Jewish Campus Leaders: ‘No Coincidence’ Cartoon Mocking Judaism Published on Day One of ‘Palestine Awareness Week’ at California University
Jewish leaders at a California university told The Algemeiner “it’s no coincidence” that a cartoon mocking Judaism was published in the student newspaper on the first day of Palestine Awareness Week (PAW).
Rabbi Dovid Gurevich, co-director of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Chabad center, said, “It’s highly improbable that the timing” of The Daily Bruin’s printing of the drawing — of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu standing in front of an edited Ten Commandments that reads, “Thou shalt steal,” with the caption, “Israel passes law legalizing seizing any Palestinian land” and a bubble saying, “#7 [Thou shalt not kill] is next “– was not meant to coincide with the start of PAW.
“They [the cartoon and PAW] have the same goal of focusing on and demonizing Israel,” Gurevich said.
Rabbi Aaron Lerner — executive director of Hillel at UCLA — called the cartoon “disturbing,” and said it went beyond the anti-Israel editorials he has come to expect during the annual PAW, which is hosted by the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) “to raise awareness about the Palestinian struggle for justice & the Palestinian people’s resistance against the Israeli occupation,” according to organizers.
“I believe the cartoon is the result of SJP’s desperation for attention,” Lerner told The Algemeiner. “Their exhibits and programs are largely ignored by UCLA students. Only a handful of students visited their [apartheid wall] display on campus Monday. When they do manage to fill a classroom or theater, half the attendees are pro-Israel advocates there to monitor the event.”
While the drawing has since been removed from the paper’s website following widespread denunciation — as well as apologized for by the editorial staff and condemned by university administrators — Lerner said SJP’s statement that the “illustrator has no affiliation” with the group is “simply a lie.” He cited a 2015 Daily Bruins article identifying the cartoonist, Felipe Bris Abejón, as SJP’s “education and resources director” as proof of a relationship. (Abejón did not respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment.)
Though Lerner commended the UCLA administration and The Daily Bruin editors for their swift response to the cartoon, he said that “the underlying complaint remains.”
“We see time and again that ‘anti-Jewish’ is not understood to be as serious as other forms of racism and prejudice,” he said. “Such a cartoon would never have been published by The Daily Bruin targeting a different group. It’s a double standard.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, agreed that the “disgusting and incendiary cartoon” is part of a larger problem plaguing campuses worldwide.
“Extreme anti-Israel activists feel a sense of empowerment, where they feel that university officials and most of their peers won’t punish any bad behavior when it comes to Israel,” he said.