Citing growing division among Australian Jews over Israel, cartoonist refuses to apologize for likening Gaza to Nazis’ victims

Israel/Palestine
on 35 Comments

Here is an important bold piece in the Age in Australia. Several years ago, cartoonist Michael Leunig relates, the Jewish Museum in Melbourne withdrew an invitation to him to speak on the cartoonist as “society’s conscience” because of his then-”somewhat critical” views on Israel. Well, a few weeks back he did a cartoon expressing sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza under Israel’s bombardment and used a caption echoing the famous refrain from the Nazi era, “First they came for the Palestinians.” But such analogies are not permitted by the bullies. And Leunig is unapologetic:

In spite of all the highly organised rhetoric justifying Israel’s actions, the intuitive, heartfelt moral shape of the situation is becoming clearer and more obvious to the world the longer the conflict goes on. When all is said and done, it looks like the Palestinians have been massively robbed and abused, and are engaged in a desperate struggle for survival and liberation…. My cartoonist’s duty and conscience compel me to focus on the plight of the subjugated, the ones most neglected, severely deprived and cruelly afflicted.

I am not against Israel but I am opposed to what I regard as its self-defeating, self-corrupting militarist policy, which is not only excessively homicidal and traumatising but sows the seeds of irreversible hatred and can never bring a lasting peace. ..

I sense that the Jewish community in this country is itself increasingly divided on the question. I also suspect that the more aggressive Israel supporters fear this moral unease and quiet doubt in their community and are angered by any cartoons or commentary that might encourage such doubt. In spite of what the bullies say, I suspect they are not really upset by any “anti-Semitism” in my cartoons (there is none) but by the possible impact of a cartoon on the doubters. The better the cartoon, the more it must be discredited. What cheaper way to discredit than the toxic smear of anti-Semitism.

I am not sure whether it is legal to publicly call someone an anti-Semite without evidence but it certainly feels like hate talk to me, as well as a damaging thing to say about someone who does not agree with you. That’s often why it is said of course.

At my advanced age, I know I am not an anti-Semite, not even vaguely or remotely, but others would seem to know better as false accusers always do. If only there was some sort of test I could sit for to clarify the situation, but there is no science to this obsessive and vapid denunciation. It’s cynical, it’s bullying and it’s lazy. Stupidly, it’s also a case of the boys who cry wolf.

Over the years it has been implied that I am “a second degree anti-Semite”, “a new-world anti-Semite” and a “latent anti-Semite” as well as a simple old-fashioned common or garden anti-Semite. I now learn to my amazement that to make comparisons between Israeli policy and any Nazi behaviour is in itself an anti-Semitic act. So much for free speech. I say all nations that throw their military weight around, occupying neighbouring lands and treating the residents with callous and humiliating disregard are already sliding towards the dark possibilities in human nature.

Thanks to Australians for Palestine, and a dear friend, Elly Kilroy, who asks a vital question:
 
This bold piece is particularly instructive perhaps because, as Leunig admits, before he was denied a platform at Melbourne Jewish Museum, he was only ‘somewhat critical of Israel’ – the subsequent attempts to smear his work as motivated by antisemitism have only strengthened his resolve not to be cowed and silenced. Might it be more generally the case that the increasingly desperate and inept tactics used by Israel’s apologists only embolden its critics?
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35 Responses

  1. David Doppler
    December 11, 2012, 11:07 am

    “I say all nations that throw their military weight around, occupying neighbouring lands and treating the residents with callous and humiliating disregard are already sliding towards the dark possibilities in human nature.”

    This is the nub of the matter. Leunig speaks for a lot of Israel’s critics here.

    And, yes, there are hateful Arabs and Muslims who would erase Israel from the map. Why do the Israelis keep empowering them? Why do they succumb to the racist notion that one Arab Muslim speaks for every Arab Muslim? Are they stupid? Or just racist?

    • John Douglas
      December 11, 2012, 12:07 pm

      “And, yes, there are hateful Arabs and Muslims who would erase Israel from the map. Why do the Israelis keep empowering them?”

      If there had been a way for Israel to occupy an entire Palestinian-free “greater Israel” other than by forcing Palestinians to flee their homeland in order
      to have work, food, medicine, education, safety from bombing and every other basic human need they might have chosen it. As it is, they seem willing to ride out the negatives until the job is done, confident that over the long term all will be forgotten.

