Antisemitic Cartoons in Newspapers Are Hardly New
Foreign media outlets that frequently incite against Israel are much more likely than others to slip into antisemitism. The recent cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published by The New York Times is a case in point. Yet this daily was only one example among many.
There are well-known cases of major media outlets abroad that have often incited against Israel, which has led to the publication of antisemitic cartoons. In 2003, the British daily The Independent published a caricature by Dave Brown depicting then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a child-eater — a new mutation of the medieval blood libel.
Still, after receiving numerous complaints, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) in the UK decided that the cartoon did not breach its ethical code. The disgusting illustration even subsequently won the Political Cartoon Society’s Political Cartoon of the Year Award for 2003. This award was presented by former Labour Party cabinet minister Clare Short at the headquarters of the prestigious weekly The Economist in London.
Then-Israeli ambassador to the UK, Zvi Shtauber, asked The Independent’s Jewish editor, Simon Kelner, whether the paper had ever published a similar caricature of a public figure. Kelner had to search 18 years in the past to find one.
In 2005, Jewish politician Michael Howard was the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, which was then in the opposition. In April of that year, The Guardian published a cartoon depicting Howard with vampire teeth, one of which was dripping with blood, holding a glass of blood. The caption read: “Are you drinking what we are drinking? Vote Conservative.” A leading expert on antisemitic cartoons, Belgian scholar Joël Kotek, argued that the image of Jews as a vampire is an antisemitic one.
One German “progressive” liberal daily, Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ), is among the most read “quality” papers in Germany. On May 15, 2018, it published a cartoon that depicted Benjamin Netanyahu as Eurovision winner Netta Barzilai, celebrating the victory while holding a missile with a Star of David on it. The cartoonist drew the Israeli leader with an oversized nose, ears, and lips — classic antisemitic stereotypes.
After many negative reactions, the SZ apologized a few days later, stating that it was a mistake to have published the cartoon. But this daily’s incitement has a lengthy history. In 2013, the SZ published a caricature of a monster with two horns that was on the verge of eating. The accompanying caption said: “Germany serves. Since decades Israel is served, partly without payment, with weapons.”
In 2014, yet another antisemitic cartoon appeared in the SZ. Burkhard Mohr drew Jewish Facebook entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg as an octopus using his tentacles to control social media. The cartoonist depicted Zuckerberg with a long nose and thick lips — once again, typical antisemitic stereotypes.
In the case of the SZ, explicit antisemitic publications went far beyond hate cartoons. In 2012, it published a poem by German Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass. In it, he claimed that Israel is aiming to commit genocide against the Iranian people with nuclear bombs. The editors knew very well that it is Iran that has threatened genocide, but chose to ignore that fact. As we can see, The New York Times is hardly alone when it comes to Israel, Jews, and antisemitism.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank.