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Controversial ‘NYT’ cartoon could have run in Israeli papers without uproar, former ‘NYT’ reporters say

Media Analysis
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Remember the cartoon the New York Times ran from a European syndicate a month ago, showing Netanyahu as a dog with a star of David collar leading a blind Trump wearing a skullcap? The cartoon caused a ton of fallout for the newspaper, none of it positive. Now two former Times reporters say the cartoon crossed the line, but it could have appeared in an Israeli newspaper without the same level of furor.

The episode is worth revisiting because it sheds light on the keen sensitivity in the U.S. to apparent anti-semitic imagery — and the corresponding indifference here to anti-Palestinian commentary.

The cartoon by a Portuguese artist, António Moreira Antunes, ran on April 25; and it unleashed a firestorm of criticism. The paper soon apologized for publishing an “offensive cartoon” that “included anti-Semitic tropes” and stated that one editor had made an error of judgment. The view of the cartoon as “baldly antisemitic” was widely shared in the press, due to Antunes’s use of a yarmulke and star of David to identify the two leaders. The ADL said the cartoon was reminiscent of Nazi themes.

And though Antunes protested that he had never intended his cartoon to be anti-Semitic, but had sought to portray a political reality, he did not help his case when he said that the “Jewish propaganda machine” was behind the controversy.

The Times apologized several times. The publisher issued a statement saying that the paper had fallen short of its standards and that the editor who approved the image would face disciplinary action and the paper was “updating our unconscious bias training” to include a focus on anti-Semitism. The paper ended its subscription to the European syndicate that had provided the cartoon.

And the Times editorial page published a lead editorial calling the cartoon “obviously bigoted” and “appalling.” Though it also needed to explain its editor’s “numbness” in not being aware of such obvious bigotry. That was part of the danger.

[H]owever it came to be published, the appearance of such an obviously bigoted cartoon in a mainstream publication is evidence of a profound danger — not only of anti-Semitism but of numbness to its creep, to the insidious way this ancient, enduring prejudice is once again working itself into public view and common conversation.

The editorial went on to apologize for the paper’s failure to cover anti-Semitism in Europe in the ’30s and ’40s:

The Times was largely silent as anti-Semitism rose up and bathed the world in blood. That failure still haunts this newspaper.

It must be noted that pro-Israel forces seized on the cartoon to argue that the Times has a deeply-rooted bias against Israel. The paper was picketed by pro-Israel protesters, among them Alan Dershowitz; and Bret Stephens wrote a column titled, “A Despicable Cartoon in the Times.”

The cartoon by António Moreira Antunes that appeared in The New York Times on April 25, 2019 for which it issued multiple apologies.

This week, two former Times reporters said the cartoon could have appeared in an Israeli newspaper without a furor. Joseph Berger and Ethan Bronner, both of whom have covered Jewish issues/Israel, spoke to Gary Rosenblatt of the Jewish Week. Bronner noted the legitimacy of the cartoonist’s critique and pointed out that Antunes had used a Jewish symbol to identify Netanyahu because readers might not have recognized him otherwise.

Bronner said he believes the theme of the cartoon, that President Trump is unduly influenced by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, is “a legitimate topic of commentary and satire.

“The problem is that there is virtually no way to depict Jews or the state of Israel in a cartoon without using liturgical elements of Judaism — a Jewish star, yarmulke, menorah, etc. — and the result is you’re mirroring anti-Semitic cartoons of an earlier era.” He added that if the same cartoon appeared in an Israeli newspaper, it would not have caused such a sensation.

Bronner also said the context is criticism of Israel:

Bronner made a point of noting that the cartoon syndicate in question is in Europe, where the criticism of Israel and its policies is more vocal than in the U.S.

Joseph Berger said the cartoon could have been published in Israel without the same controversy:

As for the cartoon that precipitated the most recent round of anti-Times fervor, Berger said it was the yarmulke on Trump’s head that “made it about Judaism and put it over the edge.” But he acknowledged that had the same cartoon been published in Haaretz, the left-leaning Israeli daily, he and others might not have seen it in as harsh a light.

