I didn’t believe the cartoon was real when I first saw it. Many of my colleagues didn’t believe it either. I spent all day Saturday trying to track down a hard copy. I phoned friends, I got a PDF of the edition, and even then I didn’t believe it.
I had to see for myself. So I drove to a 24-hour supermarket. There on the newsstand was the April 25 edition. I flipped gingerly through, fearing to see Page 16.
And then I found it. It stared back at me: That horrid image of a blind US President Donald Trump with a yarmulke being led by a dog with the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Worse, the dog was wearing a Star of David as a collar.
This is what The New York Times thinks of us Israelis. Even if they subsequently said it was an error, they thought it was okay to print a cartoon showing the US president being blindly led by the “Jewish dog”?
And not only that, those who watched as it went to print thought it was fine to put a Jewish skullcap on the US president. Dual loyalty? No need to even wrestle with that question.
It used to be that we were told that Trump was fostering “Trump antisemitism” and driving a new wave of antisemitism in the US. But the cartoon depicts him as a Jew. Well, which is it? Is he fostering antisemitism, or is he now a closet Jew being led by Israel, depicted as a Jewish dog? We used to say that images “conjured up memories” of 1930s antisemitism. This didn’t conjure it up; this showed us exactly what it looked like.
The Nazis also depicted us as animals. They also put Stars of David on us. Antisemites have compared us to dogs, pigs and monkeys before. It used to be that it was on the far-Right that Jews were depicted as controlling the world, like an octopus or a spider.
But now we see how mainstream it has become to blame the Jews and Israel for the world’s problems.
The cartoon comes in the context of numerous similar antisemitic statements and “dog whistles.” In this case it isn’t only “the Jews” but also Israel “leading” the US president. The cartoon is clear as day. It presents the Jews, as symbolized by that Star of David collar, secretly controlling the US president. Trump is being led by Israel, by the Jewish state.
No other country or minority group is subjected to such unrelenting and systematic hatred by mainstream US newspapers. No one would dare to put an Islamic leader’s face on a dog, with Islamic symbols, leading the US president.
Of course not. The editor would stop that.
They’d be sensitive to this issue. They would err on the side of not being offensive. The night editor, the assistant editor or someone would say: “This doesn’t look right.”
Imagine the days when racists tried to depict US president Barack Obama as a closet Muslim. We know the tropes. So why put a yarmulke on Trump’s head? When it comes to Jews and Israel, there is no depth to which they will not sink.
And an apology after the fact isn’t enough.
This cartoon didn’t end up in the International Edition of The New York Times by mistake. It was chosen; it was put on a page by someone. It was checked and re-checked.
I know. I’m an Op-ed Editor. When I used to run cartoons in my section, no fewer than four people would see it before it went to print. At the International Edition of The New York Times, it should have been more than four. And they all thought it was fine? What that tells me is that there is a culture of antisemitism somewhere in the newsroom.
THERE ISN’T just one problem with this cartoon. There are numerous problems.
Problem one is putting a yarmulke on the US president in a negative way. What is being said there? That he is secretly a Jew. Then making him blind, and having him led by Israel. That implies Israel controls US policy or controls America.
Problem two: they put a dog leash with a Star of David, which is antisemitic in multiple ways.
Problems three and four. You’d think that after the Holocaust, any use of the Star of David would automatically raise questions in a newsroom.
But no. Then they put the Israeli prime minister’s face on a dog. On a dog. Problem number five.
So this cartoon wasn’t just mildly antisemitic. It wasn’t like “whoops.” It was deeply antisemitic.
The New York Times acknowledged this in a kind of pathetic way. They admitted that the cartoon “included antisemitic tropes.” It then noted, “The image was offensive and it was an error of judgement to publish it.”
That’s not enough. An error of judgment would imply that it was just a kind of mistake. “Tropes” would imply that to some people it is antisemitic, but that it’s not clear as day.
But this is clear as day.
This isn’t like some story of unclear antisemitism. This isn’t a dog whistle. This is a dog. This is antisemitic on numerous levels. It’s time to say no more. It’s time to say “They shall not pass.”
This should be a defining moment. It is a defining moment because one of America’s most prestigious newspapers did this, not some small town newspaper somewhere.
That it was in the International Edition doesn’t make it any less harmful. In fact, it shows America’s face to the world and gives a quiet signal to other antisemites. How can we demand that there be zero tolerance for antisemitism and antisemitic tropes when this happens?
People must speak up against the cartoon fiasco and demand a real accounting. And a real conversation. Not another set of excuses where we all pretend it’s not clearly antisemitism, and it’s not clearly an attack on Jews and “dual loyalty.”
We need to hear contrition and explanations. The public should be included, and The New York Times should listen to how harmful and offensive this was.