Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Blood libel"

Remember when we discussed the accusation that Israel was one of the (far too numerous) places in this world where the illegal organ trade is a serious problem? When that story hit the Swedish press in 2009, many supporters of Israel screamed that the article had resurrected the infamous "blood libel." Later, Nancy Scheper-Hughes -- who has an unassailable reputation as an investigator of the illegal organ trade (not just in Israel but also in China, Brazil, eastern Europe and elsewhere) -- confirmed the Swedish report. The confirmation came in the form of an interview with Dr Yehuda Hiss, former head of the Abu Kabir forensic institute near Tel Aviv.

Now we have another instance of the "blood libel" accusation being used in a way that is, in and of itself, libelous.

Gerald Scarfe, a cartoonist for the U.K. Sunday Times (a Murdoch paper) created a drawing Netanyahu using Palestinians as mortar in a new Israeli wall. Those offended by this image claim that Scarfe is guilty of spreading the blood libel.


Is the caricature ugly and extreme? Of course. But all caricatures of politicians are ugly and extreme. This drawing of Netanyahu is no worse than others I've seen of, say, Khruschev or Reagan or Bin Laden or Nixon or Idi Amin.

Of course, many believe that you've got to be very careful when drawing caricatures of individuals who belong to groups that once were (or still are) persecuted. You can go crazy while drawing Khrushchev, but have a care when drawing Idi Amin.

Some of you will recall the time in 2008 when I offered up a few cartoon images of Barack Obama. Even though the portraits were reasonably kind, some Obama supporters would accuse me of racism. In an impressive show of pseudo-outrage, these critics acted as though Evil Racist Cannon had drawn Obama with jet black skin and huge pink lips wrapped around a slice of watermelon, and maybe a bone running through his nose. In fact, I had done no such thing -- but what I actually drew is not what some people saw, or pretended to see.

During those heated months, other cartoonists ran into the same problem. Even those bloggers who republished Obama photos taken from slightly unflattering angles would be decried as bigots.

Well, screw that.

Anyone who enters politics must understand that a cartoonist's job is to make famous people look ugly and foolish.

The whole point of a cartoon is exaggeration. In real life, Netanyahu's nose isn't that large -- but no-one would call his honker petite, and some of the photos I've seen do show some rosacea. So, by the standards of this medium, what Scarfe did is fair. Unflattering, but fair.

Does the image constitute a new version of the "blood libel"? Of course not.
Accepting that the cartoon's target is politics, not race, leads to the inevitable conclusion that Scarfe was not anywhere near committing the offence known as blood libel.

Blood libels are representations of the vile anti-semitic myth that Jews use the blood of children in religious ceremonies and rituals, even cooking it into food.

It is a medieval belief, which perhaps explains why it is so common across sections of the Middle East, but is clearly not one being expressed in the yawnworthy cartoon.

There is no young child being slain by a revoltingly-caricatured Jew, with the blood being used in a warped religious ceremony.

While blood is used as the mortar in Netanyahu's wall, this is obviously portraying a not uncommon view that Palestinian blood is being spilt by the policies of Israel's government.

It is not a difficult distinction to understand.

Equally, Nazi propaganda attacked the Jews as a race - something Scarfe's cartoon evidently does not do at all.
I'll be very amused if someone tries to defend the Danish publication which published cartoons of Mohammed while attacking the Sunday Times for publishing Scarfe.

Let's have a little exactitude of definition. The "blood libel" accusation should be reserved only for those jackasses who actually think that Jews slay children to make matzoh. Believe it or not, such jackasses still exist. Years ago, I ran across a very amateurish video titled (if memory serves) "Jewish Ritual Murder." That thing was screamingly funny. I know that one shouldn't laugh at such a video, because the history behind it is anything but amusing. But the sheer goofiness of the first scene would make even a Golem guffaw: The film shows a snarling, cackling evil rabbi dragging a tyke off into the forest -- and it's all filmed in a style that makes Birdemic look like Citizen Kane.

