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

Israel/Palestine
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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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