That Netanyahu cartoon wasn’t anti-Semitic

A contrary view by the Israeli comedian, Zeev Engelmayer:

The New York Times’ cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu as a guide dog for Donald Trump that angered the “Jewish world” is actually a clichéd cartoon, though well-designed and certainly not anti-Semitic. It describes two leaders, one blind being led by the other. It’s a caustic image with a vicious tone, exactly what a political cartoon should be.

Netanyahu is depicted as a dachshund, which maybe is a compliment because these dogs are great hunters, and despite their natural suspiciousness, they boast an innate ability to make friends. Behind Netanyahu the dachshund walks his good friend Trump, sullenly, a kippa on his head, symbolizing the strength of his ties with Netanyahu. Trump has been photographed wearing a skull cap — near the Western Wall, for example — so it’s not something an artist has put on him without any justification.

The choice to illustrate Netanyahu and Trump walking with determination, and even against a blood-red background, hints that they’re not just taking an innocent morning walk. They’re on a survivalist hunting trip. What are they hunting? Foreigners? Leftists? The hostile media?

The media said Netanyahu was drawn with an unusually large nose, but a very superficial look confirms that Netanyahu’s nose hasn’t been distorted, certainly not in a way reminiscent of anti-Semitic cartoons, as has been alleged. The complaint that the illustration is anti-Semitic reinforces the feeling that the Foreign Ministry looks for every possible justification to play the victim to silence critics.

Images depicting politicians as blind people with guide dogs is as old as the advent of political cartoons. James Akin’s infamous one from 1804 shows Thomas Jefferson with the body of a dog. Richard Nixon has also been drawn as a dog, and Tony Blair as a dog wearing an American flag as his collar. American patriots have been depicted as a herd of blind horses.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been portrayed as a wild dog biting Barack Obama’s hand. His nose was made to look a lot longer than Netanyahu’s in this week’s cartoon. Was there any outcry against the Ahmadinejad cartoon or demands to outlaw it as anti-Semitic?

Theresa May was depicted by the graffiti artist The Pink Bear Rebel this year, was she not? She’s seen blindfolded being led by a blindfolded bulldog wearing a British-flag doggie jacket. You can only guess what the Foreign Ministry would say about a cartoon of a bulldog wrapped in an Israeli flag.

Under pressure from the Israeli consul general in New York and the Foreign Ministry, the Trump-Netanyahu cartoon was removed from the internet. The newspaper published a clarification, a half apology, and described the cartoon as offensive and an error in judgment.

A cartoon is by definition an exaggeration that looks for weak points. Sometimes it’s a warning sign: It provides strong, exaggerated images to shock and awaken. That was the case this time, a moment before this duo drags us along with them on a leash on a nighttime stroll.

Source: That Netanyahu cartoon wasn’t anti-Semitic | Opinion

Artist says Serena Williams U.S. Open cartoon ‘not about race.’ Experts disagree

Good background and discussion. My reaction looking at the cartoon is that it was racist:

If you follow tennis or Twitter, at all, you have probably seen the cartoon showing Serena Williams stomping on her racket in her U.S. Open loss on Saturday, with her features exaggerated into a caricature.

It is a product of Australia — from the Herald Sun, a tabloid in Melbourne owned by Rupert Murdoch. And it has set off an international storm of outrage, with athletes, fans and even J.K. Rowling denouncing the cartoon as sexist and racist.

How did it come to be?

On Tuesday, the artist, Mark Knight, and his boss tried to explain, arguing that their critics missed the point.

“The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race,” Knight said in an article on the Herald Sun website about the backlash.

The newspaper’s editor, Damon Johnston, backed him up.

“A champion tennis player had a mega-tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that,” he said. “It had nothing to do with gender or race.”

Let’s examine that defence — with some history, context and a few experts in both cartooning and Australian race relations.

Who Is the Artist?

In Australia, Knight is a household name, known for being provocative. Politics and sports are his two main subjects and in defending his Williams cartoon on Twitter, he pointed to a previous critique of Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios as proof of his impartiality.

But Knight’s critics also point out that he has been accused of racist depictions before.

Earlier this year, he published a cartoon showing African teens fighting and causing destruction. It was an effort to criticize a local politician for banning the display of Sky News, a Murdoch-owned television news channel, from train platforms, but that is not how it was received.

Many Australians argue that Knight’s work reflects a wider pattern. Australia has never fully confronted its own history of racism, and scholars say the conversation around race in Australia is not as robust and layered as it is in the United States.

Ideas like implicit bias are rarely referenced or widely understood, for example, and many people say Knight’s employer deserves a fair share of the blame.

