Editor's Note: This letter is a response to this previously published letter. The previously published letter was unintentionally published without the author listed and has been corrected. The below mentioned anonymous author refers to the Palestine Solidarity Committee.
I am writing in response to the letter of anonymous authorship which appeared in the IDS on Nov. 8 (“How the Israel Lobby at IU suppresses speech for Palestinian rights) in defense of a cartoon employed by the so-called Palestinian Solidarity Committee. The cartoon in question is the work of the notoriously antisemitic and anti-American Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, the runner-up in Iran’s infamous 2006 Holocaust denial cartoon contest.
The particular cartoon in question depicts a Republican elephant and a Democratic donkey dressed in police-like attire blazoned with badges on their shoulders in the image of the Israeli flag, while they each lift up a man in a shirt the colors of the Palestinian flag with the letters “BDS” written across it (referring here to the movement dedicated to “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” against the State of Israel).
The unnamed author of the letter claims that this cartoon is in no way antisemitic; rather, such an accusation serves as a “conflation of criticism [of] the state of Israel with criticism of Judaism” which “is dangerous to both Jews and Palestinians.” The charge, from Ambassador Istrabadi and others that this cartoon conveys well-known antisemitic tropes (a favorite and ubiquitous theme of the cartoonist), the author further claims, is merely another smear from “[r]eactionary pro-Israel elements on campus [who] have been using this weaponization of anti-Semitism for many years at IU to silence voices for peace, equality and justice for Palestinians.“ A fantastic claim when one considers the origin of the charge of antisemitism!
This view anonymously advanced by a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee is fundamentally misguided, and I will tell you why.
The cartoon employed by this student group is, in fact, antisemitic in that its subject matter is a fundamental antisemitic trope: that powerful Jews and Israelis control American (and, indeed, global) institutions for their own benefit. The cartoon, in implying Israeli control of American politics, employs long-standing tropes of Jewish cabals and shadowy power-brokers, antisemitic fantasies most notably expressed in the infamous Russian forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Latuff’s cartoons are notorious for their use of classic antisemitic tropes applied to the State of Israel in a facile attempt to disguise anti-Jewish animus as mere political speech. In today’s America, these dangerous and insidious ideas about Jews are regaining their power: whether in repellent insinuations about philanthropist George Soros as some sort of nefarious figure bent on global domination that one finds hawked on the Right, or remarks implying that Jews use finance and financial resources to bend American politics to their own ends via explanations that the US-Israel relationship is “all about the Benjamins, baby.”
If the students and faculty associated with the Palestinian Solidarity Committee did not realize that the cartoon they used drew upon well-known antisemitic motifs — or that its creator himself was a notorious antisemite — their excuse becomes ignorance rather than animus. Assuming that this is the case, they are in luck as IU is fortunate enough to have perhaps the best academic programs engaged with questions of antisemitism. I hope that these individuals will avail themselves of this much-needed education in history and tolerance.
IU PhD student 2019