The infamous Muhammad cartoons--whose publication so inflamed the Muslim world--were initially commissioned by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Postem for the purpose of focusing attention on a climate of fear in Europe that is characterized by the practice of self-censorship as a way to appease sensitive Muslims. Contrary to the claims of Muslim protestors, they were not examples of a European tendency to vilify Islam. The regular appearance of anti-Semitic cartoons in several European newspapers is shining light on the Continent’s true prejudice: a deep hatred of Jews and Israel.
Earlier this month, the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet published a cartoon which depicted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as a Nazi. Political cartoonist Finn Graff apparently saw fit to compare Olmert to SS Major Amon Goeth. Goeth, who ran the Plaszow death camp in Poland and was hanged in 1946, shoots at random Jews from the balcony of his villa in a scene in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. In Graff’s cartoon, a shirtless Olmert smiles on a balcony while gripping a rifle. The message that the Jewish state is the new Nazi state couldn’t be clearer. But the truth is that radical Islam, not the democratic Israel, is what really scares Graff. He explained in an interview that he does not draw pictures mocking Muhammad because of his fear for Muslims and “out of respect.” Apparently it’s because he doesn’t fear Jews that Graff finds it acceptable to treat them with such venom.
Political cartoonists aren’t the only people in Norway who fear radical Muslims. At about the same time that the Oslo newspaper published the cartoon, a Jewish man wearing a kippah was assaulted on the streets of Oslo by a group of Arabs. In response, the Mosaic Community in Oslo advised Jews not to speak Hebrew in public and to leave Jewish emblems at home. The fact that the Mosaic Community has been receiving threats and hate messages recently is further evidence that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Norway. Norway’s politicians can’t be counted on to condemn the disturbing rise in attacks against Jews because so many of them share in the hatred. Socialist Finance Minister Kristen Halvorsen bragged earlier this year that she never buys Israeli products and supported boycotting Israel.
Jews are also feeling increasingly uncomfortable in Spain, another European country whose newspapers have recently featured anti-Semitic cartoons on their pages. Appearing this month in El Periódico, a popular Barcelona newspaper, was a cartoon condemning Israel’s assault on Hezbollah in Lebanon. The caption by cartoonist Ferreres reveals the popular Jew-as-Nazi analogy: Hitler: "We had the right to defend ourselves, too." Mussolini: "Until they decided to take it away from us."
Not to be outdone, this week La Vanguardia published an anti-Semitic cartoon by Toni Batllori in which a man says: “Listen up, a question. Is opposing the Tripartite being anti-Catalan? Is opposing the PSOE government being anti-Spanish? Is opposing the Bush administration being anti-American? No, right? Well, criticizing the decisions of the Israeli government is not being anti-Semitic, OK?” Fair enough, but Batllori doesn’t have a history of such supposedly fair treatment of any past Israeli government or Israelis in general. A previous cartoon from Batllori depicted an Israeli solider pointing a gun at a Palestinian with the caption: “Now you’ll be the Jew, and I’ll be the Nazi.”
No condemnation of these cartoons will be forthcoming from Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, even though it was Zapatero who took a leading role in criticizing the publication of the Mohammed cartoons. As the cartoon riots were raging throughout the Muslim world, Zapatero and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote in the International Herald Tribune that “the publication of these caricatures may be perfectly legal, but it is not indifferent and thus ought to be rejected from a moral and political standpoint.” For Spain’s anti-Semitic prime minister, hate speech against Jews is what merits protection. As Ignacio Russel Cano reports: “It took [Zapatero] more than a year to definitely close the channel connection to the Hispasat satellite, siphoning Latin America with more than a year of hate and Islamist propaganda. In a country with the most anti-Catholic government in its whole history but with a multicultural obsession for Islam, A-Manar TV was part of the 'freedom of press.'”
Zapatero’s public appearance donning a Palestinian kaffiyeh was the final straw for many in Spain’s small Jewish community. At a conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, a Spanish Jew accused Zapatero of being an anti-Semite. Apologizing for the prime minister’s choice of apparel and unfair criticism of Israel was the last thing on Moratino’s mind. His advice to Jews in Spain was to shut up: “The serious error that Jewish representatives commit many times is confusing criticisms with attitudes against the Jewish people...Let this be the last time that you publicly denounce, condemn, and express yourself in such a way about the anti-Semitism of a government of Spain.”
But Jews can’t afford to be quiet about the resurgence of anti-Semitism all across Europe. In 2003, England’s The Independent published a cartoon by Dave Brown, which depicted Ariel Sharon biting into the flesh of a baby. The government of Israel filed an official complaint but received no apology. Meanwhile, the UK’s Political Cartoon Society awarded the cartoon first prize in its 2003 “Cartoon of the Year” competition.
With the Holocaust not even a century old, Jews have enough to worry about when anti-Semitism is not criticized. Seeing it rewarded can only lead to a fear that history will repeat itself. Indeed, Israel’s enemies are vowing it will – with the propaganda support of most of Europe.
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