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Press ReleaseIsrael/Middle East
ADL Survey Finds Editorial Cartoonists Overwhelmingly Criticize Palestinians in Mideast Crisis

New York, NY, October 31, 2000 … The editorial pages of the nation’s major newspapers have featured three times as many cartoons bluntly criticizing Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians for the recent violence in the Middle East compared with editorial cartoons blaming Israel, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found in a random survey of large circulation papers and syndicates.

Of the 73 editorial cartoons included in the survey, the League found, with only a handful of exceptions, that cartoons published throughout the month of October focused on four central themes, with the most predominant being the breakdown of the Middle East peace process. Thirty cartoons, or 41 percent of the total, focused in on this theme, presenting a bleak outlook for the current status of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and future negotiations. Three times as many cartoons bluntly criticized Yasir Arafat and the Palestinians for the violence (21) as compared with those criticizing Israel and Likud leader Ariel Sharon (7). Fourteen editorial cartoons were equally critical of both Israel and the Palestinians.

Of all the editorial cartoons surveyed, none had the immediate impact as the October 6 cartoon by Michael Ramirez in the Los Angeles Times, which was widely criticized for portraying a Jewish man and an Arab man praying in front of what appeared to be the Western Wall, with the wall labeled "HATE."

"While in the majority of cases, cartoonists took pains to ensure that their message was straightforward, to the point and fair, we came across several that unfairly labeled Israel as the instigator in the conflict or altogether ignored the underlying causes of the conflict," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Others sought to unfairly place the blame on Ariel Sharon for provoking the latest escalation in violence, using images heavy-laden with significance, including one artist who portrayed the Likud leader with a smoking gun aimed at a Palestinian youth. We are reassured, however, that the plurality of the cartoonists is supportive of Israel’s position in the conflict. While this is just a random sampling and not scientific, it provides us a snapshot of how one segment of the media is portraying the Middle East conflict to the American people."

Blaming Israel

In an editorial cartoon in the Hartford Courant, cartoonist Bob Englehart depicted Ariel Sharon holding a smoking gun over the lifeless body of a Palestinian boy in a clear reference to the shooting of Muhammed Jamal Al-dura, the boy killed in an exchange of gunfire near Netzarim, Gaza. The implication is clear – that Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount had led to the boy’s death. This and a handful of similar editorial cartoons unfairly blamed Sharon and Israel for the violence while largely ignoring the larger issues contributing to recent unrest in the Middle East.

Another cartoon strongly critical of Israel appeared in the Scranton, Pennsylvania Scranton Times. Cartoonist Dennis Draughon portrayed an Israeli soldier with a smoking attack rifle standing over a bloodied and dead Palestinian youth, as several rocks are flying toward him. Looking over the scene, the Israeli soldier is made to say, "An eye for an eye … a tooth for a tooth … a bullet for a rock … ."

From a TV set, Mike Keefe of the Denver Post has, "Live video of a 12-year-old Palestinian killed by Israeli troops." An approving Sharon shouts, "SCORE!" In the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, cartoonist Steve Sack presents a smiling caricature of Sharon perched on top of a detonator that has triggered a Mideast explosion, with Sharon stating, "Who? Me???"

Criticism of Both Israel and the Palestinians

The Ramirez cartoon, "Worshipping Their God," which appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 6 after surfacing on the Times Internet site three days earlier, was syndicated to newspapers across the country and also widely disseminated across the Internet. After a barrage of complaints, including from major Arab and Jewish organizations, that the cartoon was unfair and insensitive, the cartoonist himself issued a public response: "There seems to be a misperception by some that my cartoon depicts the Western Wall and that I blamed the Israelis solely for the hatred and violence in the Middle East. Actually, the metaphor depicts BOTH Israelis AND Palestinians worshipping "hate."

The Los Angeles Times published a letter from ADL criticizing the cartoon the following day. This was followed on October 15 by a lengthy commentary by the newspaper’s ombudsman, Times Associate Editor Narda Zacchino, who described the public outcry as "unprecedented." She stated: "Obviously, the cartoon failed to communicate his (Ramirez’s) message. In addition, virtually no one saw the image as anything but the Western Wall, the use of which in the cartoon was careless and insensitive."

Other cartoonists used similar images in blaming both sides for the violence. Cartoonist Paul Conrad of the Los Angeles Times drew a human skull wearing both a kiffiyah and a yarmulke. Jim Morin, in the Miami Herald, showed an Israeli and a Palestinian throwing rocks at each other until they both end up dead. In the Baltimore Sun, Kevin Kallaugher portrayed a dead Palestinian, a dead Israeli and a dead Dove of Peace as a ring of Palestinians, Israelis and Americans play "The Blame Game," where "Everyone Loses."

Criticism of Arafat and the Palestinians

In a direct reference to the mob lynching of Israeli reservists in the West Bank, cartoonist Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer created a variation on the widely disseminated news photograph of a Palestinian man holding up bloodied hands in jubilation during the incident. His October 15 cartoon showed a smiling Yasir Arafat standing at a window with his bloodied hands raised. An almost identical cartoon by Ramirez appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

David Horsey, in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, depicted a "Palestinian Education." He showed a teacher with students, with the teacher pointing to a blackboard on which is written, in one column, "eliminate, eradicate, expel, bury, slaughter, destroy" and in the second column, "Jews." The teacher tells the students, "Use each of the words in column A in a sentence with the word in column B."

In the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jim Day showed Arafat sawing off his right hand, the hand that is grasped in the hand of "peace."

Grim Outlook for the Peace Process

The peace process as a severely wounded and dying dove, labeled "Middle East," was how editorial cartoonist David Reddick portrayed the prospects for reconciliation in his editorial drawing in the Anderson Herald Bulletin of Indiana. Bruce Beattie in the Daytona Beach News-Journal showed Barak and Arafat seated at opposite ends of a large table that bears the words, "Square One." Bob Englehart of the Hartford Courant drew a large sport utility vehicle careening out of control and with all four wheels fallen off the vehicle and spinning away. The vehicle is labeled, "Mideast Peace."

ADL continues to monitor media coverage of the Middle East and Israel. ADL’s Media Watch on the Web offers updates on coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a survey on editorial viewpoints in major U.S. newspapers.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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