Why does a cartoon rattle folk of certain faiths so much?

Say anything against Israel and a whole army from the local chapter of the Jewish Bnai Brith will come down on you and the pseudo-liberal media will make you look like a rabid, foaming-in-the mouth anti-semite.  Draw a cartoon on Islam and you’ll be up to your neck in fatwahs and you might as well start getting your personal affairs in order.

Don’t misunderstand my point. Burning a Koran, a bible, a Talmud, a Torah, a Nevi’im, a Ketuvi’im or a Gita  is a grievious insult, a desecration.  I don’t condone that. But for Christ’s sakes, what’s wrong with a cartoon?

There, see? In the previous paragraph, I just used the name of Christ in a mild form of a curse. The French frequently use “Sainte Merde!” , which is like saying “Holy shit!” Do you see any Christians lose any sleep over everyday slang like these? Why, they use these curses themselves and chances are that they’ll even chuckle over such a cartoon or two if it happens to be funny. Even the hard-core sections of the Christian populations won’t bother to react.

I remember one Amul ad (Amul is a successful dairy co-operative in India). It was a cartoon that had the Lord Krishna with his hand inside the butter jar, looking back guiltily at his mother. There was a punch-line, below the image. It was  something very witty that, at the same time, could easily have been misinterpreted as an insult to Hinduism, if one wanted to see it that way. Instead, everyone I know actually had a hearty laugh over it.

Does that mean that the folk in India or in the west are less spiritual, more frivolous? Far from it. It means that they are more mature. On the other hand, if I had literally translated ‘Sainte Merde’ into Arabic, or uttered something similar in Yiddish, I wouldn’t exactly be a very popular guy in Sudan, Saudi Arabia or Tel Aviv, let me tell you.

Now, about the uproar caused by the cartoon reproduced below-

Image(courtesy Gerard Scarfe, Sunday Times)

The whole Jewish world, the press and assorted politicos have come down on the paper and the cartoonist like a bunch of cruise missiles.

The next Jewish guy I meet, I’m going to tell him,” I understand how you’ve been waiting to say, ‘its our time now’, but the holocaust has been over, 60 years. Yours was not the only holocaust, not the first, not the last and certainly not the worst. Still, it was a bad one and we, the world, grieved with you. But in the end, you got your own nation. Its time now to stop behaving like the world continues to owe you. Its time to move on, ok? You’re in fact not the chosen ones, you’re  the lucky ones. The Kurds didn’t get their own nation. The Mayans had theirs snatched from them. The reservations in which the American Indians, the Canadian First Nations and the aborigines in Australia live keep shrinking every year. Get a life.”

The uproar in the Jewish community, abetted by those so-called liberal politicians and of course the media (you should see even Rupert Murdoch groveling over this) is quite inexplicable. How does this cartoon lampoon the Jewish faith or insult Israelis or even refer to the holocaust? It is a cartoon that is simply a criticism of Israel’s thirst for new settlements inside Palestinian lands. An act against which there have been UN resolutions.

The Jewish protests over the cartoon make me feel like being stuck inside a gargantuan labyrinth. No matter what you say or do, whichever way you turn, you will end up offending the Jews and being branded an anti-semite. Its somewhat similar to the dread that whites live under today in America, about saying something only to be made to look like a racist. Remember that talk show, Jake’s Takes, with Samuel L Jackson where he brazenly faced down the host, Jake Hamilton, daring him to utter the n-word even when the host had never implied any criticism of blacks in general? Samuel L Jackson too must have been basking in that ’its our time now’ feeling. His persistence in that interview, however, was not a very civil way to behave on TV.

I bet there are folk who’ll think I’m being an anti-semite. Those folks will have to wait a while. My middle finger is a bit busy right now. Actually I am pro-Israel in many ways. I admire that nation for its tenacity, grit and resourcefulness. I completely support its handling of terrorism issues. If you ever feel like kicking the shit out of the bad guys, get yourself some ex-Sayaret Matkal guys as advisors.

Still, I feel like renting a large Cessna Citation and flying it around the skies over Israel and the Middle East, with a banner that says,” Lighten up, you idiots”. I’d of course not fly the plane myself. Bengalis may be timid, they’re not crazy. I would contract out the job to Skipper, Kowalski, Private and Rico.

Oh, you’ve met them before. They are the penguins from ‘Madagascar’.


Copyright © by Achyut Dutt.