That's a blood libel. But not an effective one.


joseph said...

1. The reason the organ transplant story is a blood libel is the suggestion that Israel,i.e. Jews, are engaged in the ritual murder of Palestinians for profit. Of course, there is NO evidence that anybody has been murdered, or killed, for organs. But in the rebidly anti-senutuc Arab media such stories receive coverage.
2. The reason the cartoon is a blood libel is that the cariacture is that of a hook nosed Jew, not of an Israeli. Have you seen any cariactures of black peersons resembling Steppin Fetchit? And by the way, have you seen any racist Israeli cartoons or articles defaming Arabs as much as Morsi did about the Jews?

Joseph Cannon said...

1. You didn't read the pieces to which I linked. The Swedish article did not say that Palestinians were killed for profit. The story said that organs were harvested from dead Palestinians, without permission of the families. This is true. Anyone who can pretend that this claim is NOT true, after the work of Nancy Scheper-Hughes, is a fool and a racist.

2. If a politician has a big nose, a caricaturist has a right to draw him with a REALLY big nose. In real life, Nixon's ski slope wasn't as ski-slopey as the cartoonists suggested, but so what?

Yes, I have a right to draw a Jew or an Arab with a big nose if the Jew or Arab in question really does have a big nose. I have a right to exaggerate that feature if I am a cartoonist. Again: Exaggeration is what cartoonists DO.

I don't know what Stepin Fetchit (the correct spelling) has to do with what I've written. Well, maybe this: He was an actual performer named Lincoln Perry. I am sorry he adopted such an insulting stage name. I am sorry that the standards of that era permitted that kind of insult. Still, if someone who looks exactly like Lincoln Perry were to run for office today, I would have a right to draw him any way I pleased. And yes: If I did not like his policies, I would go out of my way to make him look bad. The unflattering drawing would not be a comment on black people in general; it would be a slam directed at Mr. Candidate-Who-Looks-Like-Lincoln-Perry.

I have documented Israeli racism in a series of previous articles. It wasn't hard to find examples. Modern Israel is one of the most psychotically racist cultures in the history of the planet.

joseph said...

The articles you cited only accused Dr. Hiss of stealing corneas, which aren't organs. Actually, what Hiss did was much worse. Israel investigated and terminated him from his prestigious job. The Arab media has accused, as referenced in your links, to Israel murdering Arabs for their organs.
If a cariacture insults an entire group, it is racist. And Netanyahu does not have a particularly big nose.
The notion that Israel is the most racist nation ever is, to put it mildly, insane. You might have heard of slavery in America, the treatment of the Armenians, the Holocaust, or the Japanese wanton slaughter of the Chinese, to name a few. Palestinians in Israel may have a legitimate claim of discrimination, but their situation in Israel is much better than any other Arab country. See how the Syrians are treating the Palestinians, or the Lebanese or the Kuwatis for example. And I read the English language Israeli press most days and haven't seen any racism. If you point me to such an article, I will be happy to write to the publication and protest.

amspirnational said...

Yeah, well, Joe, the problem with your blanket, shall we call it, "anti-anti-semitism" is it casts Jews as a whole as the victims in their 2000 year long interaction with Europeans, for example.
And in this instance, such is verified by some rabbis admitting incidents, however sporadic or not, of Jewish ritual violence against Christians and Gentiles did in fact occur in the past.

Barbara said...


I hope this cached link from North Jersey Media Group (Bergen Record) works for you. It is about the 2009 scandal in Northern NJ involving money laundering and trafficking in human kidneys. While it doesn't mention Palestinians, and isn't harvesting, the individual involved in organ sales purchased kidneys from "vulnerable people" in Israel for $10,000 and sold them in the US for $100,000. Again, not harvesting, but still disquieting.

colin said...

