Marcy Winograd sent the following letter to the editor of the Daily Bruin at UCLA after the newspaper apologized on Monday for a cartoon mocking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it had run that day.
Dear Editor Tanner Walters:
As a UCLA alumni and recently-elected California Democratic Party delegate to Assemblyman Richard Bloom’s 50th assembly district, I take exception to my assemblyman’s casual and capricious use of the label anti-Semitic to describe a political cartoon recently published in the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper.
The cartoon your newspaper rightfully published mocks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for supporting a newly-passed Israeli law that retroactively legalizes settlements on Palestinian land and shows the Israeli leader crossing out the word “not” in “Thou shalt not steal”– one of the Ten Commandments and foundational beliefs of the Jewish faith.
Let’s be clear. The cartoonist is not mocking the Jewish faith but rather suggesting that Netanyahu has no respect for deeply held Jewish values that would never sanction Israeli tractors slicing Palestinian homes to ribbons in a matter of minutes.
Following Bloom’s heavy-handed published attack on the cartoon and newspaper staff, I read the Daily Bruin’s note from the editor to the reader:
As a newspaper, we take responsibility for our mistakes and apologize for them, so that’s what we’re doing here. Running this cartoon was an error that we deeply regret. It is wrong to use religion or religious tenets to criticize political policy. And it’s wrong to perpetuate harmful stereotypes – intentional or otherwise. We strive to understand the community that we cover. So as part of our ongoing education, we are reaching out to local religious leaders to help our staff understand the historical context behind these kinds of hurtful images.
I ask that the Daily Bruin not encourage self-censorship by subjecting its staff to a one-sided meeting with religious leaders who seek to conflate anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel. Additionally, I urge the newspaper’s editors to refrain from apologizing again for engaging in a worthy political debate that raises important questions about the right of Palestinians to live with dignity in their homes.
Bloom’s attacks on the student press only serve to chill speech and provide cover for the far right in Israel that seeks to annex the entire West Bank and force Palestinians to live forever as second class citizens under colonial occupation. This would further inflame tensions in the middle east, jeopardize the safety of those living in the region, and undermine human rights everywhere.
Santa Monica, CA