      • Citizen
        December 12, 2012, 7:48 am

        @ John Douglas

        Reminds me of Adolph’s cynical remark re his plans for the Jews: “Who remembers the Armenians?”

    • Avi_G.
      December 11, 2012, 5:14 pm

      Doppler must be the same Hasbaratchik who posted this in response to the article in the Age:

      Well said, though I’m sure Mr Leunig is well aware the conflict can hardly be boiled down to just ‘Israel bullying Palestinians’. The strong fanatical elements on both sides are what have kept it going so long, and both sides at various points have refused to agree to various proposed solutions.

      Unfortunately for the Hasbarat, the information he posted is a lie through and through. It’s the same spin, different approach. Hasbara schtick #276.

    • Antidote
      December 12, 2012, 12:05 am

      “Why do the Israelis keep empowering them? Why do they succumb to the racist notion that one Arab Muslim speaks for every Arab Muslim? Are they stupid? Or just racist?”

      I would say “the Israelis” are no more speaking in one voice than the “Arab Muslims”. So let’s say the haters, maximalists, rejectionists on either side empower each other, drowning out and marginalizing the moderates and the peace camp. This is not a minor point but the root problem, and it has been fueling the conflict from the very beginning.

      There is a stark imbalance of power, of course, between Israelis and Palestinians. But Israel does not look that strong in the larger context of the ME. This too is an old problem. Add to this the fact that Israel’s closest and most powerful ally, the US, is not exactly popular in the ME. The ‘Bomb Iran’-campaign is just as stupid and inflammatory as the ‘Zionist entity’/ ‘Great Satan’-campaign

      • straightline
        December 12, 2012, 3:55 am

        “Add to this the fact that Israel’s closest and most powerful ally, the US, is not exactly popular in the ME”.

        You talk as if this happened totally by accident. Some nasty people suddenly decided on a whim that they didn’t like the US?

        Might not it just be a tiny bit to do with the fact that the US consistently supports a racist regime that is continually stealing land from Palestinians, bombing its neighbors, and ignoring International Law? Might it not be to do with the fact that the US consistently vetoes any UN Security Council resolution that is even the slightest bit critical of Israel? You may not yet have worked this out, but popularity is usually a response to one’s behavior.

        • Antidote
          December 12, 2012, 8:20 am

          “Some nasty people suddenly decided on a whim that they didn’t like the US?”

          yeah, right, that’s what I obviously think. I’m well known on MW s a staunch defender of US policy in the ME and elsewhere. Greatest country in the world, always fighting for freedom and democracy. Feel free to check my previous posts

          “You may not yet have worked this out, but popularity is usually a response to one’s behavior.”

          I get it, now you work it out.

      • gamal
        December 12, 2012, 6:48 am

        “Great Satan” campaign? eh what do you mean, Adote? something to do with USA actions in Iran no doubt, yes some people dont mind being colonized? who? you? well then you should make yourself available for it, or you just saying, like, to move the discussion along.

        The Bomb iran-campaign and the “Zionist entity/great satan-campaign you think are equivalent? in what way, inflammatory?

        DD
        “And, yes, there are hateful Arabs and Muslims who would erase Israel from the map.” what has been erased from the map, it wasnt Israel was it? “Why do the Israelis keep empowering them?” So its not that people colonized might have a point or anything its Israel empowering haters, is this supposed to be some kind of analysis, its not hateful to want to reverse criminal colonization, its human, and fundamentally right, which parts of your home town do you think could be colonized?

        “Why do they succumb to the racist notion that one Arab Muslim speaks for every Arab Muslim?” Are they stupid? Or just racist?” have you thought perhaps stupid and racist, and “succumb”, despite all their efforts to resist it they succumbed, what a tragedy or tragicomedy in your version.
        Stupid must be catching.

        The attempt to construct a “balanced” approach where all are equally guilty is misconceived, and our victims are resisting our on going crimes against them, its not anger this is not the school yard, crimes, do you get that, shame on them how could they, or, so what, you both seem very confused could you clarify wtf you are talking about.

        to use an image often used here a woman being raped may not have wanted to have sex with her attacker, is in your parlance “hate” and wanting the offending penis out of her is inflammatory, do you both not see the implicit racism of your utterances here?

        People are struggling for rights you take for granted, do you think they are children of a lesser god, undeserving of their legal rights, even those conceived under a fundamentally unjust and discriminatory system are being denied them, and this malicious psychobabble is what you present as meaningful comment?

