Eli Valley lost work at Jewish paper for savage cartoons of Foxman and Dershowitz (but only the Israeli press cares)

US Politics
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This is a puzzle. A few weeks ago, the cartoonist Eli Valley published a book of his vicious/dark cartoons on the American Jewish leadership’s blind fealty to Israel and distance from American Jews, and the book (Diaspora Boy from O/R) has gotten a ton of publicity in Israel and the American Jewish press too, but virtually no attention in the mainstream press.

Once again, the growing Jewish antipathy toward Israel and Zionism is just not a story. Which is imponderable because Valley has such an impressive body of work and such an arresting style, and because he has patently been a victim of that Jewish establishment, losing work because of its rage at him.

Valley tells that story in his book. For years his cartoons were accepted by the Forward, the leading liberal Jewish publication. But as he took on establishment figures, notably Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, the leaders protested shrilly, and the newspaper got more and more uncomfortable with his pictures. Valley describes an increasingly chilly relationship with the person he only identifies as the Forward‘s “editor-in-chief,” Jane Eisner. Valley relates an exchange with Eisner: “She replied that she wasn’t comfortable with a Jewish newspaper criticizing Jewish leaders–something that stuck with me, because it was the clearest indication yet that we might be at an impasse.”

That was a cartoon that ran, mocking Abe Foxman for seeing enemies everywhere on Israel and calling them out as Jews. “Just tell me if you’re a Jew. Perfidious Jew!”

That cartoon was the last straw for Foxman, Valley writes. “He and his underlings barraged The Forward with phone calls accusing the newspaper of conspiring against the ADL leader…”

The denoument: “I learned that Foxman was friends of the publisher, and he made his fury felt… I was told that my relationship with the Forward would be ending, and that I shouldn’t send in further pitches.”

Eli Valley, photo by Loubna Mrie.

Valley managed to publish a couple of other cartoons in the Forward, including a devastating critique of the Jewish leadership during the Gaza onslaught of 2014. But he hasn’t been in the Forward for three years.

Once again: You’d think that the blacklisting of a rnowned New York Jewish cartoonist/author who has taken on the Jewish establishment over its blind support for Israel and opposition to intermarriage and other moral collapses would be a good story. Not to mention there was a rightwing campaign demanding Valley’s scalp. Breitbart called on the Jewish community to shut him down– Eli Valley, the son of a rabbi and devoted to Jewish culture.

But no, his dismissal, and his bitingly grotesque sendups of Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents and Michael Oren the former Israeli ambassador, not to mention Dershowitz in a straitjacket– they haven’t been covered in the mainstream cultural press. Though Haaretz covered the story from thousands of miles away, and got a careful quote from Eisner.

“We were pleased to have Eli Valley as our first artist-in-residence. (Jeremiah Lockwood followed him.) Eli contributed to The Forward before and after his year-long residence, as his author page shows. As with all contributors, his work was discussed and edited.”

Meantime, the New York Times runs a puff piece about the Forward‘s growing importance as a chronicler of the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States, and quotes Eisner at length, on the need to be “accurate and fair and passionate.”

But the Times story leaves out Eisner’s tense interactions with Valley, leading to his blacklisting after the Gaza war, the story the cartoonist relates in this book.

“This comic was spiked by the Forward after six weeks of discussion and debate,” Valley writes of a cartoon that lampooned sociological “studies and screeds” against intermarriage, in which he likened chauvinistic Jews to geneticists who compete to have superior chimpanzees.

When Valley attacked Michael Oren and Alan Dershowitz for smearing Richard Goldstone over the Goldstone Report, he was told that Eisner wanted him to “persuade, not skewer.” When he showed the separation wall and the failure of the richest Jewish population in history to take a stand against colonization, “the editor in chief felt it presented only one side of the story.”

“There’s no balance in this cartoon,” she complains to Valley about a cartoon– which the Forward ran– savaging Abe Foxman and suggesting that Israel’s actions “contribute to a rise in global anti-semitism.”

Many of these cartoons will be familiar to our readers. Valley executes dense, dark, brilliant satire. His voice is over-the-top, zealous, innocent and slightly parochial, too. He is deeply hurt by the fact that Jewish leaders have betrayed his romance about Jewish values. He contends that Jews were once devoted to social justice, and still are, en masse; but the autocratic Jewish leaders are busy flinging around anti-Semitism charges to protect Israel from any criticism for its atrocities against Palestinians– and thereby contributing to global anti-semitism.