Berger told Rosenblatt he could not recall such “a self-critical editorial in The Times” as the one apologizing for the failure to cover anti-Semitism in the last century.

This episode seems important to bear in mind because though the cartoon was offensive, the response has been so over-the-top and so grave in character, that it is sure to make anyone who wants to criticize or mock the U.S.-Israel special relationship think twice. (And if you’re going to try to explain Trump’s subservience by blaming Adelson/the Israel lobby, you must be a bigot.) The Corbyn battle in the UK is coming to the Democratic Party soon.

Bronner and Berger’s comments are also a reminder that criticisms of Israel that are OK in Israeli papers are not allowed here, presumably because it’s not OK to discuss some things in front of non-Jews/or Jews can say stuff non-Jews can’t (a rule that applies to other minorities, as well). As Peter Beinart wrote this week in the Forward, he was taught that Jews should be wary about being too critical of Israel in front of non-Jews.

when it comes to pressuring Israel, [there’s] a voice inside their head that says: Don’t turn on your own. The voice says that Israel, whatever its flaws, is family, and the Palestinians are not. It says that when anti-Semitism is rising, including on the left, you don’t throw chum in the water. Once American Christians grow comfortable condemning and pressuring Israel, maybe we’ll find they enjoy it just a little too much.

I can think of many examples of Jewish voices in Israel that couldn’t be published here. Like Eva Illouz’s op-ed in Haaretz saying that the occupation is equivalent to slavery in the U.S. Or Amira Hass’s crushing report in Haaretz this week, “Renovated checkpoints mean Palestinians don’t feel like cows being led to slaughter.” Neither of these pieces was the least bit anti-Semitic, but if someone said it in the U.S., you know that charge would be leveled.

Now let’s flip the script. The Times has run four justifications of Israel’s killing of nonviolent Palestinian protesters in the last year without any apologies for anti-Palestinian racism, without any other columnists stepping in to say, Hey! let alone responses from the publisher and the editorial board mentioning the long history of racism toward Palestinians. Smearing Palestinians, as bloodthirsty terrorists who just want to hurt Jews, and who aren’t seeking their freedom and have no right to resist occupation — this is commonplace in American publications.

P.S. Bronner, now an editor at Bloomberg, is a liberal Zionist; and he said that the Times’s news policy is to treat Israel’s creation as a “triumph of history.” Good to know!

“The premise of the news coverage is that Israel is an ally of the U.S., a triumph of history and homeland of Jews, all of which is praiseworthy.”

Thanks to Allison Deger and Donald Johnson.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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36 Responses

  1. eljay on May 27, 2019, 3:20 pm

    The cartoon appears to accurately depict Bibi, the leader of Israel (a state routinely defined by Zionists as the “Jewish State”, one of whose symbols is the Star of David), guiding blindly-loyal U.S. leader Donald “Grand Marshal of the Israeli Day Parade” Trump.

    … “The problem is that there is virtually no way to depict Jews or the state of Israel in a cartoon without using liturgical elements of Judaism …

    How can that be when surely there must exist countless tribal, cultural, ethnic, peoplehood, national and even civilizational ways of depicting Jews and the state of Israel without having to use “liturgical elements of Judaism”.

    • RoHa on May 27, 2019, 7:44 pm

      A gefilte fish, maybe?

    • Misterioso on May 28, 2019, 9:48 am

      @eljay, et al

      The cartoon accurately and cleverly depicts the relationship between Trump and Netanyahu, i.e., Bibi, a “seeing eye dog,” is leading a blind yarmulke wearing Trump towards total subservience to “Israel.” However, I believe it would be more effective and true to life if it also had multi-billionaire, rabid Zionist, Sheldon Adelson, sitting on Trump’s shoulders urging him on with huge amounts of cash.

      Speaking of cartoons, here’s the link to another one regarding the relationship between “Israel” and the Trump administration that is also “right on the money.” –

    • pabelmont on June 1, 2019, 10:43 am

      The cartoon could have been “improved” by using an Israeli flag (star with two blue lines) in place of the star alone, and omitting the yarmulka on Trump. His blindness “would have been enough”.

      That said, the NYT apologies were disgusting.

