An editorial cartoon about Alan Dershowitz's visit to UC Berkeley (left), and a cartoon from a 1934 issue of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer
An editorial cartoon about Alan Dershowitz's visit to UC Berkeley (left), and a cartoon from a 1934 issue of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer

UC Berkeley chancellor rebukes student paper over anti-Semitic cartoon

Updated 4:45 p.m., Oct. 25 to include Karim Doumar’s editorial

An editorial cartoon that appeared last week in the UC Berkeley student newspaper is drawing harsh criticism for what some consider its anti-Semitic depiction of pro-Israel law professor Alan Dershowitz.

One of the most recent to criticize the cartoon’s publication was UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, who, in a letter published Oct. 24 in the Daily Cal, called the cartoon “offensive, appalling and deeply disappointing.”

The Oct. 18 cartoon in the Daily Californian — an independent entity that receives no direct funding from the UC Berkeley administration, nor is subject to university editorial oversight — depicts a grinning Dershowitz with his head poking through a cardboard cutout bearing an Israeli flag and the silhouettes of happy children. The sign reads “The Liberal Case for Israel,” which was the title of the Harvard Law School professor’s recent speech on the campus.

Behind the sign, Dershowitz, whose body mutates garishly, steps on a Palestinian with one foot, while holding up in one hand an Israeli soldier shooting an unarmed man. Only the Palestinian flag, the soldier, and the blood coming from the body of the unarmed man are in color.

Cal Tikvah co-president Adah Forer (left) and law student Olivia Wittels flank speaker Alan Dershowitz at U.C. Berkeley on Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo/Maya Mirsky)
Tikvah co-president Adah Forer (left) and law student Olivia Wittels flank speaker Alan Dershowitz at U.C. Berkeley on Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo/Maya Mirsky)

“I condemn its publication,” Chancellor Christ wrote in her letter. “Are you aware that its anti-Semitic imagery connects directly to the centuries-old ‘blood libel’ that falsely accused Jews of engaging in ritual murder? I cannot recall anything similar in the Daily Cal, and I call on the paper’s editors to reflect on whether they would sanction a similar assault on other ethnic or religious groups.

“We cannot build a campus community where everyone feels safe, respected and welcome if hatred and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes become an acceptable part of our discourse,” the letter concluded.

In an Oct. 25 editorial, Daily Cal editor Karim Doumar acknowledged the “pain and anger” the cartoon caused, adding “The criticisms we received reaffirms for us a need for a more critical editing eye, and a stronger understanding of the violent history and contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism.”

In an interview with the Daily Wire, a conservative news and opinion website, Dershowitz compared the cartoon to imagery from the German 1930s Nazi magazine Der Sturmer, and said he was surprised at the “little response” the cartoon was receiving. “Imagine if a comparably anti-black or anti-woman or anti-gay cartoon was ever published in the Berkeley student newspaper,” he said. “Again it reflects for me the incredible double standard in tolerance that people have toward anti-Semitism.”

Around 300 people showed up for Dershowitz’s Oct. 11 speech at UC Berkeley, most supportive though some vocally critical of the 79-year-old professor of Constitutional law.

“Protests have been very reasonable,” Dershowitz told J. at the time. “Well within the First Amendment.” He said he’d spoken to a few protesters outside the auditorium and had invited them in to his talk. “I got them seats and said, ‘Please ask questions.’”

JTA

JTA news agency