PALM BEACH — One cartoon from the United Arab Emirates shows a hook-nosed Jewish gunman robbing the globe while wielding a pistol labeled “The Holocaust.”
Another, published in Jordan, shows an Arab youth crucified on a Star of David. And a third, from Syria, portrays a bearded Jewish man holding a menorah and a Torah next to a toppled Statue of Liberty.
Such anti-Jewish cartoons appear routinely in Arab newspapers, said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and discrimination. When his group has complained to the countries’ leaders, the response is always the same: “We are a democracy, it is a free press and we cannot interfere.”
So how strange it is to witness the violent protests sweeping the world in response to Danish cartoons caricaturing the prophet Mohammed, Foxman told an audience Friday at the league’s national executive committee meeting in The Breakers.
How strange that Arab newspapers are retaliating against cartoons from Christian-dominated Denmark by publishing offensive cartoons mocking Jews and the Holocaust, he said. “Now we find ourselves in a situation where a Danish newspaper does a cartoon about a non-Jewish prophet, and (people say) it’s our fault — this is a Jewish, Zionist conspiracy,” Foxman said.
Palm Beach Post editorial cartoonist Don Wright told the same audience that experience has left him “far more careful about how I use mythological religious figures” — but still unafraid to provoke controversy.
In one cartoon years ago, responding to Saddam Hussein’s gassing of the Kurds, Wright portrayed Mohammed wearing a gas mask. The cartoon drew a flood of irate phone calls after it appeared in The Chicago Tribune. But Wright said caricature and satire depend on exaggeration and people sometimes claim to be offended when they see an opinion they don’t like.
“There are times when different religions deserve to be criticized because of hypocrisy and their involvement in seeking power through politics,” he said.