Thursday, February 09, 2006

Just Blame It On the Jews

Haaretz Cartoon
I haven't said anything about the cartoon riots yet. I guess it's about time. I see it as two hypocritical sides clashing with one another. Both sides are a little bit right and very much wrong. Yes, I see both sides negatively, pretty much. More on that later. First, how we Jews get screwed from all this.

We aren't part of this, but somehow we still get hurt. The Danes have cancelled a soccer match in Israel because of the riots. The idiots don't know that with our tight security they'd be safer here than they are in Denmark. Also, the Muslims are firing back at the anti-Muslim cartoon with anti-Jewish cartoons. These are coming from Iran, the Arab European League and others. How about anti-Christian cartoons? Or anti-liberal cartoons? After all, the original cartoonist and his main supporters are those.

Now back to the Muhammad cartoons themselves: The Europeans are a bit right because freedom of speech is important. The Muslims are right because religious tolerance is no less important.

The Europeans are very wrong because those cartoons didn't criticize anything in particular. They had no purpose other than insulting Islam. Freedom of speech has its limits - limits that should not be regulated (or forced by violence), but a kind of moral self-control. You can mock public figures in your cartoons, but you shouldn't use stereotypes or mock a whole religion.

Now, the Muslims are very wrong too. The riots are outrageous, of course. What kind of message do you send out if you violently protest against your portrayal as a violent religion? But even the more moderate Muslims who aren't rioting don't protest when Arab cartoonists portray the Jews and the Israelis as Nazi vampires. It is okay to attack the Jews and not the Muslims?

Above: Haaretz Cartoon by Amos Biderman, Feb. 6, 2006.

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  1. I think it is so funny that Muslims are up in arms, literally, because the prophet Mohammed was depicted in cartoons. Maybe somebody should tell them a depiction of Mohammed has been in the US Supreme Court since the late 1930’s. Let’s see if Muslims try and riot in Washington D.C., that would be some good television.

  2. Emmanuel:

    You're falling into a trap here and I've seen many bloggers (from ALL sides BTW) do the same. The rhyme goes like this: "Europe offends Islam with an islamophobic cartoon(s), Muslims attack/blame the Jews". This is not an altogether correct representation of events.

    The AEL cartoons and the Iranian upcoming Holocaust cartoon competition aim to hurt European feelings regarding the Holocaust, the greatest historical tragedy our continent has witnessed. As you know, several countries (France, Germany, Poland, Austria) have laws that outlaw Holocaust deniers: THIS is what the cartoon will target: they will use free expression to make statements that to Europeans are painfully unacceptable, in the same way as the mindless mockery of Islam was hurtful and unacceptable to Muslims. The latter's vociferous reaction to the toons is of course quite another matter.

    Here's an example of a Holocaust denying cartoon by the AEL. Ironically it's as amateurish and in bad taste as the "bomb turban" cartoon: they can't even spell Auschwitz correctly. You can see though how rather than be anti-Semitic, the message here is: "Europe lied about the Holocaust, it never happened, the numbers don't add up".

    That this will also hurt feelings on the Jewish side is understandable but you shouldn't let any Israeli politicians try and make political mint from this: the target isn't really Jewish, but you will get some cross-fire unfortunately.

    By the way, the newspaper in question was leaning rather to the right and wasn't liberal as you allude. There had been friction about Muslim issues in this paper and the people of the town before.

  3. You're right that Jews aren't the main target, but they still get stuck in the crossfire. To tell you the truth, it isn't surprising or upestting anymore. It's actually a bit amusing (not the cartoons themselves - just the fact this is some muslims' reaction). Drawing 'toon is better than riots.

    I also agree that I shouldn't have characterized the original cartoonist as liberal. The newspaper defended illiberal intolerance by waving the liberal freedom of speach flag. Their supporters are an odd coalition of some liberals and bigots.