Media Analysis

Oof. Looks like Batya Ungar-Sargon is using disingenuous antisemitism charges against Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Again.

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Oof. Looks like both Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib shared this awful Carlos Latuff cartoon in Instagram stories yesterday,

tweeted the Forward Opinion Editor Batya Ungar-Sargon yesterday.

The cartoon features Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump silencing congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar respectively. Their blue sleeves formed two blue lines, framing a Star of David, thus forming the Israeli flag.

Tlaib wrote when she shared it:

The more they try to silence us, our voices rise. The more they try to weaken us, the stronger we become. The more they try to discredit us, the truth prevails.

This is of course a reference to her being barred from entering Israel following a lobbying effort which seemed to be a joint venture of President Trump and the Israeli government. 

Ungar-Sargon wasn’t immediately calling this one an anti-Semitic cartoon, but she was suggesting it through association. Her next sentence was:

In 2006, Latuff came in second in Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoon Contest, which is a thing that exists, in case you thought the TL [timeline] couldn’t get any worse.

In the thread of tweets that followed, Ungar-Sargon noticed that many were wondering what was wrong with the cartoon itself, in that it seemed to be making a valid political point. She seemed coy about actually calling it that, and seemed to prefer a slow circling of her prey to arrive at the guilt-by-association point:

Jews controlling and subverting world leaders is a classic anti-Semitic trope. So is Jews silencing critics. But no one has silenced the Reps. The ways in which it gets the story wrong fits into an aesthetic designed to give anti-Semites pleasure.

Ungar-Sargon is trying to push the point that Trump was calling the shots:

 [C]onsider how Trump is drawn as an instrument of Israel, when we know Israel barred the Congresswomen at Trump’s behest.

That point is one that Israel-apologists have been making. They seem desperate to shift the blame of the congresswomen’s being barred from Israel and Netanyahu to Trump. Yes, Trump prodded it, but Israel’s ban is an existing law from 2017. Israel was reportedly pressed by AIPAC to make an exception for Tlaib and Omar so as to not get cancellations from Democrats on the recent AIPAC-sponsored tour to Israel. Once the trip went ahead a couple of weeks ago, Israel was free to ban their colleagues. Israel didn’t need much convincing from Trump here – after all, why violate your own laws for nothing? To be honest, it’s very hard to see who is pulling who’s strings here, and let’s not forget the Benjamins from Trump’s major donors, the Adelsons, who make it all about Israel. So Latuff’s cartoon is actually making this point – the US and Israel under Trump and Netanyahu are working together to silence Tlaib and Omar. It’s not hard to see how that works.

But Ungar-Sargon was desperate to convince the skeptics. She took it a notch further:

It’s sad to me how many people are proud that they don’t see anything wrong with the comic. Go educate yourself. This isn’t something to be proud of. Every single Jew you know has lost family members because of these kinds of comics. That’s why we recognize them.

Really? Every single Jew? That’s just absolutely not the case.

And furthermore, the stretch here in terms of demonizing the messenger as genocidal-by-association is just despicable.

This is not the first time for Batya Ungar-Sargon. Earlier this year, she was a major inciter against Ilhan Omar when the latter spoke about the effect of money from Israel lobby on US foreign policy. That time she tried to disingenuously downplay the role of AIPAC, so as to vilify Omar. Her piece was titled “Ilhan Omar tweeted something anti-Semitic. Again.”

As to the issue of Carlos Latuff, a Mondoweiss contributor, and the Iranian Holocaust Cartoon competition. That’s something that occurred twice, in 2006 and 2016, as a reaction to what was first called “Western hypocrisy on freedom of speech” by the Hamshahri Iranian newspaper, referring first to the Danish Jyllandsposten Mohammed cartoons of 2005 and then the French Charlie Hebdo publishing cartoons of Mohammed in the wake of the shootings in 2015. This was a reactive challenging of “freedom of speech”, testing whether the insistence on this freedom could survive if the cartoons were about subjects considered sensitive to Jewish sensibility.

