We did something we’ve never done before. We canceled our subscription to a publication in protest over a cartoon. Of course, we’re talking about the remarkably anti-Semitic cartoon published in the international edition of the New York Times yesterday. And, yes, it was an anti-Semitic gut punch to anyone who seriously searches for well-reasoned perspective in this crazy and dangerous world. No one should confuse this insult to intelligence with a mere opinion expressed through a cartoon.
Just as we would cancel a book club membership that promoted The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a legitimate literary work rather than the very dangerous anti-Semitic screed that it is, we canceled our subscription to the New York Times for featuring a not-so-subtle anti-Semitic image reminiscent of the worst graphics served up by Der Stürmer and the Nazis. Now, for the record, let us state that we eagerly read journals and watch programs that often express views with which we do not agree. We love that America is hospitable to differing opinions and robust debate. We debate rather robustly ourselves. This cartoon, however, was not even close to rational opinion. It was a calumny. It would delight the likes of Julius Streicher and others of his ilk who fawned over the outrages of Der Stürmer. It should repulse everyone else who enjoys a modicum of decency or judgment.
The cartoon pictures a blind President Trump, his head adorned with a yarmulke (the traditional skull cap worn by many observant Jews) being led by a dog (a German dachshund, no less) wearing a Jewish star on its collar and sporting a facial likeness of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is a new portrayal of an old anti-Semitic trope. It is a trope, a cliché, that has been around for centuries—Jews controlling the world. It is a calumny, a sick smear that misanthropes have used many times before. It stimulates the worst instincts and feeds the worst appetites of the worst people. It does this today, as it has for century after century.
No, we do not consider the New York Times to be an anti-Semitic publication, just, in this instance, a terribly and irresponsibly negligent publication. If these were normal times in America and abroad we probably would not have reacted so strongly. But these are not normal times. These are ugly times. These are deadly times. We are living through a time when we are witnessing, far too often, miscreants acting out their worst instincts. The murder of innocents where they stroll or shop or dine or worship has become commonplace. Over and over again we hear that these killers are motivated by something they’ve read or heard or imagined. Yet this hateful image was distributed throughout the world, and the distributor was the New York Times.
This cartoon didn’t just sneak onto the pages of the New York Times international edition. Someone in the editorial hierarchy of the publication made that decision to publish it. All of the apologies in the world can’t change that, and one wonders if the publication would be apologizing at all if there had not been such an outcry from thinking people of different faiths and different nationalities.
Perhaps Imam Mohamad Tawhidi summed it up best. “If you’re wondering what type of photo ISIS’ Al Baghdadi would hang on his wall, look no further than the New York Times cartoon displaying Jewish people as dogs…” And therein lies our deep objection to the Times’ absence of judgment and any sense of consequence when making the decision to publish this affront. Its audience was widespread. Its message was combustible. We’ve not likely heard or seen the last of it. It will have a long life. It will be reprinted many times by many people with the ugliest of intentions. It will, no doubt, cause misery as it motivates sick and hateful people to do sick and hateful things.
And it will mostly be impactful having been published by the organization that proudly praises itself as the home of all the news that’s fit to print. Well, not this time.