The golden double standard, Israel Hayom, Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, November 23, 2016
Benjamin Netanyahu, red-faced and happy, sits next to Donald Trump in a gold Roman-style litter. The ancient vehicle is being carried by big-nosed Orthodox Jews, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a voluptuous woman and a few Israeli soldiers — marked with large Israeli flags on their chests. A speech bubble comes out of Netanyahu’s mouth, saying “Finally!”
The image I just described was published in Sweden’s largest-circulation daily paper, Dagens Nyheter, as a political cartoon, commenting on Trump’s victory in the American presidential election. It’s a bizarre mishmash of people and symbols, where IDF soldiers and a robed clansman are celebrating Trump side by side, and wildly stereotypical Orthodox Jews are hanging out with a pinup girl next to Israel’s security barrier. But the logical fail not withstanding, it reeks of anti-Semitic imagery and messaging, and it is the next step in normalizing something that has been underground for quite some time. One would assume the paper would realize this and issue a thorough apology. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the paper doubled down and defended the cartoon, saying that it was merited by the fact that Netanyahu celebrated Trump’s victory, despite Trump being supported by anti-democratic forces and white power movements. No mention of the fact that Netanyahu’s support of Trump extended only to the courtesy shown to a president-elect by any and every national leader or that Jews rarely stand shoulder to shoulder with the Klan, but just that Netanyahu “celebrated” Trump — as if the Israeli prime minister had thrown Trump an opulent party.
Dagens Nyheter calls itself an independent, liberal publication, and in the past year, it has taken a clear stand against Trump, saying he has made the world more extreme and xenophobic. Editor-in-Chief Peter Wolodarski has used his editorials to ride a very high moral horse, and his decision to run that particular cartoon is a fascinating portrait of the division between the right and wrong kinds of racism and bigotry.
What the cartoonist, known as “Bard,” is saying by this crude drawing is not only that the Jews and Israel orchestrated and celebrated the Trump win but also that the evil hook-noses side with anyone to get their way, including organizations known for wanting their annihilation.
Now, for the sake of entertainment and folly, let’s imagine another drawing: a cartoonish Barack Obama sitting in a golden carriage with a sweaty Mahmoud Abbas, being carried by big-nosed ISIS terrorists, voluptuous virgin brides and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Imagine that it was published by a country’s most popular publication and that the editor-in-chief defended it by saying that Obama had been supportive of Abbas and therefore, the imagery was fair game.
Do any of you, dear readers, think this would happen? Does anyone think that if it did, it would be go largely unnoticed and accepted? No, me neither, and I know this because we have an example of this very thing. When Charlie Hebdo was attacked and journalists were murdered in cold blood over their criticism of Islam, people still said that the portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad was inexcusable and unacceptable, and remained on the fence after the very heart of freedom had been ripped to bits. Famous writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, Junot Díaz and Michael Ondaatje protested Charlie Hebdo receiving the PEN award, and were supported by a wide array of liberals all across the globe who called the French satirical magazine racist.
So what is really fair game — what racism is allowed and celebrated in today’s society? We know that portraying Israel as the leader of a Zionist conspiracy that elects presidents is fine, as is literally painting anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews side by side with white supremacists in a dog whistle loud enough to give you tinnitus. That elicits a few angry and summarily ignored letters from Jews, whereas similar imagery and messaging about any other group might close down the publication, if it were to survive the inevitable terrorist attacks.
Some of my friends filed a complaint against Dagens Nyheter, but I didn’t bother, as it is the activist equivalent of drawing a picture of a sandwich to feed the starving. Our voices mean little when others stay silent, and it is because of this silence that the largest paper in the land can go full Der Sturmer and no one even bats an eye.