The Australian newspaper, The Age, is threatening to take legal action on behalf of its resident cartoonist Michael Leunig over the fake submission of one of his cartoons to the Iranian Holocaust competition.
Leunig claims an impostor entered his cartoon into the Iranian newspaper’s competition on 13 February with the explanation: “As a show of solidarity with the Muslim world, and an exercise in free speech, I would like to submit a cartoon to you on the theme of the Holocaust.”
It was the first submission to the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri’s competition and Leunig’s cartoon was accepted and immediately posted on its web site.
The Australian cartoonist is furious and has demanded his cartoon and the words written in his name be removed from the Iranian newspaper’s web site. It’s the “pro-war lobby”, he claimed, who are trying “to discredit me.” It’s all a “malicious hoax.”
But the cartoon itself is not a hoax. It is a repugnant and original example of Leunig’s ongoing campaign to mock and humiliate Australian Jews. The particular cartoon submitted to the Iranian newspaper was an original 2002 Leunig cartoon of Auschwitz. Where the original sign above the main gate had read Arbeit Macht Frei, Leunig translated it to “Work brings freedom.” He then duplicated the image in a second panel and depicted Israel as a concentration camp with a sign “War brings peace” intimating a deliberate reproduction of the holocaust upon the Palestinians by Israel. Michael Gawenda, editor of the Age, decided not to publish the cartoon, although
it found its platform in other venues.
Neither was the text sent into the Hamshahri competition dissimilar to the views regularly espoused by the Australian cartoonist. On 10 February in The Age, Leunig wrote that the cartoon riots must be a consequence of “the accumulated anger resulting from the humiliation, persecution and suffering inflicted on Islam by the West. The cartoons are taunts, probably deliberate, to an aggrieved and traumatised spiritual community who feel at the mercy of the West's contempt, ignorance and ruthless military might.”
Leunig, of course, has never considered his own venomous work to be taunting to the Australian minority Jewish population. Nor does he consider the Jews to be “aggrieved” or “traumatised” or even a “spiritual community.” Leunig’s victims are those who have declared themselves the enemy of Israel.
What is shocking and ought to disturb much of the Australian public is that their favourite cartoonist’s work was accepted by the Holocaust cartoon competition without question. The Iranian newspaper considered the cartoon to be an appropriate representation of its own Jew-hating mindset. The submitted cartoon had been the product of a regular day’s work for Leunig. He didn’t need a Holocaust competition to mock or ridicule Jews.
Leunig’s most recent cartoon assault on Jews came when Ariel Sharon was struck down by a stroke. On 11 January 2006, The Age published a cartoon where Leunig drew a moral equivalence between Ariel Sharon and the creator of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. He referred to Yassin as “an old Palestinian man in a wheelchair,” ignoring the more potent characteristics of his life where he orchestrated the murder of hundreds of Israeli civilians in terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. This odious cartoon was published by the Age as the Israeli Prime Minister fought for his life in a Jerusalem hospital and the Jewish people were grieving and struggling to come to terms with the consequences.
On 13 January, Leunig wrote a defensive opinion piece for The Age in reaction to a robust readership protest, where he attempted to justify the vicious wanderings of his malignant pen. Many commentators, he argued, were depicting Sharon as “a war criminal and a leader who quite possibly was corrupt enough to take the odd hefty bribe.” And, he said “I can almost imagine that if Sharon could have sat up from his coma and seen the cartoon, he might have approved.”
In one shrewd breath, Leunig maligned Sharon and then claimed impunity due to a mendacious assertion of familiarity with the Israeli Prime Minister. And when he was asked, “Why do you criticise Israel and not the Palestinians?” He argued, “Well, my work is usually humanistic, so in a universal sense it can be safely assumed that I’m deeply reluctant about anybody’s violent policies or deeds."
Early on 14 February, both Australian Fairfax newspapers, The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Leunig had actually entered one of his cartoons into the Iranian Holocaust cartoon competition. Many commentators were troubled and outraged – but within hours – both newspapers had removed the report from their web sites and The Age announced it was “seeking legal advice on behalf of Leunig.” Quite a number of Australians are wondering how The Age is going to seek legal action against itself for its own inaccurate reporting.
Leunig was last heard praising the Iranian editors of the Hamshahri, who, he said, had been “the first to defuse” the dilemma by “removing the cartoon immediately and apologising.” Those Iranian editors, Leunig claimed, “were acting in the interests of truth.”
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