‘Daily Californian’ cartoon of Dershowitz dripping blood unleashes another furor over anti-Semitic canards

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On October 11, Alan Dershowitz spoke at the University of California on “The Liberal Case for Israel,” and two days later, this cartoon by Joel Mayorga appeared in the Daily Californian, savaging Dershowitz’s stance. And all hell broke loose.

Here’s how the Daily Californian put it:

Following the publication of what many have called an anti-Semitic cartoon in The Daily Californian, many members of the UC Berkeley community spoke out to condemn and criticize the cartoon….

The cartoon drew waves of criticism in the following days from people such as UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, as well as Dershowitz himself. Many accused the cartoon of a strong resemblance to 1930s-era Nazi propaganda depicting Jews as hulking insects and ‘blood libel’ propaganda falsely accusing Jews of ritual murders.

(Watch out when journalists start talking about the “Many… many”!)

Here’s Chancellor Carol Christ’s letter, in part:

Your recent editorial cartoon targeting Alan Dershowitz was offensive, appalling and deeply disappointing. I condemn its publication. Are you aware that its anti-Semitic imagery connects directly to the centuries-old “blood libel” that falsely accused Jews of engaging in ritual murder? I cannot recall anything similar in The Daily Californian, and I call on the paper’s editors to reflect on whether they would sanction a similar assault on other ethnic or religious groups.

Three Jewish students said they were terrified by the cartoon, because it showed Dersh with a hooked nose and a spider’s body, a traditional hateful reference to Jews as invasive, shape-shifting insects.

To a Jewish student on this campus, seeing this cartoon in the Daily Cal is a reminder that we are not always welcome in the spaces we call home. Given the extensive history of imagery like this used to propagate stereotypes about Jews that enabled and justified mass violence against our communities, it is terrifying that the Daily Cal did not do their due diligence by researching and checking what was printed in their newspaper.

The Daily Cal retracted the cartoon two weeks after it ran.

Dershowitz didn’t miss the opportunity. He weighed in on the cartoon, in a long letter to the Daily Cal using the incident to tar the “hard left” as “neo-Nazis” for not criticizing the cartoon.

The Daily Californian – Berkeley’s independent student-run newspaper – ran an editorial cartoon by Joel Mayorga, approved by editors Suhauna Hussain, Dani Sundell, Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Karim Doumar. The cartoon depicted an ugly caricature of me sticking my head through a cardboard cutout. Behind the cardboard, I am portrayed stomping on a Palestinian child with my foot, while holding in my hand an Israeli soldier who is shooting an unarmed Palestinian youth. …

It is shocking that this vile depiction was published in Berkeley’s paper of record. The cartoon resembles the grotesque anti-Semitic blood libel propaganda splashed across Der Stürmer in the 1930s, which depicted Jews drinking the blood of gentile children. Canards about Jews as predators – prominently promulgated by the Tzarist forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” – were anti-Semitic back then and are still anti-Semitic today, whether espoused by the extreme left or the extreme right.

This sequence of events by hard-left students who originally protested my right to speak at UC Berkeley confirmed what I’ve long believed: that there is very little difference between the Nazis of the hard right and the anti-Semites of the hard left. There is little doubt that this abhorrent cartoon was a hard-left Neo-Nazi expression.

The Daily Cal issued an abject apology, from editor in chief Karim Doumar, saying lots of folks are going to reeducation camp:

According to the statement, the publication’s staff would be meeting with local religious leaders and experts in the future to improve their knowledge of the history of anti-Semitism.

Additionally, Doumar said, all editorial cartoonists will be required in the future to learn about the history of visual propaganda as part of their training.

“We apologize to our readers and members of our staff who were hurt by the cartoon,” the statement read. “We especially apologize to Alan Dershowitz for the ways it negatively impacted him both personally and professionally.”

Cartoon of Alan Dershowitz that appeared in the Daily Cal, and that was retracted as allegedly antisemitic.

The Forward has published a defense of the cartoon, using a mostly-black-and-white image of Mayorga’s work that appeared on Twitter, and looks different from the all-color version. Rafael Magaryk said it’s not anti-Semitic, and the cartoon’s critics are demonstrating “an irresponsible use of history.”

[A]s far as I can tell, it is simply arguing that Dershowitz represents himself as a liberal while actually shilling for Israeli state violence against Palestinians.

That is not anti-Semitic; it is true.

The letters decrying the cartoon are vague about exactly where the Jew-hatred resides, though they all characterize the cartoon as a “blood libel.” The blood libel myth that Jews murder gentile children to bake their blood into Passover matzo is indeed a vicious, nasty staple of European anti-Semitism. Blood libels have in the past depicted Jews as cannibalistic, predatory and secretly violent.

But the mere appearance of blood near a Jew is not a blood libel. The State of Israel has an army, and that army sometimes kills Palestinians, including women and children…

In the present, there is a Jewish state, which has nuclear weapons and a well-trained army, and which occupies Palestinian territory. If your definition of anti-Semitism makes it impossible to depict those facts, then you have defined the term poorly. You are not clarifying the boundaries of prejudice; you are crafting a tool to foreclose discussion.

Then Dershowitz wrote to the Forward, to contest Magaryk.


We were caught up ourselves in the controversy when we realized, This discussion is a diversion. The fact is that Dershowitz has justified vicious attacks on Gaza in which several thousand innocent Palestinian civilians have died (and he smeared an honest Jewish judge who tried to anatomize those crimes as a “moser” or traitor to the Jewish people). Last week a human rights lawyer gave an official report to the U.N. saying that Israel has “driven Gaza back to the dark ages,” through bombings and denials of water and electricity and egress, but that the world accepts the Israeli occupation as normal.

You’d think these facts would be getting more attention now. That they’re not is a measure of a profound prejudice everywhere around us: bigotry against Palestinians.

H/t Donald Johnson, Matthew Taylor.  

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When I first saw this cartoon, I wondered what constituted the actual claim of anti-semitism. Was it the depiction of Israel or of Dershowitz? The cartoon appears to be an ordinary representation of Dersh without any exaggerated supposedly Jewish features, and the criticism of Israel, while harsh, wasn’t remotely related to Jews as a whole. Nevertheless Chancellor Christ and editor Doumar simply adopted the assumption that it was anti-semitic and caved in to Dersh’s outrage.… Read more »

IMO, the combination of a bulbous “shadow” circle and the strange positioning of Dershowitz’s arm and leg do make him appear spider-like.

Perhaps the effect was intentional (in which I case I condemn Mr. Mayorga for the depiction), perhaps it wasn’t; regardless, it allows Dershowitz to deflect attention away from the fact that the cartoon captures the essence of who he truly is: A hateful and immoral hypocrite and willing defender of Zionist evil.

Well, they cannot take criticism even in cartoon form. All fake cries of free speech and expression, falls short. I can still remember that cartoon of an old man sitting on top of a mountain, enjoying watching Israeli bombs drop over Gaza, and after howls of anti semitism, the Australian publication retracted it. Zionist howls seem to intimidate the media. When will they stop being intimidated, and say it is free speech? After all, when… Read more »

No cartoon can effectively depict Derhsie’s malignancy.

Nous sommes tous Joel Mayorga