The Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet published a cartoon this week which would have made the editor of Der Stuermer proud.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement on Wednesday condemning a cartoon appearing in the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, which grossly demonized Jewish ritual circumcision, as “deeply offensive and appalling.”
The cartoon, which was printed on May 28, depicts a bloodied crying baby lying on a table with his toes being cut off with pruning shears and severed toes scattered around. A bearded and hatted man is holding what appears to be a Jewish holy book in one hand, while with the other, he holds the baby down on the table with a pitchfork. A woman, who is also holding what appears to be a prayer book, says to entering policemen “Mistreating? No, this is tradition, an important part of our belief!” The police say, “Belief? Oh yes, then it is all right.”
“This grotesque cartoon of a bloodied, mutilated baby, suffering at the hands of adults, is a deeply offensive and appalling distortion of a core Jewish ritual,” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. “The image harkens back to the centuries of anti-Semitic illustrations depicting Jews engaged in ritual ceremonies involving gratuitous and fabricated bloodletting.”
“In no way can this sickening cartoon be justified as an acceptable graphic representation in support for the campaign to legislatively restrict ritual circumcision, which unfortunately has gained some traction in Europe.
“We call on the editors of Dagbladet to issue an official apology and for other government and societal leaders in Norway to speak out against this monstrous cartoon and its deeper messages,” he said.
In November 2011, ADL voiced concern to the Dagbladet regarding a cartoon equating the situation in the Gaza Strip with the Holocaust.
The European Jewish Congress has previously said that it is “carefully considering the possibility of taking legal action” over the cartoon.
The Algemeiner adds:
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish Human Rights NGO, who is currently attending the Global Forum on Antisemitism in Jerusalem, denounced the “blood libel cartoon” as “so virulently anti-Semitic it would make Hitler and Himmler weep tears of joy.”
“We call upon Norway’s leaders to denounce this incitement to hate and especially urge the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights to denounce this outrageous denigration of a core Jewish rite dating back to the biblical times of Abraham,” Cooper added.
Incredibly, the cartoonist innocently claims he never meant to offend the Jews and was just commenting on religion in general:
According to the JTA, “Dagbladet cartoon artist Tomas Drefvelin said he did not mean to draw Jews in his caricature, which he meant ‘not as criticism of either a specific religion or a nation [but] as a general criticism of religions.’”
“I gave the people in the picture hats, and the man beard, because this gives them a more religious character … Jew-hatred is reprehensible. I would never draw to create hatred of a people, or against individuals,” he added.
Riight. So that’s why he didn’t draw a picture of Muslims performing anything religious, let alone something as cruel as female genital mutilation; and he also didn’t mention Christians of any denomination. It’s funny how “religion” only made him think of men with hats and beards holding a baby while cutting bits off him.
Honest Reporting remarks:
While Drefvelin may not have intended to employ classic anti-Semitic tropes and caricatures, his cartoon now takes its place as the latest in a long line of fiendish depictions of Jews in black coats and hats carrying out outrageous and morally offensive acts designed to inspire reactions of disgust from the public.
Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, compared the cartoon to Nazi propaganda, which often exaggerated Jewish rituals to give them a demonic appearance. “This is a violent cartoon which is meant to inspire hate and contempt against one particular people,” he said.
Speaking of Nazi propaganda and the ease with which antisemitic tropes are absorbed almost sub-consciously into the public mind, my friend and commenter Brian Goldfarb (who also writes at Engage and at Simply Jews) wrote the following item which fits in well with this subject, entitled “On deconstructing and denouncing Richard Wagner”:
Like many, maybe even most, of my fellow Jews, including lots of lovers of classical music, I am less than enamoured of Richard Wagner and his music. I find that I cannot separate the man and his beliefs from his music and neither, it seems, can Robert Wistrich, Neuberger Professor of History at the University of Jerusalem and Head of the Vidal Sassoon Center for the Study of Antisemitism (yes, that Vidal Sassoon, the hairdresser: more on him below).
