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How Israel and Zionism penetrate my little corner of rural America

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This cartoon appeared in The Oneida Daily Dispatch on July 7.


For the last ten years I have lived a mostly peaceful exilic existence in rural Central New York State far from the epicenter of the Jewish-American diaspora where I was born and raised.  I imagine my physical separation from Jewish cultural life makes me somewhat oblivious to the much-touted disenchantment with Israel, especially among young liberal-minded Jews. Even when I visit Manhattan, my old stomping grounds, I never pick up on this hopeful new rejection of blind allegiance to Zionism and all things Israeli.

What I am attuned to is the unlikely penetration of Israel and Zionism into the daily life here in my corner of rural America.  My 87-year-old Methodist mother-in-law is constantly bombarded by Christian Zionist organizations asking for donations.   Colgate University, which was once an all-Wasp bastion of the American power elite, now has a Judaic Studies department, which has recently hosted lectures by Dennis Ross, Michael Oren and Aaron Miller.

Early this month, a Dry Bones1 cartoon championing the cause of Jonathan Pollard appeared in my local daily newspaper, The Oneida Daily Dispatch.  I thought, “How did this get here?”

Dry Bones is an Israeli political cartoon which has appeared in the Jerusalem Post since 1973.  It is drawn by Yaakov Kirschen, who in 1971 as a 33-year-old Brooklyn cartoonist named Jerry Kirschen, made aliyah, immigration to Israel. 

Kirschen’s political comic strip is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons, where it is available for publication in U.S. newspapers.  I was curious as to how the Pollard cartoon got into The Oneida Daily Dispatch, so I telephoned the news editor of the paper, the affable and loquacious, Kurt Wanfried.  He told me that he used Dry Bones occasionally but not often, “because it is only about the Middle East.”  Wanfried found the comparison between Pollard and Snowden interesting and thought his readers also would.  He did not have any firm opinion on the Pollard case.   One plus, of Kirschen’s toon, for the Dispatch editor, is the vertical format which often is helpful in laying out the editorial page.

So there is no smoking gun here.  No evidence of the influence of the pro-Israel or as they call it in the Hebrew press, the Jewish lobby.  Dry Bones is available to the Dispatch through Cagle Cartoons because papers like the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, which often print Israeli and Jewish opinion, are willing to pay for it. 

I wondered if Cagle represents any other cartoonists from the Middle East? Clicking through their stable, I only see Americans.  I emailed Kirschen at his blog, coming clean that I was writing this post on Mondoweiss.  I hoped that he had some insight into his cartoon’s appearance in a newspaper like the Dispatch.  He never answered.

Here is a short biography from Yaakov Kirschen’s blog.2  He is one of many Jewish-Americans who moved to Israel shortly after the 1967 War.  Those who stayed mostly constitute a group whose political outlook has never strayed from the mythology of Leon Uris’ Exodus, despite recent events and the revelations of Zionist perfidy.  A look at some of the Dry Bones cartoons indicates Kirschen is one of those true believers.

I found these two on the Cagle Cartoons site before I hit the limit of free access and was required to pay to continue browsing Kirchen’s oeuvre. I demurred.




1 The Valley of Dry Bones 37 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”


13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord;  I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”


Old Testament, Ezekiel 37, 1-6, Standard English Version.  This chapter has been interpreted by some commentators as God’s promise to restore the land of Israel to the Jewish people.



2 Dry Bones Cartoonist Yaakov (Bones) Kirschen 

(entry in the National Cartoonists Society directory)

 KirschenAnother Brooklyn boy. Born March 8, 1938. Graduated from Queens College 1961. Wrote and drew funny cards for Norcross. After dismissal for loudness and jocular attitude became a freelance gag cartoonist for the former “Mad Mag” guys who were then doing “Cracked”. Moved on to doing cartoons for Playboy. Included in several “Best Of” Playboy anthologies. Fell in with the anti-Vietnam War folks and was actually elected delegate to the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago where, in spite of all the riots, was unable to get arrested. In 1971 moved to Israel, changed first name from Jerry to Yaakov, and in 1973 began drawing a daily editorial strip called Dry Bones. In 2003 the toon celebrated its 30th year in the Jerusalem Post. It has been reprinted or quoted by the NY Times, Time Mag, LA Times, CBS, AP, etc.

Ira Glunts
About Ira Glunts

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. His twitter handle is @abushalom

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10 Responses

  1. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    July 17, 2013, 9:43 am

    “So there is no smoking gun here. No evidence of the influence of the pro-Israel or as they call it in the Hebrew press, the Jewish lobby”

    Oh, I disagree. I think the fact that there is a stable of ready-made, pro-Israel politican cartoons at the ready and in the syndication pipeline, without corresponding pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel cartoons demonstrates the effect that the Israel lobby has already had. The influence has thus become institutionalized.

  2. Justpassingby
    July 17, 2013, 9:46 am

    Israel always make use of other conflicts to justify their criminal acts.

