Israel | National

New York Times says its controversial cartoon shows ‘numbness’ to anti-Semitism

(JTA) — The New York Times editorial board said in an editorial published Tuesday that the newspaper’s publishing of “an appalling political cartoon” is “evidence of a profound danger — not only of anti-Semitism but of numbness to its creep.”

The newspaper also acknowledged its own historical contributions to the rise of anti-Semitism.

“In the 1930s and the 1940s, The Times was largely silent as anti-Semitism rose up and bathed the world in blood,” it wrote. “That failure still haunts this newspaper.”

The editorial said that “anti-Semitic imagery is particularly dangerous now,” citing Saturday’s attack on the Poway of Chabad synagogue and the release Tuesday of the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, which shows that the number of assaults against American Jews more than doubled from 2017 to 2018.

“Jews face even greater hostility and danger in Europe, where the cartoon was created,” the editorial also said.

The editorial also acknowledged that criticism of Israel can be couched in anti-Semitic terms.

“This is also a period of rising criticism of Israel, much of it directed at the rightward drift of its own government and some of it even questioning Israel’s very foundation as a Jewish state. We have been and remain stalwart supporters of Israel, and believe that good-faith criticism should work to strengthen it over the long term by helping it stay true to its democratic values. But anti-Zionism can clearly serve as a cover for anti-Semitism — and some criticism of Israel, as the cartoon demonstrated, is couched openly in anti-Semitic terms,” the editorial said.

It also accused President Donald Trump of doing “too little to rouse the national conscience” against anti-Semitism.

“Though he condemned the cartoon in The Times, he has failed to speak out against anti-Semitic groups like the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 chanting, ‘Jews will not replace us,’” the paper wrote.

The cartoon, which appeared Thursday in the opinion section of the newspaper’s international print edition, depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dachshund-breed guide dog wearing a Star of David collar and leading a yarmulke-clad President Donald Trump.

The newspaper in a first statement acknowledged that the image was “offensive” and “included anti-Semitic tropes.” A second statement on Sunday said the newspaper was “deeply sorry” and that the decision to publish the image was the product of “a faulty process” resulting in “a single editor working without adequate oversight.”

The Portuguese cartoonist Antonio Moreira Antunes told The Jerusalem Post in an emailed response to questions from the newspaper that he did not mean for his work to be viewed as anti-Semitic.

“To illustrate this situation, an analogy occurred to me with a blind man (Trump) led by a guide dog (Netanyahu) and, to help identify him, little known in Portugal, I added the Star of David, symbol of the State of Israel and central element of its flag,” he said.

Antunes did not explain why he drew a kippah on Trump’s head.