Portnoy: You frequently use the Holocaust as a metaphor to criticize
Israeli policies. This is seen as an inaccurate comparison and
deliberately hurtful to Jews. Can you further explain your use of this
As a cartoonist, I feel comfortable enough to make any comparison I
think necessary that expresses my point. Metaphors are the key point to
political cartooning. Of course Israel isn’t building gas chambers in
the West Bank, but surely we can find some similarities between the
treatment given to Palestinians by the [Israel Defense Forces] and the
Jews under Nazi rule. Inaccurate or not, it’s important to highlight
that such comparisons have been made worldwide not only by cartoonists,
but by people such as Yosef “Tommy” Lapid, Ariel Sharon’s former
justice minister and a Holocaust survivor (deceased in June of 2008).
He said in 2004, during an interview, that a photo of an elderly
Palestinian woman searching through rubble reminded him of his
grandmother who died in Auschwitz. For me, this is more painful than
comparisons of how Palestinians live under Israeli occupation.
E.P.: “Cartoons and Extremism” (read the book’s review here)
argues that you use a “medieval and modern antisemitic grammar and
vocabulary,” meaning you apply traditional antisemitic motifs to modern
political situations. What is your response to this?
C.L.: Israel apologists have frequently compared my cartoons with those published in the Nazi paper Der Stürmer.
Let’s have a close look at the Der Stürmer’s cartoonist’s role and
mine. Philipp Rupprecht, pen name Fips, dedicated almost 20 years of
his life to making only Jew-hating ‘toons for a paper for which the
motto was “Jews are our disgrace.” My cartoons have no focus on the
Jews or on Judaism. My focus is Israel as a political entity, as a
government, their armed forces being a satellite of U.S. interests in
the Middle East, and especially Israeli policies toward the
Palestinians. It happens to be Israeli Jews that are the oppressors of
Palestinians. If they were Christians, Muslims or Buddhists, I would
criticize them the same way. I made cartoons about George Bush,
Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico’s former
president), Pinochet, and none of them was Jewish.
political cartoons on different issues, both local (Brazilian) and
international, for trade union papers in Brazil and many alternative,
progressive, leftist-oriented publications around the world. My
detractors say that the use of the Magen David in my Israel-related
cartoons is irrefutable proof of antisemitism; however, it’s not my
fault if Israel chose sacred religious motifs as national symbols, such
as the Knesset Menorah or the Star of David in killing-machines like
F-16 jets. I can’t be blamed for making an Israeli bomb-dropping
warbird adorned with a religious symbol, because that’s the way Israeli
air force planes are. To say my cartoons are a remake of the past
antisemitic imagery is just another well-known strategy for
discrediting criticisms regarding Israel.