The Center for the Study of the Middle East issued an apology Tuesday for a flier containing an alleged anti-Semitic image that was included in their newsletter.
CSME director Feisal al-Istrabadi sent out an email to faculty, students and friends of the CSME explaining and apologizing for the error.
The cartoon featured the Republican and Democratic party symbols with the Israeli flag on their sleeve, seizing someone affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. BDS is a Palestinian movement promoting forms of boycott against Israel.
The image in question was featured on a flier for the event “Suppression of Free Speech on Palestinian Human Rights at IU and Beyond” presented by Palestine Solidarity Committee, which is not affiliated with the CSME.
PSC President Bryce Greene created the poster and said he didn’t expect any trouble from the image.
"We selected the image to include in the flier because we thought it accurately depicted both parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, their uncritical support for the state of Israel as well as their shared antagonism toward the BDS movement,” Greene said.
Jordana Ichilov, President of Indiana Israel Public Affairs Committee, is an international studies major and received the newsletter. She said she was confused upon seeing the image in the flier because she wasn’t expecting it.
“I was surprised that students were okay with promoting that kind of image,” Ichilov said.
The image was not caught by staff before the newsletter was sent out Monday, al-Istrabadi said. He said the presence of the cartoon within the newsletter was brought to his attention by a colleague.
“The context of the image is wrong for a center such as mine to be publishing,” al-Istrabadi said. “If I had seen it before it went out, it would never have gone out.”
The cartoon was created by Carlos Latuff, a Brazilian political cartoonist, who has been previously accused of anti-Semitism. Latuff said in an interview with the Jewish-American newspaper "The Forward" his cartoons have no focus on Judaism but instead on Israel as a political entity.
“It would be different if the cartoonist wasn’t a known anti-Semite,” Ichilov said. “I think that definitely played a role into kind of crossing the line between being critical of Israel and being anti-Semitic.”
Greene said he wasn’t aware of the cartoonists’ history before selecting the image for the poster.
“I was only aware that it was published in an online newspaper that was run by progressive Jews,” Greene said.
al-Istrabadi said the image is deeply disturbing to him because of its similarity to other anti-Semitic cartoons.
“The image looks very much like a long line of anti-Semitic cartoons that have a long and unfortunate history in this country,” al-Istrabadi said.
Greene said he apologized to anyone who may have been offended by the use of the Israeli flag in the cartoon but does not believe the image was anti-Semitic.
“The cartoon includes the flag of the state of Israel which is a state, an internationally recognized state, and its inclusion in the cartoon has nothing to do with Jews or Judaism,” Greene said. “It has everything to do with the United States’ relationship with the state.”
Ichilov submitted a bias incident report because she said she was shocked the university allows organizations that advance hateful messages to be affiliated with the university.
“If someone is going to promote anti-Semitic imagery, dialogue, anything then the fact that they’re allowed to be affiliated with the university is frustrating,” Ichilov said.
al-Istrabadi said the topic of the discussion presented by PSC is valid, but the manner in which they chose to represent it is not consistent with the mission of the CSME.
“I do not believe that the criticism of the state of Israel is inherently anti-Semetic,” al-Istrabadi said. “I believe that the topic that the students want to raise is a legitimate topic for discussion and inquiry on this or any other campus.”
Greene said the event will cover the suppression of free speech in relation to Palestinian human rights. He said he invited al-Istrabadi to the event to discuss topics such as the cartoon.
“This should be discussed in a calm, rational way,” Greene said.
Disclaimer: Bryce Greene writes columns for the Indiana Daily Student.
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