Have you ever looked at the Chabad organisation? They are a 'mafia' network - involved in illegal drugs, such as ecstasy, and strong-arm landlordism and other thuggery - in many countries around the world.

They also go around with super-pure 'shmurah' matzos, come Passover.

OK, on one level it's like the Chinese triad organisations running Chinese New Year festivities, wherein red envelopes containing payments from restaurants and other Chinese-owned businesses are 'fed to the dragon' as the 'dragon' snakes its way through the Chinatown streets.

On another level, the Chabadniks have a religious presence, and in asserting this in an aggressive fashion, with the aim of establishing themselves as the numero uno Jewish criminal network in a town, or in a country, they've often pissed off rivals who want to speak for the Jewish population. For a time, anyway. Usually it ain't good business strategy to fuck with the Chabad, or Lubavitchers as they're also called.

But...those super-pure matzos...well I wouldn't bet against what some people might fear...

The fuckwittery and the racism lie in blaming all people from Jewish backgrounds for what Jewish racists and criminals do.

The greater the virulence of the kneejerk behaviour of calling any non-Jew 'anti-Semitic' who publicly abhors the obscenity of such-and-such a crime committed by a Jew, or by Jews, or by organised Jewish racists (such as the public authorities of Israel), the greater the tendency for people to ask of those who indulge in such behaviour, or who stand by and don't condemn it, "would these bozos respond any differently if they actually thought the alleged culprits had committed the crime they're accused of?"

And then there's the question as to how super-inhuman mafia criminals ensure their network retains 'respect'...where are the limits? Are they on this side, the humane side, of you know what?

Joseph Cannon said...

Barbara, I wrote at length about what happened in NJ.

Amsp, if there had ever been an actual, verifiable case of ritual murder -- ever -- I would have known about it. It's a canard.

Lower-case joe: Scheper-Hughes had documented a veritable organ harvesting industry. In Israel, and in other countries. Read her work. Nobody has ever accused her of anti-Semitism (to my knowledge), and nobody has shown her to be wrong on any major point.

I did not say that Israel was the MOST racist state ever. That dishonor goes to Nazi Germany. I would put Israel in the fourth position, following the Third Reich, the U.S. and apartheid South Africa. In all four cases, the racism reached the level of psychosis. Not sure who deserves the fifth-place position...maybe Japan.

All cartoonists seize upon any feature that is in any way noteworthy, and then they stretch that feature out to the point of ridiculousness. For example, cartoonists often give Obama massive ears, even though they aren't that big in real life. Cartoonists also often gave Reagan a huge amount of territory between the bottom of his nose and the top of his lip. In real life, he didn't really look that way, but that's how cartoonists chose to draw him.

Netanyahu has a big enough nose that if I were doing a cartoon of him, that's what I'd focus on. If anything, Scarfe was too polite. Netanyahu has a rather bulbous nose, not a pointy one.

See, even though a cartoonist has to wildly exaggerate the features, he also has to work with what's there on the actual face.

When I was a young man, I had a good friend named who was Jewish. If I were to draw a cartoon of him, I wouldn't do anything with his nose, because his nose was not in any way noteworthy. But he had thinning hair in his early twenties, so of course I would have hyperbolized THAT.

Same thing with black people. If I did a cartoon of Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman, I wouldn't give them big lips, because that's simply not a feature those men have. The cartoon has to be recognizable. Now, if I were doing Clarence Thomas -- yeah, I would exaggerate the lips. No doubt some people would say I was being racist. But that accusation would be wrong. I would draw him that way because that's what his face gives you to work with.

Joseph Cannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph Cannon said...

By the way, I just noticed...the only actual "hook" noses in the Scarfe cartoon belong to the Palestinians!

joseph said...

