You thought that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments about foreign loyalty or “Benjamins” were problematic. The International Edition of the New York Times just said “let me show you what we can do.”
At a time of rising antisemitism, when we have become increasingly exposed to the notion of dog whistles and tropes that are antisemitic, when there is a lively and active debate about this issue in the US, the New York Times International Edition did the equivalent of saying “hold my beer.”
You thought that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments about foreign loyalty or “Benjamins” were problematic. The International Edition of the New York Times just said “let me show you what we can do,” with a cartoon of a yarmulke-wearing, blind US President Donald Trump being led by a dog with a Star of David collar and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s face for a head.
I didn’t believe the cartoon was real when I first saw it. Many of my colleagues didn’t believe it either. I spent all day Saturday trying to track down a hard copy. I phoned friends, I got a PDF of the edition, and even then I didn’t believe it. I had to see for myself. So I drove to a twenty-four hour supermarket. There on the newsstand was the April 25 edition. I flipped gingerly through, fearing to see page sixteen. And then I found it. It stared back at me: That horrid image of a blind President Donald Trump with a yarmulke being led by a dog with the face of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Worse, the dog was wearing a Star of David as a collar.
This is what the New York Times thinks of us. Even if they subsequently said it was an error, they thought it was ok to print a cartoon showing the US President being blindly led by the “Jewish dog”? And not only that, those who watched as it went to print thought it is fine to put a Jewish skullcap on the President. Dual loyalty? No need to even wrestle with that question. It used to be we were told that Trump was fostering “Trump antisemitism” and driving a new wave of antisemitism in the US. But the cartoon depicts him as a Jew. Well, which is it? Is he fostering antisemitism, or is he now a closet Jew being led by Israel, depicted as a Jewish dog? We used to say that images “conjured up memories” of 1930s antisemitism. This didn’t conjure it up, this just showed us what it looked like.
The Nazis also depicted us as animals. They also put Stars of David on us. The anti-Semites have compared us to dogs and pigs and monkeys before. It used to be that it was on the far-Right that Jews were depicted as controlling the world, like an octopus or spider. But now we see how mainstream it has become to blame the Jews for the world’s problems. The cartoon comes in the context of numerous similar antisemitic statements and “dog whistles.” In this case it isn’t only “the Jews” but also Israel “leading” the US President. The cartoon is clear as day. It presented the Jews, as symbolized by that Star of David collar, secretly controlling the US president and he is led by Israel, the Jewish state.
No other minority group is subjected to such unrelenting and systematic hatred by mainstream US newspapers. No one would dare to put an Islamic leader’s face on a dog, with Islamic symbols leading the President. Of course not. The editor would stop that. They’d be sensitive to this issue. They would err on the side of not being offensive. The night editor, the duty editor or someone would say “this doesn’t look right.” Imagine the days when racists tried to depict US President Barack Obama as a closet Muslim. We know the tropes. So why put a yarmulke on Trump’s head? When it comes to Jews and Israel, there is no depth to which they will not sink. And an apology after the fact isn’t enough.
This cartoon didn’t end up in the International Edition of the New York Times by mistake. It was chosen, it was put on a page by someone, it was checked and re-checked. I know. I’m an Oped Editor. When I used to run cartoons in my section, no fewer than four people would see it before it goes to print. At the International Edition of the New York Times it should have been more than four. And they all thought it was fine? What that tells you is that there is a culture of antisemitism somewhere in the newsroom.
There isn’t just one problem with this cartoon. There are numerous problems. Problem one is putting a yarmulke on the President in a negative way. What is being said there? That he is secretly a Jew. Then making him blind and having him led by Israel. That implies Israel controls US policy or controls America. Problem Two. Then they put a dog leash with a Star of David which is antisemitic in numerous ways. Problems three and four. You’d think that after the Holocaust any use of the Star of David would automatically raise questions in a news room. But no. Then they put the Israeli Prime Minister’s face on a dog. On a dog. Problem number five.
So this cartoon wasn’t just mildly antisemitic. It wasn’t like “whoops,” it was deeply antisemitic. The New York Times acknowledges this in a kind of pathetic way. They admitted that the cartoon “included antisemitic tropes.” Then they note “the image was offensive and it was an error of judgement to publish it.” That’s not enough. An error of judgement would imply that it was just a kind of mistake. “tropes” would imply that to some people it is antisemitic, but it’s not clear as day.
This is clear as day. This isn’t like some story of unclear antisemitism. This isn’t a dog whistle. This is a dog. This is antisemitic on numerous levels. It’s time to say no more. It’s time to say “they shall not pass.” This should be a defining moment. It is a defining moment because one of America’s most prestigious newspapers did this, not some small newspaper somewhere. That it was the International edition doesn’t make it any less harmful. In fact it shows America’s face to the world and gives a quiet signal to other anti-Semites. How can we demand that there be zero tolerance for antisemitism and antisemitic tropes when this happens?
People must speak up against the cartoon fiasco and demand a real accounting and also demand a real conversation. Not another set of excuses where we all pretend it’s not clearly antisemitism, and it’s not clearly an attack on Jews and “dual loyalty.” We need to hear contrition and explanations and the public should be included and the New York Times should listen to how harmful and offensive this was.
This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post. To read more, please visit: jerusalempost.com
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