Toles in a Cartoon World of His Own

Editorial cartoons – political commentary in illustrated form, usually with some attempt at humor – are intentionally subjective. That being the case, they generally escape critical analysis. But when the cartoonist’s premise contradicts the essential facts of his subject matter, criticism is mandatory. So it is with Tom Toles’ editorial cartoon in the Dec. 16 Washington Post and the Dec. 22 International Herald Tribune.

Out of Touch
Toles portrays Palestine Liberation Organization leader Mahmoud Abbas as the eager belle of the peace process ball, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as determined not to dance. Despite a spotlight on Abbas–the presumptive leader in the campaign for Palestinian Authority president–Sharon looks away, insisting “I still can’t find a partner …. If I wait long enough, she’ll go away and prove it.”

Cute, but completely wrong. In recent days,

* Sharon has suggested he might coordinate Israel’s planned Gaza Strip withdrawal with a new PA leadership, provided it is committed to keeping order and blocking terrorism. The withdrawal was to have been unilateral because under the late Yasser Arafat, there was no Palestinian partner willing to negotiate in good faith. Whether Abbas will make consistent efforts to block terrorist attacks remains to be seen;

* The Israeli government has said it will attempt to facilitate voting in the PA’s Jan. 9 presidential election, by withdrawing troops from population centers, easing passage at checkpoints and so on, even though this could entail serious security risks, such as terrorists slipping into Israel to carry out attacks;

* Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Palestinians not to miss the opportunity presented by Sharon for progress toward statehood;

* Abbas – Toles’ willing dance partner – has criticized the “militarization” of the “al-Aksa intifada” (2000 to the present), in which nearly 1,000 Israelis have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists, while praising the tactics of the first intifada (1987 – 1992), in which more than 230 Israelis died. (The main difference between the first and second uprisings was not non-violence versus violence but the greater intensity of violence in the second, including suicide bombers and top-down direction by affiliates of Abbas’ own Fatah movement and PA security forces, among other groups); and

* Abbas got headlines for calling for the end of armed attacks, at least for the present. But he continued to insist on the same deal breaker Arafat invoked at Camp David in 2000 – the demand for Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants to “return” to Israel– thus destroying it as a Jewish state. Abbas also rejected refugee absorption by their Arab countries of residence, in contrast to Israel’s resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Furthermore, Abbas has been attempting to involve Hamas in the Palestinian election process, rather than eliminate the terrorist group as required under the “road map” supported by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.

Blinders Firmly in Place
Toles typically stereotypes Sharon as manipulative and dishonest. His latest effort fits the mold. He draws as if tracing with an old and sacrosanct anti-Israel template. The news, the facts, don’t really inform his work. For someone whose job is to offer intelligent and clever commentary on current events, that’s not just a weakness, it’s an indictment.

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