Scheper-Hughes articles are about transplants from people who died, not murdered, or from voluntary donors. It is easy to criticize, but the ethics of organ donation are complex. See http://jme.bmj.com/content/29/3/137.full for a discussion of the problem. A reasonable can, and has, been made that people who have died should be presumed to have consented to a transplant and that financial incentives for living donors should be allowed,
Again, if you can point me to articles in mainstream Israeli media that you believe are racist, I will be glad to review them and to respond appropriately to the publicatio if they are. As far as being pychologically racist, I don't even know what you are talking about. I know some Israelis and while they are fed up with Palestinian intrasigence with regard to the peace process, they are hardly in Ku Klux Klan mode. In fact, there is a Supreme Court, one of whose members is sn Arab, which on many occasions has ruled in favor of the Palestinians. The laws of Israel protect Arabs. Again, the Arabs may have legitimate beefs, but they are not subjected to murder or slavery.

Joseph Cannon said...

Not subjected to murder or slavery? Read a few books...!

DanInAlabama said...

In reply to Joseph @ 8:20 PM

"...Arabs may have legitimate beefs, but they (the Palestinians ) are not subjected to murder or slavery."

Maybe not slavery -unless one thinks having to go through a checkpoint in a wall that has been built between your ancestral home and your fig orchard - a checkpoint from which you may be turned away from by armed guards on a whim making you unable to peruse your livelihood - is some sort of slavery --- but as to murder? A simple look at facts tells me that Israel is not above killing a lot of innocent people to kill one terrorist.

If the killing of innocents in the pursuit of one's enemy isn't murder, then drone killings of innocent people is not murder, Suicide bombings of innocent people is not murder, Carpet bombing of innocent people is not murder, for all these bombings further the aims which one is seeking and seemingly everyone who does these things says, " We are only fighting back and protecting ourselves and our interests and we cannot help it if your family members happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Too bad, so sad, go away."

Oops, Guess I think all forms of killing, whether sought or unsought, by a State, a consortium, or individuals against innocent civilians regardless of the methods used to further an agenda is murder. I mean if your baby was blown to pieces by a bomb would you feel better about it because the bomb's point of origin was 20,000 feet away rather than 20 feet away - delivered by an airplane, a cannon, a rocket , or by a person on a bus?

On another note. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me our host is being painted with a broad brush here. It is obvious that he is not propagating the assertion that the "Jews" are killing Palestinians just to harvest their organs so "they" can sell them to the highest bidder on the open market. I think the facts point to a few individuals, some in positions of prominence, who are responsible for this abuse. Pointing out facts about individuals is not racist, nor anti-semantic. It's called acknowledging reality.

Jeeze, this started with a cartoon, a mild cartoon IMO, and to a degree an accurate cartoon. But, it is ridiculous to suggest that Joseph is in any way being racists simply because he has reported verifiable facts and re-posted a cartoon. The weirdness of him having to address and defend the exaggerated physical attributes of an image of Netanyahu created by a cartoonist, by someone else, is to me beyond reason.

b said...

Joe - so the Damascus affair was verifiably a canard and Richard Burton was either lying or mad?

May I nominate the 1940s Independent State of Croatia for a high place on your list? The Nazis had to intervene because the genocidal zeal of the Ustashi was obstructing the war effort! (As Israel Shahak has shown, there were times when the Nazi war effort was similarly hampered by racism. Psychosis is the right word.)

Also I think if you imagine transplanting Israeli Jewish racism to South Africa, you get something far worse than actually existed in South Africa. You might get doing a 1948 or 1967 on Botswana, for example. Israel is way beyond apartheid. A rough parallel of 'apartheid' in Middle East-speak would be 'two-state solution'.

To lower-case joe: "The laws of Israel protect Arabs". This is so absurd as not to require a riposte. "(T)here is a Supreme Court, one of whose members is sn Arab, which on many occasions has ruled in favor of the Palestinians". Absolutely typical piece of hasbara. There were Jews, and people whom the Nazis categorised as Jews, who cooperated with the Nazis too. So what? Similar statements can be made about black people, Native American Indians, etc. etc. etc.

joseph said...

