The New York Times Called a Famous Cartoonist an Anti-Semite. Repeatedly. They Didn’t Ask Him for Comment.

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The cartoon by António Moreira Antunes that prompted the perpetual ban on political art in the New York Times.

            Earlier this year the Portuguese cartoonist António Moreira Antunes drew one of the most controversial political cartoons in history. His cartoon about U.S.-Israeli relations sparked so much controversy that The New York Times, whose international edition published it in April, decided to fire its two staff cartoonists, neither of whom had anything to do with it. Then the Times permanently banned all editorial cartooning.

            Antunes took the most flak from the Times itself, as it furiously backpedaled from its own editorial decision to publish his cartoon. In five news stories and editorials, the Newspaper of Record unreservedly described Antunes’ cartoon as anti-Semitic. American media outlets followed the Times’ lead.

            “I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m anti-Zionist,” Antunes told me. “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I am in favor of two countries and I am against all annexations made by Israel.” The Times censored Antunes’ side of the story from its readers.

            Was Antunes’ cartoon, a metaphorical illustration depicting Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog leading a blind President Trump, anti-Semitic? That question is both inherently subjective and eminently debatable. “The cartoon is not anti-Semitic, but many political and religious sectors classify any criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitic,” Antunes said in an interview.

            Pro-Israel groups disagreed. On the other hand, many cartoonists thought there was nothing wrong with it.

            But that’s not how the Times covered it. In article after article, Antunes’ cartoon was described as anti-Semitic. It was an objective truth. No one could doubt the cartoon’s anti-Semitism more than the fact that Washington is the capital of the United States.

            “Times Apologizes for Publishing Anti-Semitic Cartoon,” read the headline on April 28th.

            Not “allegedly anti-Semitic.”

            Not “cartoon criticized as anti-Semitic.”

            In an April 30th editorial, the paper called Antunes’ work “an appalling political cartoon” and “an obviously bigoted cartoon.” It explained: “The cartoon was chosen from a syndication service by a production editor who did not recognize its anti-Semitism.” Not “its possible anti-Semitism.”

            Two more articles on the subject appeared on May 1st: “Times Disciplines Editor and Cancels Cartoon Contract Over Anti-Semitic Drawing” (we don’t know what that discipline entailed, but unlike the cartoonist, the editor wasn’t fired) and “After the Publication of an Anti-Semitic Cartoon, Our Publisher Says We’re Committed to Making Changes.” The text of both pieces described the cartoon as self-evidently anti-Semitic.

            On June 10th a Times article announced the end of political cartooning in the Gray Lady. Antunes’ cartoon, the Times stated flatly, contained “anti-Semitic imagery.”

            Accusing a political cartoonist of anti-Semitism is as serious as it gets. So something jumped out at me as I read the Times’ repeated characterizations of Antunes’ cartoon as anti-Semitic, so devoid of mitigating language: where was his response?

            “The New York Times never contacted me at any time,” Antunes now says.

            I reached out to the Times about this; I asked why they didn’t talk to him and how the paper made the determination that Antunes’ cartoon was anti-Semitic. James Bennet, the editorial page editor who banned cartoons and presumably wrote the editorials, did not reply to my repeated queries. (I gave him nearly a week to do so.) Neither did two reporters who authored pieces about Antunes.

            I did hear back from Stacy Cowley, who wrote the April 28th piece. “I dug around online and was unable to find any contact information for Mr. Antunes,” Cowley explained. “He has no publicly posted contact information that I could find, and as of the date I wrote my article, he had not publicly commented to any other news outlets about his cartoon. (Had he done so, I would have linked to and quoted his comments.)” Cowley said she tried to reach the editors of Antunes’ home paper in Portugal. She noted that she was working on a tight deadline.

            I reached Antunes via Facebook; he replied via email.

            Contacting the subject of a news story for comment is Journalism 101, a basic ethos taught to students at high school newspapers. That goes double when the article is critical.

            “Few writers need to be reminded that we seek and publish a response from anyone criticized in our pages,” the Times says in its Guidelines on Integrity. “But when the criticism is serious, we have a special obligation to describe the scope of the accusation and let the subject respond in detail. No subject should be taken by surprise when the paper appears, or feel that there was no chance to respond.” Given the gravity of the criticism leveled against Antunes, the Times appears to have fallen woefully short of its own standards.

            OK, Cowley was on deadline. What about the other articles? They appeared days later. One ran six weeks later. Antunes isn’t a recluse—he’s one of the most prominent cartoonists in Europe. I found him. So did other newspapers.

            The Times could have contacted the New York-based syndicate from which it bought Antunes’ cartoon; the syndicate has his contact information, as they do of all their contributors.

            Though scarred by his experience, Antunes says that he has not lost business. “The U.S. media” he says, “are prisoners of political correctness, right-wing turning [sic] and social media.” Europe, he says, is more tolerant.

            What’s clear is that the Times threw its cartoonist under the bus in a shockingly cavalier fashion—a practice that has become so common that it’s contributing to the imminent extinction of political cartooning.

