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.
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 The hand of the was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the 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 , you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the . Thus says the Lord 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 .”
And you shall know that I am the , when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 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 ; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the .”
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)
Another 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.