  3. irmep
    July 17, 2013, 9:56 am

    Interesting story. Wonder if there’s any “follow the money” angle.

    In 1974, a 515 Park Avenue organization, HQ of the Jewish Agency, WZO, etc. promoted him:,4370589&dq=dry-bones+kirshen&hl=en

    Be interesting to know if, like AIPAC’s Near East Report, Kirschen received any start-up funding from the Jewish Agency to send the right messages through his comic strip.

  4. ritzl
    July 17, 2013, 1:25 pm

    Before I read the article, I took the cartoon the other way. Pollard is still in jail so elements of the USG do still consider “snooping” a crime.

    Interesting trace of the anatomy of the propaganda machine, Ira. Thanks.

  5. irmep
    July 17, 2013, 3:11 pm

    Preachy lessons from “Dry Bones” strips:

    The “anti-Israel machine” has more money than the Israel lobby.

    Netanyahu reveals how to withdraw from US occupied territory.

    Islamist terrorists explain their violent two-step plan.

    Can’t deter Iran because mullahs are “crazy”

    Quiz about (obviously fictitious) “state of Palestine”

    Two thoughts.

    1. Once you’ve read 10 of these, you’ve pretty much read them all.

    2. If a comic strip of the same format, but in which the subject matter was Israel and its supporters, with all of the stereotypes reversed, were drawn weekly the newspapers, blogs/whatever that syndicated it would be boycotted and the ADL would probably condemn the strip and its cartoonist as “anti-Semitic.”

  6. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    July 18, 2013, 12:53 am

    “It is drawn by Yaakov Kirschen, who in 1971 as a 33-year-old Brooklyn cartoonist named Jerry Kirschen, made aliyah, immigration to Israel. ” Here a Mondoweiss contributor has contributed to the MW tradition of making a big to do about Jews using their Hebrew names when they move to Israel. I betcha Ira Glunts has a Hebrew name aside from Ira. But that’s just a bet. Phil has revealed that his Hebrew name is Pinchas. In any case, if you don’t get my point, Yaakov Kirschen, in all likelihood, was named on his birth certificate Jerry Kirschen, but was named by his parents at the time of the snipping of his genitals Yaakov and was called up to the Torah, in all likelihood at his bar mitzvah, by the name Yaakov. So in fact he was named (except for his birth certificate) Yaakov, besides Jerry.

    • Citizen
      July 18, 2013, 5:44 am

      Yep. And when people move to the Vatican state, they use their Christian name? At least in the Roman Catholic Church, one gets an additional Christian name. I can’t remember whether its at Baptism or Confirmation–I think the latter, but maybe not… Anyway, you don’t get nukes, only halberds, pantaloons, not fatigues.

  7. bilal a
    bilal a
    July 18, 2013, 4:59 am

    Jewish humor has been highly effective in skewering Gentile sacred self conceptions, and because it is humor its difficult to label it as hate speech, even if thats the underlying motivation:

    With urine on Jesus, has Larry David gone too far?

    The trouble is that humor cuts both ways, it tends to corrode both the aggressor and the victim’s cultures simultaneously.

    Curb Your Enthusiasm – Larry David acts Jewish at Izzy’s Deli

    Hatred and Self Hatred thrive together , Was Machts Du ?

    • Citizen
      July 18, 2013, 1:31 pm

      Curb Your Enthusiasm is aptly named by David. It juxtaposes Larry’s character with his wife’s character, a level-headed, shiksa. Just compare her to his best fat Jewish friend’s horribly annoying, bitchy, selfish bourgeois Jewish wife. Larry plays a hypochrondiac, totally cynical, paranoid Jew. His wife is a comely, stylish, practical, social shiksa. But he does pull his punches because his wife is certainly not an intellectual, and, like his fat friend’s bitchy Jewish wife, is always concerned about what the neighbors will say, but even that aspect of the show is spun, because Larry’s play shiksa wife is shown as being motivated by sincere humanism, not just robotic, trendy humanistic platitudes. The concept boils down to Larry’s character being a mix of hate and love for fellow humans, sometimes he’s well-intended, sometimes just a cunning player for totally selfish reasons. Usually the take away is he’s very hypocritical but is aware of it. When there’s an episode where his character speaks in a bit of detail of what Israel has done to the Palestinians, or just how powerful Jews are in Today’s America, I’d say that would be hopeful. Meanwhile, the show’s later episodes cast him as being divorced. It’s a definite lost to his show, because we’re just left with him, a Jewish curmudgeon with little saving humanitarian grace a la George Carlin. Maybe he should start drinking?

  8. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    July 19, 2013, 3:18 am

    Glunts accuses Kirschen of a “Leon Uris” view of Israel. I don’t think it is appropriate. When Edward Said accused American Jews of “Exodus” views of Israel, he meant, ignorant, two week tour every twenty years, if that. That is what I take the term to mean, ignorant, naive. Kirschen and his generation of post 67 war olim, are Jabotinsky Yehudis for the most part and I think using Leon Uris to describe him falls short.

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