UC Berkeley community criticizes controversial Dershowitz editorial cartoon

Wikimedia/Creative Commons

Related Posts

Following the publication of what many have called an anti-Semitic cartoon in The Daily Californian, many members of the UC Berkeley community spoke out to condemn and criticize the cartoon.

The cartoon, which was published in print Oct. 13 and retracted online Oct. 27, depicted renowned attorney and Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz huddled on a stage with his head through a cutout reading ‘The Liberal Case for Israel,” the name of the speech Dershowitz gave on campus Oct. 11. Dershowitz, a prominent liberal pro-Israel supporter, was drawn holding in one hand a Palestinian person being shot by an Israeli Defense Forces soldier while crushing another Palestinian beneath his foot.

The cartoon drew waves of criticism in the following days from people such as UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, as well as Dershowitz himself. Many accused the cartoon of a strong resemblance to 1930s-era Nazi propaganda depicting Jews as hulking insects and ‘blood libel’ propaganda falsely accusing Jews of ritual murders.

Dershowitz said he believed that, in some ways, the publication of the cartoon was worse than the white nationalist rallies and counterprotests held in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, during which one person was killed when a car drove through a crowd of protesters.

“Charlottesville was individual bigots and racists,” Dershowitz said. “(The cartoon) has behind it a kind of established acceptance, and that’s what was going on in Nazi Germany. … It’s worse than individuals acting out of their own bigotry. This represented a system of bigotry or a system accepting of bigotry.”

Nearly two weeks after the cartoon’s publication, The Daily Californian retracted the cartoon and issued an apology as announced by editor in chief Karim Doumar. According to the statement, the publication’s staff would be meeting with local religious leaders and experts in the future to improve their knowledge of the history of anti-Semitism.

Additionally, Doumar said, all editorial cartoonists will be required in the future to learn about the history of visual propaganda as part of their training.

“We apologize to our readers and members of our staff who were hurt by the cartoon,” the statement read. “We especially apologize to Alan Dershowitz for the ways it negatively impacted him both personally and professionally.”

Campus Koret professor of Jewish history John Efron, however, said he did not believe the issue was a lack of education, and that he found it “disingenuous” that anyone did not know the cartoon was anti-Semitic, citing “standard anti-Semitic images” used to draw the features of his face. He added that he did not believe the campus was a hostile place for Jewish students or faculty, but that this has become the “broad perception” for UC Berkeley because of the “toxic atmosphere” surrounding all discussions of Israel on campus.

Several members of the campus’s Jewish community also spoke out against the cartoon, including Bears for Israel president and campus third year political science major Lily Greenberg Call, who stated that the cartoon made many Jewish campus students feel that they were being depicted with “subhuman” imagery familiar from their studies in school or their family experiences. According to Greenberg Call, Jewish people in the United States are often left out of conversations about social justice.

Campus second year global studies major Joel Mayorga, the cartoon’s illustrator, said he did not attend Dershowitz’s speech, but that he had done prior research on Dershowitz and wanted to point out his “hypocritical statements.” Mayorga said although he believed he could have spent more time drawing Dershowitz, he believed he was careful in drawing Dershowitz’s features because he understood the issue’s sensitivity.

“No matter how I drew him, the anti-Semitic card would have been thrown,” Mayorga said. “When anybody tries to call out Zionism or military policy, the anti-Semite card is always thrown to delegitimize those critiques.”

Mayorga added that he disagreed with the retraction and that he felt censored by the decision.

According to Dershowitz, he believes that there is a tolerance for anti-Semitism from liberals in academia, especially at UC Berkeley. He added that he was disappointed that more people, such as University of California President Janet Napolitano, did not condemn the cartoon.

“There is a pervasive double standard running through Berkeley from the top to the bottom,” Dershowitz said. “Only against a Jewish supporter of Israel would they have allowed that cartoon to be published.”

Senior staff writer Audrey McNamara contributed to this report.

Ashley Wong is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @wongalum.