“It’s because I’m Jewish that  think Israel should be embargoed until every last West Bank colonist is brought home,” a character says in the Foxman cartoon that was the last straw.

The “last straw.” Eli Valley image of Abe Foxman, from new book, Diaspora Boy, O/R Books.

 

Valley adheres to the two-state solution because he wants to believe that Israel was the fulfillment of a dream; but his betrayal is so keen in these cartoons that at moments he turns against Zionism. “What if much of what I’ve been funding, defending, parading for decades is a smoldering horror show?” a Jewish leader named Arthur ask himself in the wake of the Dawabshe family murders of 2014. After that one ran in the Forward, John Podhoretz called Valley a “kapo,” as part of the drumbeat of rightwing criticism.

During the Gaza assault of 2014 Valley pictured Netanyahu as a madman and and showed Israeli fighter-pilots dissing American Jews as effete even as they leveled Gazan neighborhoods. “We were a withered people, scattered like the wind… But now… we control our destiny–”

Writes Valley: “This… was my final comic to appear in the Forward.”

Only Israeli publications could stomach his images, he says. That makes sense. Palestinians don’t appear very often in these cartoons; and in his call for sanctions over Israeli settlements, Valley has become a hero to leftleaning Zionists.

Valley seems turned off by Zionism, and he satirizes Zionist leaders as the worm-eaten undead. But he does so from inside the tent. That gives him a power outside critics lack. Take a look at this panel featuring Malcolm Hoenlein from 2008. Hoenlein was not identified; but Valley need to say the unspeakable: Jewish orgs had pushed for the disastrous Iraq war, and were pushing one against Iran.

Eli Valley caricature of Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents, from his new book Diaspora Boy.

His other offenses were domestic. For instance, Valley refused to get upset about the Jewish intermarriage rates. When the 2013 Pew study came out showing enormous rates of Jewish mainstream inclusion, Jane Eisner pronounced it “devastating” evidence of “assimilation.” But Valley celebrated it as a sign of Jewish arrival as a “vibrant, albeit less traditionally-identified, community embraced by and embracing the American mainstream” (though in that case the Forward ran his cartoon).

He despairs over the influence of wealthy Jews; and shows big donors buying off a Jewish sociologist to offer false messages to young Jews: “Ties to Israel must be strengthened to save Jewish identity.” The sociologist protests, “That’s the exact opposite of what I found.” Then he takes the money.

It’s no wonder that Valley’s powerful book has gotten a lot of attention in the Israeli press. “Virtually no person or subject is safe from cartoonist and satirist Eli Valley’s knifelike nib,” The Times of Israel wrote.

While Haaretz has twice praised Valley. “Even when they cross a line, and maybe especially when they cross a line, these comics deserve to be read by anyone who cares about contemporary Jewish life, especially about the relationship between Jews in America and Israel,” Josh Lambert wrote in August. Later, Debra Nussbaum Cohen said Valley’s work is “a type of criticism that hasn’t existed since the advent of Yiddish political cartooning.”

And yes even the Forward has saluted Valley’s work. Its new opinion editor, Batya Ungar-Sargon (who has managed to get Steve Walt and Steven Salaita into the paper lately) wrote last month that Valley’s worldview is so powerful, that “I believe if Valley’s detractors were seated in a quiet room with Valley himself discussing the issues he addresses in his work — hypocrisy, Jewish genetics, Israeli aggression, how the Jewish leadership abandons anyone who disagrees with them — they might even come to agree with at least some of his criticisms.”

So the argument is happening inside the Forward itself; Eli Valley’s personal crisis is a community’s crisis over historic questions. But the New York Times and NPR are afraid of the story.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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32 Responses

  1. Keith
    October 17, 2017, 3:11 pm

    Phil, how can I not link to my favorite Eli Valley cartoon, “Israel Man and Diaspora Boy,” which I dedicate to all of the MondoZionist Israel Man wannabes: http://www.elivalley.com/comics/israel-man-and-diaspora-boy/

  2. Tuyzentfloot
    October 17, 2017, 5:37 pm

    Valley is just a sore loser. He picked a fight with reality to see who could outparody who, and he lost.

    • JosephA
      October 18, 2017, 1:06 am

      Wow, Keith, thanks for sharing that satire cartoon. It was brilliant!

      • Tuyzentfloot
        October 18, 2017, 11:52 am

        I’m not Keith. Keith is Keith.

    • amigo
      October 18, 2017, 12:40 pm

      “Valley is just a sore loser” tuyzenfoot.

