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Oliphant Cartoon Crosses Line

Referring to the work of famed political cartoonist Pat Oliphant, it has been said that “no one is safe from [his] acid brush.” He calls his own images “confrontational art.”

His cartoons often use classic animal images: Democrat as donkey; Republican as elephant. Recently, however, he evoked an image more commonly associated with Nazi propaganda or anti-Semitic rants of extremist Islamist clerics, portraying Jews as dogs.

An August 30 Oliphant cartoon depicted Uncle Sam holding a newspaper with the headline, “Mole in the Pentagon.” The character is looking toward his feet, where a dog has lifted its leg to urinate on Uncle Sam's striped trousers. The dog, whose “thought bubble” says “I do this only in friendship,” is marked by a large Star of David. The disgusted Uncle Sam is saying “What? Again??!!”

In the bottom right hand corner Oliphant's small trademark character (Punk the Penguin) observes: “That's becoming a habit – stop.” Another figure adds, “The dog needs training.”

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 Oliphant cartoon, August 30, 2004

This denigrating analogy is found as far back as Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, where the character Salanio refers to the Jewish antagonist, Shylock, as a “Jew dog” (act 2, scene 8). This same phrase is also used in the Nazi children's book Trust No Fox and No Jew, published by the editor of  Der Sturmer. 

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From anti-Semitic children's book by Elwira Bauer published by Julius Streicher'sSturmer publishing house n 1936. (The English translation fo the title is "Trust No Fox on his Green Heath and No Jew on his Oath")

Cartoons are, of course, subject to interpretation. And even if, hypothetically, there was an objective interpretation, cartoons are distinct from news and thus are not bound by the same standards which apply to news reports.

Still, there are a number of disturbing issues worth noting about this cartoon. For one, the sketch and the newspapers which ran it seem to be hasty in predicting the findings of an official investigation of the “Mole in the Pentagon” affair. In actuality, the investigation is ongoing and other such cases in recent years have evaporated, lacking any basis in fact. Furthermore, the alleged “mole,” Larry Franklin, is not Jewish. But the presumption of innocence until proven guilty apparently doesn't concern Oliphant. He's declared Israel – and the Jews – guilty. 

It is unclear why Jews abusing America is called “a habit.” Merriam-Webster defines “habit” as “a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior.” None of the current allegations fall into this definition. (One habit this case does bring to mind is that where alleged “spies” are judged even before being charged – See “Spy Stories”).

The most disturbing aspect of this cartoon, though, is its similarity to anti-Semitic cartoons originating in both the Arab and Nazi press, which commonly dehumanize Jews by depicting them as animals and as abusers of countries and civilization:




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Rat with Star of David (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 27, 2004)   Octopus with Star of David crushing the world, by Nazi propagandist Josef Plank, or "Seppla" (1938)  

Alligator with Star of David swallowing victim.. (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 9, 2003)

  Octopus with Star of David strangling dove. (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida April 17, 2000)

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Cover of "Der Giftpilz" (The Poisonous Mushroom), a children's book depicting Jews as mankind's poisonous mushrooms,  published by  Julius Streicher'sSturmer publishing house n 1938 .

  Thematically similar to Oliphant's cartoon: The Jews destroy the Statue of Liberty (Teshreen[Syria], April 22, 2002)  

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