Caricature or Bigotry?

The Chicago Tribune ran an offensive and fallacious cartoon by Dick Locher on May 30, 2003 reminiscent of the anti-Jewish stereotypes of Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher, publisher of the notorious Der Sturmer (see below). Locher twists Israeli leader Ariel Sharon’s motives for peace into one of greed. Sharon is portrayed with a large hooked nose that doesn’t resemble his actual profile. A groveling Bush, dominated by a large Sharon, is paving a trail of money to Arafat as Sharon declares “the path to peace is looking a bit brighter.”

While editorial cartoons are meant to satirically summarize — sometimes insensitively — current events, they are expected to be based on fact.

* America did not offer Israel financial inducements to accept the “road map.”

* Israel has repeatedly sought peace, even at great risk to its citizens, only to have the overtures rejected and/or answered with Palestinian violence.

* Forbes magazine (March 17, 2003) claims Arafat is worth at least 300 million dollars. One of his main money sources has been foreign aid meant for the Palestinian people which he has diverted to his own accounts. Yet, the cartoon portrays Sharon and not Arafat as greedy.

* The road map is supposed to be negotiated with Mahmoud Abbas — not Arafat.

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 Caricature by Dick Locher (Chicago Tribune)


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 Caricature for “Money is the God of the Jews,”published by Julius Streicher, of Der Stürmer .  (Der Giftpilz, a children’s book–online German Propaganda Archive, Professor Randall Bytwerk, Calvin College)


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“The God of the Jews is Money.  And to gain money, he will commit the greatest crimes.  He will not rest until he can sit on the largest sack of money, until he becomes the King of Money.”

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Don Wycliff, public editor of the Chicago Tribune, responded quickly to reader criticism of the paper’s decision to run Dick Locher’s cartoon “Mideast Gulch” (May 30). In a June 1 piece, Wycliff acknowledged that the cartoon “crossed all lines” and that his “reaction was very much the same” as a reader who viewed the cartoon as “blatantly anti-Semitic, reinforcing the long-held racist image of Jews as avaricious and greedy.”

Bruce Dold, editorial page editor, took the view that people misinterpreted Locher’s cartoon. Dold believes that “Locher intended to comment on the influence the U.S. can exert through the foreign aid it provides to Israel. I think that’s all Locher intended.” However, he concedes that the “cartoon carried several other messages that could be seen as drawing on anti-Semitic symbols and stereotypes. It also implied that the U.S. is bribing Israel to support the road map to peace, but there is simply no evidence to support that. On those levels, the cartoon failed.” Most troubling is the paper’s explanation for running Locher’s piece. While Dold was out of town, readers are told, deputy editor John McCormick (with the help of Voice of the People editor Dodie Hofstetter) made the decision in favor of Locher’s cartoon because “the policy issue it depicted — the use of U.S. aid to influence the Israeli government — was one that had often been discussed in editorial board debates.”

A question members of the Tribune staff should ask themselves is: Have there been cartoons — virulent or otherwise — related to the large sums of American aid to Western Europe and South Korea? Have there been “editorial board debates” and cartoons about aid to Egypt, which receives close to the same amount of aid as Israel? Moreover, the notion that any connection can be drawn between a debate about aid to Israel (which is obviously a legitimate topic of discussion) and the Nazi-like cartoon is troubling.

And one wonders, since Wycliff admits that “money has never been the decisive issue in the Middle East dispute,” why has “the use of U.S. aid to influence the Israeli government…often been discussed in editorial board debates?”

Wycliff ends the piece by stating “that this cartoon did indeed give grievous offense to many good people is beyond question.” The paper, evidently abashed at having run the anti-Semitic cartoon, nevertheless stopped short of offering an outright apology.

UPDATE:  Other Newspapers Publish Cartoon

The cartoon has been published in at least three other newspapers, the Denver Post (June 4), the Orlando Sentinel (June 7), and the Helena Independent Record (June 6). All three papers have since issued statements regretting the decision to run the Locher cartoon.

The Denver Post‘s editor, Sue O’Brien, in the June 6 edition of the paper explained that she “deeply regret[s] having published it.” O’Brien noted that the cartoon included “several visual symbols that certainly could be interpreted as anti-Semitic.” Locher’s piece, according to O’Brien, “reflected the double standard Americans too often impose on Israel…[and] made the seriously incorrect factual suggestion that the United States is paying – actually bribing – Israel to participate in the ‘roadmap to peace’ process.”

The Helena Independent Record made the following statement about the cartoon in a June 10 editorial:

Unfortunately, the depiction of Sharon, complete with a large nose and a Star of David on his suit coat, being swayed by Bush’s money, clearly amounted to an anti-Semitic caricature. Readers were justified in being upset. The IR strives to keep all kinds of ethnic slurs and stereotyping out of its pages, and we regret having fallen short. We apologize for failing to meet our own standards….Any image that smacks of the centuries-old scourge of anti-Semitism lies well beyond that line.

The Orlando Sentinel ‘s editor, Tim Franklin (June 14) was quoted saying that “the [Locher] cartoon crossed the line by conveying stereotypical images that are clearly offensive to Jews.” Franklin admits the cartoon “should not have been published.”

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