      Your response is proof positive I should check the Link.

      Keith , thanks for the link –it is brilliant.It also got tuyzenfoot,s gander up so that,s a bonus.

      • Tuyzentfloot
        October 18, 2017, 4:55 pm

        Yeah, he makes the kind of outrageous matter of fact stuff which makes me think he’s got his head on straight. I used to be into comics.
        I still have a dozen or so Will Eisner comics . Maybe Jane Eisner is related.
        I think I’ll watch this

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aplX5wF5lQ4

      • Annie Robbins
        October 18, 2017, 5:24 pm

        oh wow tuyzentfloot, thanks so much for the link. i’m listening/watching now. very entertaining. especially the juxtaposition w/mad comics. check out the comic at 13:08 and the photo at 13:20. hysterical.

        i can’t believe this video only has 188 views.

      • Tuyzentfloot
        October 19, 2017, 2:44 pm

        i can’t believe this video only has 188 views.

        209! Man, Eli is going to be so grateful I posted that that he’s going to send me his book for free, signed and all. I’m sure!

      • Annie Robbins
        October 19, 2017, 3:08 pm

        it’s up to 210!! it’s such a good video. i definitely want to be in one of his audiences one day. what an entertaining person — and what a life and history. ;)

  3. JustJessetr
    October 17, 2017, 6:11 pm

    It reminds me of how Robert Crumb was attacked for his work. In the movie “CRUMB” he says (I think I’m getting the quote mostly right), “Maybe I am dangerous. Maybe they should take my pencils away and lock me in a room somewhere.”

    Whether it’s Charlie Hebdo, or Valley, or Crumb, when cartoonists are blocked from their standard publication it strikes me as particularly low and cowardly. It’s like parents punishing a kid who expressed his rage that there isn’t a Santa Claus after all and did it through a really bad crayon drawing of the people who fed him that whopper from the start.

  4. Emory Riddle
    October 17, 2017, 7:04 pm

    The guy’s good. But no Latuff.

  5. Edward Q
    October 17, 2017, 8:17 pm

    Zionists are so over the top that they are practically begging cartoonists like Valley to parody them.

  6. yonah fredman
    October 17, 2017, 11:29 pm

    Everyone who hates the Forward, meaning opposes any pro Jewish sentiment expressed by the Forward, (pro Jewish- pro continuity), but who love Eli Valley, can be seen with a discerning eye. An acerbic pen that skewers your enemies, of course you’re in favor. I wish the American Jewish press was thriving like it was a hundred years ago, but it’s not. The Forward is not a profit making newspaper and depends on contributions. I enjoy/disenjoy Valley’s cartoons, but recognize him as a unique voice.

    • Mooser
      October 18, 2017, 12:07 pm

      Are you trying to say something, “yonah”?

      • Emory Riddle
        October 18, 2017, 4:56 pm

        Yes.

        Yonah clearly states that he enjoys/disenjoys Valley’s cartoons.

        First time I have ever actually seen someone use the word disenjoy.

      • amigo
        October 18, 2017, 5:37 pm

        “First time I have ever actually seen someone use the word disenjoy.” ER

        Yonah also disenjoys his neighbours , (non Jews ) who eat white bread and Mayonnaise .He does not disenjoy a little rye bread mit pastrami.

        “assimilation is viewed as a negative, because it involves loss of true self, as in, conforming to a society and denying your essence. imagine, sitting and eating white bread and mayonnaise with your neighbors, but then going home and chowing down on some pastrami on rye, mit a pickle and chicken soup,”YF

        http://mondoweiss.net/2017/07/israeli-solomon-schechter/

      • Mooser
        October 18, 2017, 5:42 pm

        “Yonah” has his “discerning eye” on us!

      • Mooser
        October 18, 2017, 6:45 pm

        ” but then going home and chowing down on some pastrami on rye, mit a pickle and chicken soup”

        All at one meal? I thought Jewish religious law forbids mixed stains on fabric.

      • Kaisa of Finland
        October 18, 2017, 7:32 pm

        “rye bread..”

        What?? Now the Zionist have stolen our rye bread too?? First they took hummus and falafel and made them “The National Foods of Israel” and now, are they taking our rye bread too?? Are there no limits with the Zionist brutality??

        (By the way, my Israelian Jewish friends ate often white bread with mayonese and tuna, while I boiled my red lentil soup..)

      • echinococcus
        October 18, 2017, 7:35 pm

        Let him. I, for one, am not disenjoying the comedy.