            The Times owes Antunes an apology. They owe the two fired cartoonists their jobs back, along with back pay. Political cartoons should resume their rightful place in the paper.

            Finally, the Times owes its readers an assurance that they will never again succumb to the siren call of “fake news” as part of an ethically-challenged witch hunt.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

41 thoughts on “The New York Times Called a Famous Cartoonist an Anti-Semite. Repeatedly. They Didn’t Ask Him for Comment.

  1. Which simply goes to show, Ted, that it’s not merely Mr Trump that particular dachshund has on a leash, but the entire US establishment, not least the New York Times. Any criticism of Israeli government policy is «anti-Semitism», just as criticism of US government policy and that country’s wars and bloated military is proof that one is opposed to «democracy» and «human rights»….
    Quod erat demonstrandum

    Henri

  2. Arrrgh! It is true that any criticism of Israel immediately gets an overwhelming response of people screaming “Antisemitism!” (The knee-jerk response of jerks’ knees)

    But I think the popular story has it backwards. It’s not Israel that has us on a leash – we have them. They only reason they haven’t been pushed into the sea is because they’re besties with the biggest bully on the playground. The minute that friendship ends, they’re toast & they know it.

    So we get a permanent, irrevocable, military base in the ME. Who cares whether everyone else hates us, we’re the biggest bully on the playground. For now. And just what happens as we age and a bigger bully comes along?

  3. Its about money. They were waiting for an excuse to clean house, and cut costs. This situation gave it to them on a silver platter. They publicly apologize, and make some vague promises about making changes. While they are doing that, they are killing the cartooning section off.

    They didn’t get his opinion because he is their scapegoat. Scapegoats need to take the blame and go away.

  4. The linking of criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews is being orchestrated BY Israel through various foreign shills such as the so-called “International Holocaust Remembrance Association” which has been terrorizing UK politicians (especially Labour, because of Israel’s hatred and fear of Jeremy Corbyn) to accept THEIR “definition” of “anti-Semitism” whose “examples” directly involve valid criticism of the Apartheid State.
    That the NYT has sunk to this level is not news. That have become so overt about it IS news. Many other outlets are roughly as overt, such as Daily Kos and facebook.
    The NYT absolutely owes Senhor Antunes an apology. He should sue them for defamation. After all, they officially declared his cartoon “antisemitic”, no modifiers. That qualifies as defamatory conduct. Given the actions they took in retaliation for the cartoon, they cannot claim “absence of malice” as their actions were indeed, malicious.

  5. “The Times owes Antunes an apology. They owe the two fired cartoonists their jobs back, along with back pay. Political cartoons should resume their rightful place in the paper.”

    I strongly agree.

    What is needed is the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine, that which was surrendered by Reagan Democrats.

    The Liberal Establishment’s tolerance of the Intolerant has sunk them ethically, but elevated their finances with improved corporate funding.

    There is a lot of profit for Democrats (the Extreme Center) in squeezing out the Left.

      • Hi Henri,

        The site you linked begins to illustrate the point at which I hinted: that it would be virtually impossible to prove my implication if it were true.

        One might be tempted to go to the annual (“10-K”) company report but, of course, we ARE dealing with the empire’s “obfuscator of record.”

  6. The anitsemitic aspects of the cartoon are the Jewish symbols of the Star of David around the dog’s neck and Trump’s wearing of the yarmulke.

    Jay

    • I don’t work in the metaphor style of editorial cartooning, but I do read a lot of that work. Israel is a Jewish state. How is using the Star of David and the yarmulke in the cartoon anti-Semetic rather than merely a form of labeling? When we draw scenes in Muslim countries, there are crescent moons and scarves and other signifiers of Islam.

      • I can’t but wonder how «antisemitic» a cartoonist who refused to draw symbols like the six-pointed star or the kippah would be considered to be. For me the most offensive thing about the cartoon was the floppy ears on the dachshund ; surely Mar Netanyahu’s ears aren’t that long…. 😉

        Henri

      • 1) Not sure how Trump’s wearing a yarmulke is labeling.
        2) A dog wearing a Muslim symbol would cause great consternation in a Muslim community and would not be seen as mere labeling..
        3) Thanks for establishing that Israel is a Jewish state.

        Jay

      • @Jay – Israel was established as a Jewish state on May 14, 1948. Jus tryin’ to help…

    • «The anitsemitic [Sic !] aspects of the cartoon are the Jewish symbols of the Star of David around the dog’s neck and Trump’s wearing of the yarmulke.» Odd that you seem to regard portraying Mr Trump as wearing a kippah as offensive ; his hosts didn’t seem to take offense at his doing so during visit to Jerusalem in 2017….

      Henri

      • Henri.
        Good point on the kippah. The cartoon’s reference is to Trump’s wearing one in Israel. Also, I can accept Ted’s point that the Jewish star is labeling.
        Jay

      • What, falco, does it even mean to be a «Jewish state» ? Is a state something that can hold religous beliefs and can thereby be Jewish or Muslim or Hindu or Catholic or Zoroastrian or so-called «German paganism», or any of the multitude of ways in which people have allowed themselves to be deluded regarding the existence of a supernatural power or powers which support an overclass ? A state can certainly favour practitioners of a certain cult and discriminate against practitioners of other cults or non-believers, as Israel certainly does, but does that make it a «Jewish state» ? It certainly claims to be, but states – or rather, those in control of the same – have a certain tendency to claim a lot of things about themselves and others, which are easily shown to be false….