Latuff hastened to tweet his cartoon which won the 2nd prize, together with an interview he gave about it for the Jewish Forward.

The cartoon features a Palestinian man with the separation wall in the background, dressed in concentration camp prisoner clothes from World War II, with a red moon badge (with ‘P’ for ‘Palestinian’). The message is one that has been uttered many times by Jews – a comparison of contemporary Israeli practices to that of Nazis. This is comparison that some are seeking to outlaw via the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of anti-Semitism.

In the 2008 interview with the Jewish Forward’s Eddy Portnoy, Latuff refers to the moral consideration of this:

Eddy Portnoy: You frequently use the Holocaust as a metaphor to criticize Israeli policies. This is seen as an inaccurate comparison and deliberately hurtful to Jews. Can you further explain your use of this metaphor?

Carlos Latuff: As a cartoonist, I feel comfortable enough to make any comparison I think necessary that expresses my point. Metaphors are the key point to political cartooning. Of course Israel isn’t building gas chambers in the West Bank, but surely we can find some similarities between the treatment given to Palestinians by the [Israel Defense Forces] and the Jews under Nazi rule. Inaccurate or not, it’s important to highlight that such comparisons have been made worldwide not only by cartoonists, but by people such as Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, Ariel Sharon’s former justice minister and a Holocaust survivor (deceased in June of 2008). He said in 2004, during an interview, that a photo of an elderly Palestinian woman searching through rubble reminded him of his grandmother who died in Auschwitz. For me, this is more painful than comparisons of how Palestinians live under Israeli occupation.

But all that nuance is not really important for Ungar-Sargon. As a self-righteous ‘liberal-Zionist’ who purports to speak on behalf of “all Jews”, the “Jewish imagination” and what not, she is just fine with blowing dog-whistles for the right-wing attackers of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to pick up on. And indeed, in no-time, Ungar Sargon was cited by Fox News and a range of right-wing outlets.

The New York Post came out with this title just now: “Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar share cartoon by artist accused of anti-Semitic imagery”.

How McCarthyite can you get? In the article Yaron Steinbuch is already more accusative:

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib continued their attack against President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by posting a cartoon drawn by an artist who has created anti-Semitic imagery and mocked victims of the Holocaust.

You see how this one goes. It’s that trick again. Like the late Israeli minister Shulamit Aloni once said to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now: The ‘anti-Semitic’ claim is a “trick” which “we always use” to rebuff criticism of the Israeli government.

And maybe Batya Ungar-Sargon sees herself as the savior of all Jews, because those cartoons just kill family members of “every single Jew you know”, or something crazy like that. But in reality, she’s just a cheerleader for an assault on those very few who dare challenge Israeli policy head-on. As such, Batya Ungar-Sargon is nothing but a cheap Israel-apologist, disguising as a liberal.

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She also tweeted that Latuff was second in a Holocaust DENIAL competition! Strong stuff! To be fair to Ungar-Sargon, for a Zionist she is rather critical of the occupation: “Gonna end with what I think is the most important part of this whole saga: Palestinians who live in the West Bank face what Rep. Tlaib faced every single day. They are stateless and their lives are controlled by an occupying force they cant vote for.… Read more »

I’m losing track. Is there any criticism of Israel that isn’t an anti-semitic trope?

She reeks of desperation and is desperately calling everything wrt to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib antisemitism. Batyashit crazy Ungar-Sargon deserves a footnote in the History of the Minimization of Antisemitism by Zionist Jews. Her parents must be so proud.

The Zionist camp is becoming more and more desperate. Its dam of lies and bribery that has held back the truth for over 70 years is under increasing stress brought on by an ever growing river of truth and will inevitably give way. A MUST READ: “If Israel wants to ban anti-Semites, it should start by banning anti-Semites” The Independent, August 19, 2019, by Rafael Shimunov “As a Jewish refugee from Uzbekistan, I know… Read more »

There is a price to pay for all this, israel…From the Warsaw ghetto to the Gaza ghetto.