  2. pabelmont
    December 11, 2012, 11:22 am

    A valuable piece and I very much agree with Elly Kilroy. When they attack you they want you to collapse. Bravery in face of such attack, and calling attention to the wrongness of such attack, is necessary and today is especially and increasingly effective.

    The Israel-defenders have circled their wagons, and this cartoonist — among other folks — is shooting his small arrows into the circled wagons. It’s getting harder and harder to keep the wagon protectors loyal as Israel makes itself so outrageously offensive.

    • pabelmont
      December 12, 2012, 2:12 pm

      To the entire question of why Israel is so offensively militaristic, imperialist, etc., I’d point out that even after the military-terroristic-creation of Israel, there needn’t necessarily have been endless war (tho the method and place of Israel’s creation makes me wonder about this). Read the book “Fortress Israel” by Patrick Tyler (2012) for the history of Israel’s diplomacy and warfare, Early on, there was an Israeli PM named Sharett who worked hard to use diplomacy to make a place for Israel in the wider world — and whose diplomatic efforts were routinely “shot down” by Ben-Gurion, Ariel Sharon, and others who believed that war alone — usually aggressive war — could secure Israel’s longevity.

      Diplomacy was essentially the “road not taken”. As we see nowadays, Israel is so habituated to unprovoked military exercise (to prove its fierceness, to demonstrate its bloodymindedness) that it is seeking war with Iran and regularly pulverizes Gaza and Lebanon.

      I would expect the Israeli wars of the next decade to be waged over water, as global warming transforms an already dry region into a dustbowl (like the American west). Where there should be cooperation for mutual assistance, the Israeli habits of war and hatred for Arabs seem to assure a ravaged future.

  3. LanceThruster
    December 11, 2012, 11:42 am

    “First they came for the Palestinians.”

    The degree to which they seek to control all aspects of the message is truly mind-boggling. Props to Michael Leunig for standing firm.

  4. American
    December 11, 2012, 1:44 pm

    ”This bold piece is particularly instructive perhaps because, as Leunig admits, before he was denied a platform at Melbourne Jewish Museum, he was only ‘somewhat critical of Israel’ – the subsequent attempts to smear his work as motivated by antisemitism have only strengthened his resolve not to be cowed and silenced. Might it be more generally the case that the increasingly desperate and inept tactics used by Israel’s apologists only embolden its critics?”

    Take note zio smearers and character assassins……cause this is exactly what is happening out here.
    You are not going to get away with the accusing and lying about people’s intentions or motivations in criticizing zionist or Israel to try and shut them up.
    The more you employ this slimy tactic, the bigger the blow back against you and the more disgust you arouse.

  5. calm
    December 11, 2012, 1:52 pm

    About 4 or 5 years ago, I viewed a “Postcard” which was a flash presentation and the Jewish Folks all screamed about it.

    I expected the publicity about the cartoon to have the publisher remove it from the website and because of this, I edited the flash presentation and grabbed what was called an “anti-semite” image.
    link to dotandcalm.com
    link to data.boomerang.nl
    link to boomerang.nl
    link to ad.nl

    And another thing I’d like to mention is that there are many, many instances where Google search results indicate a “Warning” …. ‘Website “May” contain viruses’ … and it does not. I believe that this is done because in most all instances the website contains anti-israel commentary.

    Calm

  6. sandhillexit
    December 11, 2012, 4:17 pm

    No country sets as much stock in “fair play” as Australia. It has no history of anti-semitism and its inspirational founding myth is that the despised and discarded can work together to build something admirable and for the common good. It is always a pleasure to watch a casual demonstration of “Aussie” sportsmanship, equanimity and grit. I would say this is one of those times.

  7. seafoid
    December 11, 2012, 4:52 pm

    For more than 100 years they silenced people with the slur of antisemitism. They debased the term to the point of meaninglessness. And now it is useless. The tide has finally bzgun to turn. Dorian Israel is seen in the mirror of the world and the sight is truly appalling.

    • pabelmont
      December 12, 2012, 2:22 pm

      Seafoid: Beautiful image, the Gray Lady of the M/E. She looks beautiful to herself but the real picture of her gets more and more ugly. It’s an instructive story, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde, because it shows us how the true ugliness cannot forever be hidden — and also shows us (I believe) the way we can fool ourselves into supposing that our essential ugliness is beautiful.