Murdoch’s News Corp. is the largest media company in Australia with assets that include more than 200 newspapers and magazines along with television channels and radio stations.

Many of these outlets, moving loosely together, have stirred racism for decades. And yet the tone and frequency have been intensifying more recently as their preferred party in Australia, the Liberals, have struggled politically.

The Murdoch press is not alone in the case of Williams. The sports media in Australia — in general dominated by white, older men — condemned Williams’ outburst while dismissing her argument that male players are given more leeway to misbehave.

“This is what Australia does,” said Shareena Clanton, an Aboriginal Australian actress and activist. “This is what it has always done to people of colour and, in particular, Black women who reach the top.”

“This whole cartoon is vile,” she added, saying that Williams’ opponent, Naomi Osaka, had been drawn as a white woman. “The fact that it was printed and passed the editor’s room speaks even more volumes about the landscape of our media here in Australia.”

Chris Kindred, a cartoonist in Richmond, Virginia, said it only confirmed what many Americans already knew. “It’s nothing new,” he said. “Australia has an issue confronting racism. Water is wet.”

Do the Artist’s Intentions Matter?

Knight and his editor have said that their motivations were pure.

“I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the U.S. Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” Knight said in the statement, adding: “The world has just gone crazy.”

That explanation does not work for many cartoonists. Many said that working in the medium of cartooning means soaking up some of the history and that history is, flat out, inseparable from racism.

In interviews, other cartoonists went even further.

“Comics has a very long history of racist iconography, which includes blackface iconography in some of the most acclaimed cartoonists in history,” said Noah Berlatsky, author of Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics.

“Thomas Nast, Winsor McCay, Will Eisner, R. Crumb all used blackface imagery; Dr. Seuss did viciously racist anti-Japanese cartoons during World War II, and on and on,” Berlatsky said. “Using exaggerated racist imagery for comic effect is one of the most characteristic moves of the comic medium.”

It is hard to believe, he said, that Knight did not know this history. A spokesperson for the Herald Sun said Knight was too busy to be interviewed. But cartoonists who have tried to defend similar work in the past have argued that this history inoculates them — that it is just how cartooning works.

No way, Berlatsky said.

“The problem is that picking up racist iconography from 100 years ago in order to attack a Black woman still makes you racist, even if you think you’re participating in the tradition of comics rather than in the tradition of racism,” Berlatsky said. “The tradition of comics very often has been the same as the tradition of racism, and you can choose to push back against that, or you can be racist. Knight has chosen the second option.”

But Is It Fair to Hold an Australian to an American Standard?

Not being American, some cartoonists argue, is no excuse.

“While Australia has its own unique colonial history separate from the United States, the Western world, including Australia, share an esthetic history,” said Ronald Wimberly, an artist and designer known for his commentary on race and comics.

That history includes an effort “to dehumanize Black and brown people by degrading their features into symbols of the subhuman,” Wimberly said, offering a detailed critique of the U.S. Open cartoon, which he described as a failure on many levels:

“Is this cartoon racist? First, what is this cartoon doing? What’s the object? The text is a pretty clear, if flaccid, punchline regarding Serena Williams’ poor sportsmanship. It alludes to Serena being childish and angry (I’d argue that the text relies on racist, sexist tropes, too).

“But cartoons are a drawing medium. Now, I don’t want to blindly attribute intent, but setting aside the possibility that the cartoonist is just that poor a draughtsman, the drawings seem to ridicule Serena’s appearance. These aren’t very good likenesses. Mark isn’t using the medium to support his joke by, say, depicting Serena as a baby, in which case the pacifier should have been more prominently featured.

“Cartooning uses the shorthand of symbols to depict things. This is our craft. Using symbols. The pacifier is a symbol of immaturity, it alludes to a baby throwing a tantrum. But Mark is also drawing from a different history of symbols here. Racist and sexist symbols. Mark critiques the appearance and performance of Serena’s body in relation to race and sex, not her sportsmanship.”

Wimberly said there was only one conclusion that anyone who knows anything about cartooning or race could come to: “Whether or not Mark intended to draw on the racist history of the symbols, he has. His intent is irrelevant. Either he is a deliberately racist cartoonist — or an incompetent and careless cartoonist.”

Kindred, the cartoonist in Virginia, said that it ultimately comes down to quality, not just sensitivity.

“We want people to make better commentary,” he said. “Racism is a lazy joke to lean on.”

Source: Artist says Serena Williams U.S. Open cartoon ‘not about race.’ Experts disagree