      • RoHa
        October 18, 2017, 8:51 pm

        I didn’t know there was such a word. The OED refuses to admit it. (Or, at least, I can’t find it in the online version.) The American dictionary-substitute defines it as “taking no enjoyment”, but to me it gives the impression of annulling the pleasure from something that one previously enjoyed.

      • echinococcus
        October 19, 2017, 1:29 am

        OK, Master. Let me correct my statement: I am not unenjoying the comedy.

      • echinococcus
        October 19, 2017, 1:32 am

        Rye bread should be bona fide Polish-Russian, too, but tuna instead of whitefish comes mighty close to treyf.

  7. echinococcus
    October 18, 2017, 10:25 am

    the book (Diaspora Boy from O/R) has gotten a ton of publicity in Israel and the American Jewish press too, but virtually no attention in the mainstream press.

    Where is the surprise? Of course it does not deserve any attention outside the tribal bubble!
    You explain why yourself, in the very same article:

    “satirizes Zionist leaders as the worm-eaten undead. But he always does so from inside the tent.”

    So much so that “Peter Beinart wrote the introduction to his book”, in fact all his work is patently “liberal” Zionist.

    Surprised that the world at large doesn’t care as much about inside-Zionist incestuous spats as the insiders? After all, the only thing they all are discussing is how to perpetuate intruder presence on Palestinian soil, period. A different look-and-feel, an improved corporate image.

    • Tuyzentfloot
      October 19, 2017, 3:47 am

      I see a distinction between ‘inside the tent’ and liberal zionist. Valley doesn’t strike me as someone who says Israel should be a jewish state, though i also don’t recall him saying the opposite. But then I haven’t read him that closely. That’s for that other reason: it’s tribal. I don’t feel the need to be that deeply informed about jewish tribal issues.

      • echinococcus
        October 19, 2017, 6:52 pm

        OK for the distinction. It does work in the case of the late Bund and of today’s Neturei Karta.

        But then, those tribals who, as I said, try to ensure the continued implantation of goddam intruders in Palestine with “liberal” talk, as an objective taking precedence over the destruction of the Zionists, don’t have to necesssarily be for a “Jewish state” but a “Jewish” presence (as non-Palestinian.) They may technically not be Zionists but they sure are part and parcel of the colonial invasion. Besides, this one is a Beinart prefacee! After all, there are hundred of thousands of fanatical obscurantist religious invaders who declare that they are not Zionist.

      • Tuyzentfloot
        October 20, 2017, 4:59 am

        Maybe Beinart is hoping to gain some credibility. If anything Valley represents ‘Diaspora Boy’ standing his ground, contrary to the zionist self-hate narrative: Diaspora Jews should hate themselves.
        Mizrahi Jews should hate themselves too, they should get rid of their arab past Non-jews should hate themselves too of course, because of their antisemitic essence.

  8. Ossinev
    October 18, 2017, 5:49 pm

    @Emily Riddle
    “First time I have ever actually seen someone use the word disenjoy”

    Careful. YF may accuse you of being disenjoyous.

  9. Qualtrough
    October 18, 2017, 11:06 pm

    “This is a puzzle. A few weeks ago, the cartoonist Eli Valley published a book of his vicious/dark cartoons on the American Jewish leadership’s blind fealty to Israel and distance from American Jews, and the book (Diaspora Boy from O/R) has gotten a ton of publicity in Israel and the American Jewish press too, but virtually no attention in the mainstream press.”

    I think these cartoons are spot on, but you know what’s really a puzzle? Why the mainstream press should be considered remiss in not paying more attention to a controversy involving a cartoonist whose target audience composes, at most, a mere 2.5% of the US population?

  10. JLewisDickerson
    October 20, 2017, 5:09 am

    Establishments seldom take kindly to hard-hitting cartoons utilizing that kind of dark, intense humor. Shecky Greene they can deal with.

  11. DaBakr
    October 21, 2017, 2:22 am

    This piece only goes to prove what a bubble PW lives in? if he really thinks this is the kind of bullshit “american jews” would be interested in ( subs let’s be clear, only some american jews have anything like “antipathy” growing for Israel. In your bubble there may be antipathy but in the world, other then the usual suspects for the past 50 yrs brand Israel is more popular then ever) it’s just kind of shocking that pw thinks anybody but the most obsessive Zionist hating Israel hating American jews would give a crap about valley . Even I don’t give a sht about this and I’m just as obsessive as amondiweisser ny

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