  2. Keith on May 27, 2019, 3:48 pm

    PHIL- “…. he did not help his case when he said that the “Jewish propaganda machine” was behind the controversy.”

    Who does this uppity cartoonist think he is?

  3. Kay24 on May 27, 2019, 4:35 pm

    He is right, the Israeli media criticizes Netanyahu and Israel far more often than the US media, who basically are cowards, afraid for their jobs. To me the cartoon looks political, and true. That yarmulke has been worn by many US president and politicians, when they try to kiss up to AIPAC or curry favor in Israel, so it is appropriate. If Israelis can wear Fezzes to protest, I don’t see why a cartoonist cannot draw a yarmulke.
    The zionists can get conveniently sensitive. I guess they don’t want the truth coming out in cartoons either.

  4. oldgeezer on May 27, 2019, 4:40 pm

    It might be difficult to draw cartoons w/o involving religious symbols but…..

    The symbols used in this cartoon are completely unnecessary. The only people who would need those clues are people who won’t comprehend what the cartoon is saying.

    I find their inclusion objectionable yet I doubt that is the real problem with the cartoon and it’s merely more policing of conversations and burying the sickness of the alliance.

  5. echinococcus on May 27, 2019, 7:40 pm

    “I find their [the religious symbols’] inclusion objectionable…”

    The symbols in question are surely objectionable when displayed by states, politicians and other base criminals to cover and justify their crimes, and the only effective way to object to it is that used by this cartoonist. People do understand this –the symbols aren’t necessarily a prop for recognizing the figures; they’re rather an undissociable element of the Zionist crimes.

    • JWalters on May 27, 2019, 8:13 pm

      Excellent points

    • oldgeezer on May 28, 2019, 11:11 am

      Couldn’t disagree with you any more than I do. A kippah is relevant in what way? And the star?

      I would agree that had the Israeli flag itself been show then that would be fine regardless of the symbols it contains.

      The point is made simply and cleartly with those elements.

  6. JWalters on May 27, 2019, 8:03 pm

    The reason this cartoon (and many articles) are allowed in Israel and “not allowed” in the US is because in Israel everybody already knows the terrible truth (and likes it), but in the US the terrible truth is still being kept largely hidden. Further, the Zionist criminals who control the US mainstream media and politicians depend on that terrible truth remaining hidden to retain their control over their American colony.

    The cartoon is 100% accurate and is OBVIOUSLY a politicsl cartoon. This uproar is plainly another attempt to silence the truth about the criminal, terrorist, mass murdering, war profiteering Zionist cabal who currently control America’s press and politicians. America needs a revolution against these anti-American, un-American money-grubbers and religious fanatics who are intentionally wrecking America’s democracy for their own gain.

  7. Kay24 on May 27, 2019, 9:33 pm

    It looks like Crooked Bibi is struggling to form his government, and may have to call for a second election.

    • annie on May 27, 2019, 10:22 pm

      i hope that doesn’t mean bennett and shaked will have another shot at it. but if they do have a second election i wouldn’t if they would place all the spies in the palestinian-israeli polling station and if they didn’t it might pick up more votes for minority parties.

      • Kay24 on May 28, 2019, 5:58 am

        Unfortunately the results will not change the suffering of the Palestinians.

  8. annie on May 27, 2019, 10:32 pm

    ever since they officially changed the definition of what’s anti semitism is broader, ramped up, and most criticism of israel is off limits or deemed anti semitic. i don’t care about being slurred. the reason this is not happening in israel is they don’t have the same societal brainwashing to deem all criticism of the state as antisemitic because most people there are jewish — whereas here it’s used to silence the masses.

    interesting thing happened to me in conversation last week. an old friend of mine who generally isn’t that informed of foreign policy especially israel-centric said to me, ‘everything’s anti semitic now. ‘ it means it’s even penetrated her radar.

    frankly, i don’t think it’s going to work. especially if bolton and the neocons drive us to war with iran. this is not 2003. they can’t sit back and bat their eyelashes and say ‘who me’. it will be considered a war for israel’s sake for sure.

    • Citizen on May 28, 2019, 7:25 am

      I have had similar experience, and agree with your conclusion.