        Henri

      • Hello Henri,

        I don’t know what a “Jewish state” is.
        My question, above, reveals what I think the
        use of the term is meant to be. (as in
        Humpty D., below.)

        Commentator JC, below, has claimed he, at least,
        is not using “Jewish state” as a blanket immunity of criticism against the Israeli government.

        I’ll take him at his word at this point but note the push in the US congress to make it illegal to
        criticize Israel. (see anti BDS laws)

        I do agree with your initial post, above, that the cartoon at issue seems to have the wrong “world leader(s)” at the collar end of the leash.

      • Perhaps, falco, a «Jewish state» would be a state run by priests who profess Judaism, i e, a Jewish theocracy, but we are assured that this is what Israel is not ; instead, we are told, it is a «democracy» and moreover, one of only two (the other being Tunisia) in what is called the «Middle East» (roughly corresponding to Southwest and Central Asia, with Northern Africa along for the ride)….

        Interesting to note that our friend Jay Caspi replied to your query by stating that he understands the term «semite» to refer to «Jew» ; historically, of course, it was coined to refer to ancient peoples who spoke a group of languages, of which Hebrew – along with Arabic and Aramaic – is one that is still used today. I can’t but wonder if Mr Caspi, who presumably identifies himself as a Jew and thus a Semite, speaks any semitic language….

        Henri

  7. Why would a corporate newspaper in an oligarchy want to publish independent intelligent political cartoons that result in people actually actively thinking about and discussing important issues and perspectives when instead these people might be induced to feel like they are thinking about and discussing important issues by reading and discussing safe editorials and opinions on the standard divisive topics?

    • Hi Jay,

      I’ve found that be true in general. Many people – including many Uber-Zionists – insist that Israel is not a Jewish state.

      It is according to its own founding papers. I don’t personally see anything wrong with that, so long as the citizens can freely choose their religion.

      Many people also conflate “Judaism” and “The State of Israel;” that’s no good, either. Many Jews object to the way Israel treats its neighbors.

      (I do not claim to know your views on either of those subjects, merely soapboxing about my own. 😉

    • To Jay Caspi,

      Would you kindly answer my previous question and two more:

      1) Are you suggesting that Israel’s being a Jewish state puts its government beyond political criticism?

      2) does your definition of “Jewish state” refer to ethnicity or religion or both?

      3) what is your definiton of “semite.”

      • When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less’. ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all’.

        Henri

  8. Hey Falco,
    Tried to respond more fully. Perhaps too many characters. Some countries have a religious aspect, whether statutory or informal. For example, Italy, Spain, and Ireland are Catholic states. India is a Hindu state. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran are Muslim states. As such, Israel is a Jewish state. Israel as a country can of course be criticized, but when that criticism crosses the line into antisemitism, then that criticism becomes suspect and illegitimate. Much seemingly legitimate criticism of Israel is passive-aggressive antisemitism. You decide which is which.
    Jay

  9. OK. So the Pats and Eagles won. That is the important thing. (I’m from Philly, living in Boston.) Regarding the endless Israel/Palestine issue (which used to be an Israel/Arab issue until the Iranians became such cocksuckers), what do you people actually want? A Palestinian state that supports honor killing, female genital mutilation, and the murder of homosexuals?

    Jay

    • So … anti-semitism is bad, while Islamaphobia is good?

      Hypocrite much? Shall I start quoting from the Chronicles of the Elders of Zion?

      It is an indisputable fact that Judaism & Torah support MALE genital mutilation; while the Quran does *not* support mutilation of either sex’s genitals.

  10. Zionists use Jewish symbols to identify themselves.

    Why should one edit out their own symbols when being critical of Zionists?

    I do not edit out the US symbols when being critical of the US, even though Obama and the Bushes promised to never be critical of American Exceptionalism. Is a similar Zionist Exceptionalism in play here?

    In my opinion the Jewish State itself is anti-Semitic when it brings its own self into disrepute with bad behaviors.

    • > In my opinion the Jewish State itself is anti-Semitic when it brings its own self into disrepute with bad behaviors.

      I’ve used the same argument myself, if the Zionazis want to insist that all Jews are genocidal sociopaths then it is they, themselves who are disparaging all Jews.

      (I do not believe that all Jews are genocidal sociopaths. Only the ones who support Israel’s crimes against humanity.)

  11. I suppose Henri believes that semite in antisemitism refers to Arabs. Well, fuck him. Fucking idiot. Such bullshit. Is Coptic/Christian/Egypt/Arab enough for you for street cred? Won’t even go into the violations my family have suffered in Egypt. Sorry, dude, not Jewish. Thank God, now in Boston.

    Jay

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