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."
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?
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
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
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
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.