  9. Ossinev on May 28, 2019, 7:40 am

    Why the dachshund/sausage dog I wonder ? Not a breed normally associated with “blind dog” duties.
    Apologies if I am missing something obvious here.

    • just on May 28, 2019, 10:37 am

      They apparently make good ‘service dogs’ and originated in Germany. From wiki:

      “The standard-size dachshund was developed to scent, chase, and flush out badgers and other burrow-dwelling animals, while the miniature dachshund was bred to hunt smaller prey such as rabbits. In the Western United States, they have also been used to track wounded deer and hunt prairie dogs.”

      That’s all I know.

      • just on May 28, 2019, 1:07 pm

        An animal story:

        “Lebanese Monkey Escapes Nun’s Farm, Infiltrates Border, Drives Israelis Nuts …

        A monkey has been spotted in northern Israel after apparently crossing the Lebanese border.

        A local Lebanese outlet reported that the monkey had escaped from the farm of a French nun named Beatrice Maugerin in the Qouzah village in Bint Jbeil area.

        The farm from which the monkey fled is called “Ship of Peace.” According to reports, the site is intended to be a safe place welcoming Muslims, Jews and Christians.

        The monkey, which likely belongs to a species from the African savannah, has been seen in several locations in northern Israel – including the communities of Ziri’t and Hurfesh – but has yet to be captured.

        The Lebanese report offered a monetary reward for the return of the monkey.”

        So they call monkeys “infiltrators”, too! I hope that the Israelis don’t torture, incarcerate, wound, or assassinate him. From the video at the link, the goats seem bothered by the videographer and not the monkey…

      • RoHa on May 28, 2019, 8:39 pm

        So the Lebanese have released their Hezbollah-trained terrorist monkeys to attack Israel.

        Time for Israel to bomb Lebanon again.

    • Elizabeth Block on May 28, 2019, 10:53 am

      Yes, that struck me too. Maybe just because it’s not a breed used as guide dogs. Maybe because it’s small and low to the ground.

      About identification of Netanyahu: A group of us have a weekly vigil outside the Israeli consulate in Toronto. We have a placard showing Bibi’s face, saying “Wanted for War Crimes.” By no means does everyone passing by recognize him. If Israel didn’t want the country to be identified with the religion, they could have put something else on their flag – but they did, and they do.

      And some years ago an elderly Jewish couple came by our vigil. They were furious – not because they disputed the truth of what we were saying, but because we were saying it in front of the goyim.
      Obviously that’s still something Jews – some Jews – object to.

    • DaBakr on May 31, 2019, 1:51 am


      An obvious reference to the portrayal of Germans circa ww1 -ww2 as dachshunds meant to be a dig at Netanyahu as Nazi. There are 100s of breeds that could have portrayed bibi as grotesque but cartoonist chose the dachshund. Use your brain.

      And BTW: whoever claimed the breed was useful as guide dogs…..don’t be absurd. The standard guide dogs of the past three decades of more have been universally Labradors, Shepard and retrievers. When’s the last anyone here saw a dachshund guide dog. (And I love wire haired dachs)

  10. Misterioso on May 28, 2019, 10:05 am

    Not on topic, but relevant:’s-Foreign-Affairs-Advisor-and-French-Consul-General

    The Palestine Liberation Organization Press release, May 27/19

    “PLO Executive Committee member, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi met with Mr. Matt Duss, Foreign Policy Advisor of Senator Bernie Sanders. Mr. Duss conveyed Senator Sanders’ greetings and discussed with Dr. Ashrawi ways to maintain a constructive and informed dialogue with the Senator and other policy makers in Washington who are committed to international law and the Palestinian people’s right to freedom and peace. The two parties discussed the Trump administration’s hostile approach in the region and its destructive policies that undermine the prospects of peace and the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights to freedom. Dr. Ashrawi and Mr. Duss also discussed the Trump administration’s vindictive actions against the Palestinian people and leadership, including as reflected recently in the rejection of Dr. Ashrawi’s visa application to the US. Mr. Duss expressed Senator Sanders’ dismay and objection to this petty step.