    • chinese box
      December 12, 2012, 2:50 pm

      @seafoid

      100 years? I’d say it’s more like 50. It seems people in the ’40s and 50s (Einstein, Arendt, even Time magazine) could be a lot more candid with their views without fear of repercussions. I think the dialogue began to shut down around the time of LBJ’s term in office. Tragically, the rapidly growing acceptance of the Jewish community in the US (along with the advent of the lobby) seemed to close the door on open debate about Israel in the MSM. We swung wildly from the anti-semitic statements of Henry Ford and others to an equally unacceptable conflation of anti-semitism with any criticism of Israel. I blame the lobby, overly “PC” attitudes and a lack of awareness and critical thinking skills in the American public for this.

  8. southernobserver
    December 11, 2012, 5:32 pm

    Good on him and the Age.
    The same thing happened in New Zealand in 2003, but not such a good outcome:
    “(New Zealand Press Association) — An award-winning cartoonist dumped by New Zealand’s biggest newspaper because of his drawings on the Middle East conflict said he stood by his work and rejected an editor’s right to direct what he could or could not draw.”
    link to rense.com

    The first reaction of Zionists to any criticism is censorship, and personal attacks. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is no more than simple turnabout.

  9. tombishop
    December 11, 2012, 7:05 pm

    I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I was in Cambodia a month ago where I saw the Khmer Rouge torture center and a killing field outside Phnom Penh. I was shaken as profoundly by the experience as I was after a visit to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem last November.

    It was therefore with horror that I watched the actions of the IDF and listened to the attitudes of many Israelis during the latest attack on Gaza a few weeks ago. The language we hear directed at Palestinians is what happens before all genocides. It is meant to dehumanize and treat a people who stands in the way of an imperial aim as “the Other” who must be separated from the human family.

    “Never again” must be the attitude towards all genocide. Anyone who would consider such a thing as a final solution to the Palestinian problem should look at how we remember societies which engage in such a crime against humanity.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  10. straightline
    December 12, 2012, 3:29 am

    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio National Breakfast program this morning had a big item about the mistreatment of Australian exported animals in Israeli abbatoirs. I wish they made a similar fuss about the mistreatment of Palestinians but they speak hardly a word about that.

    • Mayhem
      December 14, 2012, 5:24 pm

      @straightline, you belie your name by referring to abattoirs in the plural when there is just one involved, which is now under criminal investigation. This is typical of the kind of slanderous stereotyping that encourages bigoted, biased attitudes and opinions that are not at all helpful.

  11. eljay
    December 12, 2012, 8:36 am

    Kudos to Mr. Leunig. The third panel in his controversial cartoon couldn’t be more incisive.

    • gamal
      December 12, 2012, 12:23 pm

      that was amazingly good eljay thanks for the link. the hasbara acts are beginning to bore everyone senseless, love the last panel, whats the hebrew for schtum, it might be a better policy.

      • eljay
        December 12, 2012, 1:31 pm

        >> that was amazingly good eljay thanks for the link.

        Thanks, but I have to give credit where credit is due: I got the link from calm @ December 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm (in this thread).

  12. edwardm
    December 13, 2012, 10:16 am

    “And, yes, there are hateful Arabs and Muslims who would erase Israel from the map.”
    So far the only ones doing any “erasing from the map” are the Israelis – 493(?) times in the late 1940s.
    link to en.wikipedia.org
    and continues to this day. Please toss out a “pushed into the sea comment” next.

  13. Mayhem
    December 14, 2012, 4:09 pm

    How quick are the hypocrites to spring to the defence of a cartoonist who claims his God given right to tread willy nilly into anti-semitic territory. This cartoonist’s work was illegally entered in a cartoon competition in an Iranian newspaper about the Holocaust. The artist’s work was considered eminently suitable by those who did this. Refer link to archive.frontpagemag.com for the full story.

    The point is that while the Muslim world goes bananas over cartoons that depict Mohammed in ways they do not like, Jews are supposed to accept this kind of veiled anti-semitism without complaining. Hypocritical double standards reign supreme.

    A level headed journo has taken Leunig to task in the same newspaper where Leunig published his ‘defence’ – refer link to theage.com.au

    • Citizen
      December 14, 2012, 4:54 pm

      @ Mayhem

      And meanwhile, Israel keeps dispossessing more natives, laying endless siege to Gaza, putting the natives on “a diet,” murdering native kids, jailing them, assassinating native leaders. What Muslim country has been doing this for such a long time? None. And you seek a moral equation re cartoons.

