An editorial cartoon was published in The Daily Californian in print Oct. 13, a few days after Alan Dershowitz spoke to an audience of students in the Boalt Auditorium. We seek to elaborate on the harmful content of the cartoon to provide clarity and seek understanding from our peers on campus.
To a Jewish student on this campus, seeing this cartoon in the Daily Cal is a reminder that we are not always welcome in the spaces we call home. Given the extensive history of imagery like this used to propagate stereotypes about Jews that enabled and justified mass violence against our communities, it is terrifying that the Daily Cal did not do their due diligence by researching and checking what was printed in their newspaper.
A pointed, thoughtful cartoon commenting on the politics surrounding Dershowitz’s talk is completely valid and holds value in the discussion of said event. That statement about Dershowitz’s pro-Israel stance, however, was made via the use of anti-Semitic imagery that plays into the harmful rhetorics of blood libel and two-faced deception.
Blood libels, accusations against Jews that accused them of ritual murder (especially of Christians), were used across the world to justify pogroms (organized violence and killings) of Jewish communities. We are strong supporters of productive political discourse through campus media, but this is not productive.
In the cartoon, Dershowitz is depicted with a hooked nose and a body of a large amorphous black sphere. His exaggerated head and contorted legs and hands evoke images of a spider. The rhetoric of Jews as “invasive” insects in society, trying to take over resources and power, has long been used to justify violence, persecution and murder. The two elements of the cartoon, with Dershowitz’s face in the front and the black body in the back, plays into the anti-Semitic trope of Jews as shape-shifting, sub-human entities using deception and trickery in order to advance their own agendas. This rhetoric is nowhere more common than in Nazi propaganda, and can be traced far beyond WWII in European and American media.
The Daily Cal must take it upon itself to monitor depictions of all forms of bigotry if it wants to uphold journalistic integrity. The fact that our city newspaper printed this cartoon is deeply disturbing, traumatizing and disrespectful to the Jewish students and faculty on campus. It further reveals the double standard regarding anti-Semitism in discussions of inclusion and social progress on campus that often makes Jewish students feel targeted and unwelcome.
We recognize the cartoonist’s freedom of speech and freedom to draw this cartoon, however, we hold the Daily Cal to a standard of conveying information and opinions on this campus that does not come at the expense of any specific minority group of students. This does not mean we want to shut down discussion about the politics of Dershowitz’s beliefs. We simply ask for recognition that outside of the dynamic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rhetoric of this cartoon is anti-Semitic and has no place on campus. Telling Jews that we can or cannot define what is offensive to us, because of our status as privileged minority in the United States, is anti-Semitic.
We appreciate the statement released by the Daily Cal apologizing for the cartoon, although we would like an apology from the artist as well. We would like to be included in further dialogue to increase sensitivity and education about the impact of anti-Semitism in the past and present. We ask that as members of the Jewish community and the larger campus community, our pain is validated and understood.