A government's first responsibility is to protect its citizens. To suggest that Israel should do nothing in the face of suicide bombings and rocket attacks is ridiculous. And to be clear, an analysis of civilian deaths demonstates that Israel is astonishingly careful in avoiding civilian deaths. http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/search?q=idf+civilian+deaths But let us cut to the chase, when Israel is criticized for protecting itself, the real reason is the belief that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state. And THAT is anti-semitism.

Joseph Cannon said...

No joe, you are a racist. Israel should NOT exist as a "Jewish state." The very concept is inherently racist, and has led to genocidal results. The Jews must acclimate themselves to the idea that equal rights must be accorded to all who live under the power of the Israeli government. If that is intolerable to them -- if they are too bigoted to live in a nation that will one day not be majority Jewish -- then, yeah. They should leave, as the CIA has long predicted would happen.

(I disagree with that prediction. Everyone said that there would be a mass white exodus from South Africa if a democratic revolution occurred. Didn't happen that way.)

My attitude is not racist. It is anti-racist. YOU are the racist, if you think the Jews are anything but usurpers of that land. You will be welcome here again only when you've done your reading. Start with Ostrovsky, Finkelstein and Shahak.

Joseph Cannon said...

Dan, the harvesting story is pretty ugly. But one point I've tried to emphasize is that it happens in a number of countries.

I guess one reason Israeli harvesting deserves attention more than (say) what goes on in Moldova is that nobody accuses you of being bigoted against Moldovians if you tell the truth about what happens there. When Israel's defenders play the anti-Semitism card against anyone who speaks about those crimes, it's bloody infuriating.

joseph said...

I agree that the world should consist of secular states. How about we start with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iraq, of Syria, of Egypt or any of the some 33 other Islamic Republics? How about a post about the evils of the sectarian nature of the Islamic Republics? And in countries like Iran, the discrimination is not merely de facto, but de jure. Given the current state of the world, it is not unreasonable that Jews would want a place to go in an emergency. And don't say we can always come to the United States, because that certainly wasn't true just 80 years ago. In fact, during the Holocaust, the only country to take in Jews was The Dominican Republic. So I'm with you as soon as everybody else is on board.

Joseph Cannon said...

You know, I let this comment go through for a couple of reasons:

1. I've always been careful to explain that I thought the idea of an Islamic Republic to be repugnant. And the degree to which a country like Saudi Arabia exercises any control over our policy is infuriating.

2. Jewish fears of persecution do not give Jews the right to persecute others.

You also are ignoring a fact which I've emphasized in previous posts: This isn't just about the Jewish desire for an emergency bolt hole, it's about a bolt hole located in a very specific place. After WWII, the Jews could have established a state anywhere. Ibn Saud, otherwise not exactly my favorite person in history, was correct when he suggested that the Jews should have been awarded a large chunk of Germany for their own use. If that was unacceptable, they could have had an Israel-sized chunk of my own home state, California. The north is under-populated and very, very beautiful and resource-rich. Friendly borders all around.

No, they had to have the Biblical land. They had to pretend that the rightful inhabitants did not exist. They had to insist that we share David Ben-Gurion's indefensibly weird views. As you may recall, it has been said of Ben-Gurion that he did not believe in God yet still thought that God gave Israel to the Jews.

Sorry, but that nonsense angers me.

I'm not one of those "new atheist" guys who get pissed off (in a very self-congratulatory way) every time they encounter someone who believes in the supernatural. But when belief in the supernatural leads to human misery and murder, we should stand against intrusion of irrationalism into our daily affairs.

joseph said...

I think we can agree that Jewish fears of persecution are not unfounded. We can argue about the history of the place, I think yor're wrong, but really the question is, "Where do I go today if you shut down Israel?" Not 70 years ago, not 70 years from now, but today. If you don't want any more discussion on this thread, send me an email. I signed in with my gmail account.