    • eljay
      December 14, 2012, 4:59 pm

      >> The point is that while the Muslim world goes bananas over cartoons that depict Mohammed in ways they do not like, Jews are supposed to accept this kind of veiled anti-semitism without complaining.

      Muslims need to get over themselves when it comes to people mocking their “god”, “holy book” and “prophets”. And Zio-supremacists need to get over themselves when it comes to people calling them out on their hatefulness and immorality, and on the hatefulness and immorality of their oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist state.

      >> Hypocritical double standards reign supreme.

      Funny stuff, coming from an hateful, immoral and hypocritical Zio-supremacist.

    • justicewillprevail
      December 14, 2012, 5:42 pm

      The only hypocrisy around here is yours, deliberately conflating completely justifiable abhorrence and disgust at Israel’s overwhelming militarised state and its constant violence against the indigenous people with anti-semitism. Leunig has articulated very clearly what he is appalled by, and it is not ‘Jews’, but the political and military right wing extremism of Israel. His eloquent point, if you bothered to read it, is that the well known phrase ‘I was silent about…’ is heavily ironic about Palestine since Israel does everything it can to silence and intimidate its critics, thus ensuring the very situation it pretends to deplore. Hypocrisy indeed.

    • Sumud
      December 14, 2012, 8:24 pm

      1. Leunig’s work is not anti-semitic.
      2. Talking about a cartoon competition in Iran still doesn’t make Leunig anti-Semitic, but I understand; that’s what you got in your hasbara files so you need to work it in to your material…
      3. The “level-headed journo” is a cartoonist who authored an Opinion piece (look above the byline), and he obviously see something is very wrong in Israel’s behaviour, but also spouts some fairly bog standard hasbara: that Palestinian refusal to accept the UN Partition Plan justifies the Nakba, that expecting full right of return (to which Palestinians are entitled by law) is unreasonable, that Palestinians would be living in peace and independence in their own state if it weren’t for the second intifada, and most ridiculously that the growth of the Palestinian population since 1948 means Israelis can’t possibly be compared to Nazis.

      No mention of the Gaza [Warsaw] Ghetto, no mention of the jewish youth rallying in Jerusalem chanting “death to arabs” and no mention of the gobsmacking racism that is documented time and time again in Israeli opinion polls.

      No recognition of the trajectory Israel is on. No, unless you have gas chambers with 6 million dead Israelis you aren’t allowed to ring any alarms bells and say “look at this”.

      I reject that Opinion.

      Also from your “level-headed journalist”:

      As an admirer of his whimsical meditations on the human condition, I am tentatively prepared to give Leunig the benefit of the doubt as regards accusations of anti-Semitism.

      Aside from the fact you quoted this article to buttress your argument that Leunig is anti-semitic, why can’t this Opinion piece author just state his Opinion on whether or not Leunig’s cartoon is anti-semitic. Is it that doesn’t really know what anti-semitism is himself, or he knows Leunig isn’t anti-semitic but is himself afraid of standing up in Leunig’s defence in case “door will close to me, hateful mail would arrive, bitterness and spiteful condemnations would follow”…?

      link to leunig.com.au

  14. MHughes976
    December 14, 2012, 4:59 pm

    As a satire on the way people excuse their silence and indifference it’s painfully accusing. My excuse for my moments of silence – as when I meet friendly Israelis on holiday – is that I have no idea about how to say anything which would be understood. They are conditioned to think, in the face of anything other than the most unconditional praise, ‘Just another anti-Semite’. When I haven’t established any proper rapport or trust with them I have no chance of breaking through the conditioning.

  15. straightline
    December 14, 2012, 7:35 pm

    Level headed? Nick Dyrenruth?

    link to enpassant.com.au

    Fatheaded maybe! And certainly an uberzionist.

    • Sumud
      December 16, 2012, 6:20 am

      Great link thanks straightline, Dyrenruth sounds like a real piece of work.

  16. southernobserver
    December 14, 2012, 10:22 pm

    I read Nick Dyrenfurth’s commentary hoping for greater moral insight. Disappointingly it is just standard, rote talking points, every single one of which has been repeatedly shown to be either factually incorrect or a wilful misrepresentation of the truth.

    Is this the truth that is so delicate that it must be attended by a bodyguard of lies?