"We like Jews...we just don't like Israel.."
Cartoonist Daryl Cagle goes to Egypt...
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians still looms large in cartoons around the world, with an endless flow of cartoons from Arab countries showing monster-Israel assaulting, eating, crushing or somehow decimating the poor Palestinians. The dove of peace has been killed by Israel in every imaginable cartoon - crushed, squeezed, stabbed, burned, eaten. Poor bird.
The conflict goes on forever, long after every original cartoon idea has been exhausted. Americans don’t see much of these cartoons because they would be regarded here as anti-Semitic at worst, or as the same thing over and over, at best.
After Algeria, my Middle East speaking tour took me to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories. At my first event in Cairo I spoke to a group of Egyptian journalists who brought a newspaper up to me, proudly pointing out that in Egypt, editorial cartoons are often printed big and in color on the front page of the newspaper. The cartoon they showed me would make an American editor choke; it showed a spitting snake, in the shape of a Star of David; inside the snake/star was a peace dove, behind bars, and above the snake, in Arabic, were the words, “It’s not about the bird flu, it’s about the swine flu.”
I explained that in America this cartoon would be regarded as anti-Semitic, and it would never be printed. The Egyptian journalists were emphatic, explaining to me that the cartoon was about Israel, not about Jews - an important distinction to them.
“Israel isn’t mentioned anywhere in the cartoon,” I said.
“But we all know the Jewish star is the symbol of Israel,” they responded.
I said, “It is a religious symbol. It is the same as if I took the star and crescent off of the flag of Pakistan and drew a similar cartoon, saying it was about Pakistan.” They didn’t respond to me, my comment was such nonsense. I continued, “The cartoon seems to say that Jews are like snakes and pigs.”
“No, no! We have lots of symbols for Israel that we all know, like the Jew with black clothes and a big hooked nose!” one of the Egyptian journalists insisted with some passion. “We like Jews, we just don’t like Israel!”