    “Earlier this Monday, Dr. Ashrawi also met with the French Consul-General in Jerusalem, Mr. Pierre Cochard, at the PLO Headquarters in Ramallah. Dr. Ashrawi briefed Mr. Cochard on the latest political developments, especially the escalating financial and political war waged by Israel and the Trump administration against the Palestinian people, including the Trump administration’s openly hostile agenda against UNRWA, which continues to battle a chronic shortage of funds.

    “Dr. Ashrawi discussed the upcoming diversionary workshop in Bahrain, reaffirming the Palestinian leadership’s position that this workshop is designed to replace the political track with false and unrealistic and false promises of investment and Israeli regional integration at the expense of Palestinian national aspirations. She called on France to reject any involvement in this doomed to fail effort, reminding the Consul General that the Palestinian business community shares the leadership’s view on this issue. ‘The right-wing US and Israeli administrations are bypassing international law and signed agreements by applying punitive financial measures that aim at undermining the Palestinian cause but all those botched efforts are bound to fail,’ asserted Dr. Ashrawi

    “Dr. Ashrawi also called on France and other EU member states to take the lead in defending the prospects of peace and the standing of international law by recognizing Palestine and adopting more proactive measures to confront the unilateral and illegal Israeli measures on the ground, which are being blindly supported and endorsed by the Trump administration. ‘We call on EU members to confront Trump’s unilateral and illegal measures by providing an alternative initiative based on International law and relevant UN resolutions.’ She concluded.”

    • JWalters on May 28, 2019, 10:15 pm

      Very glad to hear Bernie is in contact with Dr. Hanan Ashrawi. She is a truly civilized person, very knowledgeable, very experienced.

  11. James Canning on May 28, 2019, 10:37 am

    I think the cartoon was appropriate.

  12. Ossinev on May 28, 2019, 1:37 pm

    Lots of different types of kippahs/yarmulkes and different significances:

    Not aware if the Tel Avivian Jewish Israelites have stated to market any LGBT specific models.

    Only a question of time perhaps?

  13. spadepiccolo on May 28, 2019, 3:50 pm

    The entire episode a contrivance from beginning to end.

    British Zionist Jews: We will destroy Labour — we will destroy Great Britain itself before we allow a Palestinian sympathizer as PM.

    American Zionist Jews: We will eliminate free speech protections in the US Constitution to spare beloved Israel shame.

    NYT: hmm… What to do, what to do…

    I know! someone said. (Not Safire.) We run a cartoon sure to be slammed as antisemitic (it isn’t), (don’t show US readership cartoon), then run three days of mea culpas — in editorials, op-eds (give this one to Bret, his being here only two years adds wallop) and letters. (“Horrific” cartoon, James? Not too much?)


    A Jewish-victimhood booster shot for the ages.

  14. dsowd on May 28, 2019, 7:17 pm

    You nailed it!

  15. DaBakr on May 31, 2019, 1:45 am

    A cartoon portraying black folks from Africa as savages could have run in any left wing European paper as well. What’s the point? The cartoon was such an obvious reference to the Der Sturmer cartoons (down to the dachshund) with modern figures that defending it, especially by today’s left driven politically correct, intolerant and micro-aggressive atmosphere is the zenith of hypocrisy. But then that is nothing new from the so called progressive far left

  16. Marnie on June 1, 2019, 11:38 pm

    I’ve never been a fan of the dachshund so have no problem with netanyahooo’s mug on one. I think a more appropriate cartoon would have featured netanyahoo as an organ grinder and tRUMP as the monkey begging for money which goes to the organ grinder. The apoplectic response by MSM in the u.s. about this ‘antisemitic’ cartoon is nothing more than sucking up to dear leader who is not tRUMP. Who can express the most outrage?? How many times can an article use the term antisemite or antisemitism?? Who gives the best head??? That’s all that really matters, right? Condemn, express your ‘moral’ indignation and chalk up points with the zionist machine.

    The best rendering of netanyahoo and others, best in my book any day.

  17. Marnie on June 1, 2019, 11:43 pm

    Best rendering of netanyahoo, at his most poised.

    So good the cartoonist lost his job.

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