A small personal preamble: one Christmas Day (remember, I live in the UK, and it’s a holiday here), with nothing better to do (no family around, miserable weather outside, rubbish on television), I switched on the BBC’s classical music radio station. They were playing religious music: fair enough: Britain is, at least nominally, a Christian country. But then, horror of horrors, they decided to play some Wagner, from The Ring Cycle, of all things! Come on, I yelled at the radio (which took no notice), this is PAGAN, not Christian, music, and rushed to turn it off. I had other reasons, of course: Wagner was Hitler’s favourite composer – which would be enough to condemn anyone in my eyes, but is hardly a considered critical judgement; the Bayreuth Wagner festival used to reek of antisemitism and Nazi propaganda; and, anyway, I didn’t like his bombastic and overly teutonic music at all. It even puts me off Bruckner, in whose music I can detect strong Wagnerian influences. We once, at a concert, rushed out of the hall immediately the Bruckner symphony ended, just in case they played an encore! You could have fitted a whole Haydn symphony into his First Movement and got more joy at hearing wonderful music in the process.
Anyway, back to Wagner and Robert Wistrich. Writing in the Times of Israel on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth (22 May, 1813), he examines the links between Wagner and antisemitism. Even bearing in mind that the term “antisemitism” wasn’t even coined until the 1860s, Wistrich finds Wagner guilty as charged. Wistrich starts as he means to go on:“There is little doubt that the great German composer Richard Wagner was one of the most virulent anti-Semites in modern history as well as being Adolf Hitler’s most revered cultural role-model.”
Fair enough, but what’s his evidence for that unequivocal opening line?
Indeed, as the good academic that he is, Wistrich raises the obvious intellectual objection to his own opening line:
“is it, in fact, correct to see in Wagner a kind of proto-Nazi before his time?”
He goes on to raise further objections:
“What, indeed, we might ask, would modern music be without Wagner’s aesthetic revolution, his universal artwork…of the future, his dramatic expressiveness or masterful merging of text and music? Even the legendary Jewish conductor Leonard Bernstein had to admit: “I hate Wagner, but I hate him on my knees.””Wistrich himself makes further intellectual objections to the simplistic, straight line ‘Wagner = Nazis’ when he says that
“It might, of course, be objected that Wagner can hardly be held responsible for the monstrous way in which the Nazis implemented some parts of his vision half a century later.”
Of course he can’t. Still, even though many Wagnerians were, and are, nice people who wouldn’t hurt a fly, let alone eat meat, raw or cooked, Wagner can’t escape adverse judgement, not when a critic as perceptive as Nietzsche (a former fan) “denounced Wagner’s art as diseased, narcotic, morbid, hysterical and brutal. His scathing portrait of Wagner as a master of hypnotic trickery, a neurotic tyrant with an actor’s genius, an incomparable histrionic personality – seems at some points to uncannily prefigure Hitler.”
And we must remember that Nietzsche himself has been badly misused by the far right.
Read the full article. It is highly recommended:
And a final note on Vidal Sassoon: for anyone who missed the obituaries on him recently, Sassoon was too young to be called up to fight fascism during World War 2. So, as a good Jewish boy from the working class of East End London, he attached himself to the 43 Group – 43 Jewish ex-servicemen who pledged themselves to fight, literally, the resurgent fascists of Mosley’s Union Movement on London’s streets. As an apprentice ladies hairdresser, he occasionally turned up for work somewhat bruised (having fought a street battle the night before). One story goes that, in response to the shop manager asking what happened, he replied that he’d tripped over a hair ribbon! Be it noted that he volunteered for (and fought in) the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 (he had, by then, done his UK National Service in the army).
He became the “go-to” hairdresser of the 1960s, famously creating Mary Quant’s iconic “bob”. Having made a fortune as a result of his fame, he then spent a large amount of this fortune on funding the Institute for the Study of Antisemitism that bears his name at the U. of Jerusalem.
He never forgot his roots.
What these two seemingly disparate stories tell us is that no matter how irrelevant an artist’s views appear, they can seep into the public sub-conscious through their art. Wagner’s antisemitism inspired Hitler. Drefvelin has apparently imbibed his antisemitism unconsciously, for he claims not to understand what is antisemitic about his cartoon. Who will be influenced in turn by his cartoon?
We must challenge antisemitism wherever it is found, even in something as irrelevant as a cartoon.