wars, such as Tony Blair for instance, Rowson chose only Kissinger (A German-born Jew) to depict as having blood on his (oversized) hands – inspired, presumably, by his role under President Nixon during the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia.
- Despite the antisemitic history of such caricatures – historically, the ‘big hooked nose’ (often in conjunction with a sneering expression) on a Jew is typically meant to suggest his depravity – Rowson chose to include such a stereotypically exaggerated nose among Kissinger’s other grotesque features.
- Rowson’s history at the Guardian includes cartoons which have employed similar motifs, including such facial features and the gratuitous use of blood to illustrate putatively sadistic Jewish behavior. Here’s one, titled “Mindless in Gaza”, of Ariel Sharon from 2001:
Additionally, to provide further visual context, here’s a collection of Nazi and Arab antisemitic depictions – focusing on the hooked nose and oversized hands – which CAMERA published during the row over Gerald Scarfe’s ‘Sunday Times’ cartoon. (Scarfe’s cartoon, which Rowson defended in an essay at the Guardian, is on the top right.)
Indeed, if you compare Rowson’s cartoon with the most extreme racist depictions of Jews in the 20th century it isn’t difficult to see the overlapping facial features. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Rowson’s Kissinger with the infamous Nazi antisemitic caricature published by Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer, titled ‘The Poisonous Mushroom’:
Whilst we’re not suggesting that Rowson was intentionally evoking such comparisons, the Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliott, in a post responding to criticism over Steve Bell’s Nov. 15 cartoon depicting William Hague and Tony Blair as puppets being controlled by Bibi Netanyahu, wrote the following:
I don’t believe that Bell is an antisemite, nor do I think it was his intention to draw an antisemitic cartoon. However, using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery, no matter the intent.
The Holocaust and its causes are still within living memory. While journalists and cartoonists should be free to express an opinion that Netanyahu is opportunistic and manipulative, in my view they should not use the language – including the visual language – of antisemitic stereotypes.
Echoing Elliott, whether or not Martin Rowson had racist intent is not as relevant as the more fundamental point: that a cartoonist for a “liberal” broadsheet should possess the moral decency to strenuously avoid employing visual language which historically represented the major antisemitic motifs in the long and bloody persecution of Jews.
Adam Levick is the managing editor of CiF Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)