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Puppetmasters

MEMRI has an analysis of Iranian statements and cartoons in which the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma is blamed on Jews and “Zionists”.

I won’t reproduce it because you can imagine full well what Iranian official and news sources are saying. This routine incitement against Jews is pretty much never reported in the Western press.

Here are a few cartoons on the issue, published in Iranian newspapers over the past months:

You’ll note a common theme in these pictures. The Star of David – symbolising Jews and “Zionists” – is used to identify the driving force behind the persecution of Muslims in Burma. In some pictures, the Jew is shown using the Burmese Buddha as its puppet in the persecution of Muslims. In others, the Jew is killing the Muslim, directly. There is blood everywhere. In particular, the Jews are killing children.

The imagery draws on the popular – I’d say near-universal belief – in Muslim countries of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Jews and “Zionists” – along with their supposed proxies, the Freemasons – are thought to be at the centre of a world conspiracy to control foreign governments. Moreover, echoing the Christian blood libel tradition, Jews are portrayed in particular as murderers of children. This incitement is an adjunct to genocide: because Jews do these things (to Muslim children) all over the world, they deserve to be “wiped from the page of history”.

Because this insane and constant incitement against Jews in Muslim societies is not reported, my guess is that many people will be unfamiliar with this way of depicting Jews and blaming them for the world’s ills. Those who see these cartoons are either shocked horrified by their naked racism: or alternatively, they find that they chime in with their existing views about the pernicious nature of Jews.

I don’t know which category Steve Bell falls into. He appeared to be genuinely surprised at the notion that depicting the Prime Minister of Israel as a puppet master could have any echoes of the routine incitement to which Jews are exposed.

In fact, he thought it was funny that some Jews were upset:

Hilarious.

Now, as you know, my view was that depicting Jews, Israel, “Zionists” or an Israeli Jewish politician as a puppetmaster inevitably will draw upon, and be read as a reference to the racist canard that Jews control foreign governments. That is so, as surely as depicting, say, Obama as a rapist would feed into a long and disgraceful tradition of portraying black people as sexual predators.

By contrast, I didn’t think that Scarfe’s cartoon was antisemitic. Scarfe uses blood imagery regularly, and portrays his subjects as grotesques. Netanyahu is not portrayed as a caricatured Jew, or as an emblem of Jews generally. It was, at best, an equivocal case.  Rather, I agree with Mark Gardner’s analysis on The CST Blog.

I received email after email on the morning of Holocaust Memorial Day about the Scarfe cartoon, from frightened and upset friends and contacts. I understand perfectly well why so many felt that way. When you are exposed to the iconography of global antisemitism, you will immediately see a thematic continuity between the Iranian and British cartoons.

None of this is apparent to Steve Bell. And, as I said before, I can’t tell if that’s because he has never seen the sort of cartoons about Jews that Muslim societies produce: or because he shares a common outlook with those Iranian and Arab cartoonists.

Incidentally, there are a handful of Jews left in Burma.

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