Jewplexed: What If the Cartoon Contest Was ‘Draw Moses’?
Since two armed men were killed by police In Texas while attacking a cartoon contest lampooning Muhammad–sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an active anti-Muslim group–I have been thinking about how I feel when someone lampoons or even caricatures Jews.
The “Draw Muhammad” contest, besides trampling upon the American maxim about “not borrowing trouble” made me wonder about how I would react if a group recognized as anti -Semitic organized a “Draw Moses” contest and offered a $10,000 prize.
Jews, and most Americans don’t get out the artillery when someone is satirizing us with pen and ink. Instead, we call an organization, get a lawyer, write letters, take up our own signs, or just get over it. But, as we have seen, others may not subscribe to our decorum.
Muslims, if we stop to think about it, are not the only religious group to be touchy about having the central figures of their religion depicted. In the Bible there is a Commandment prohibiting graven images: “You shall have no other gods beside Me. You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth.” It’s why in many synagogues, especially traditional ones, you won’t see a sculptural human likeness, as it could be construed as a form of idolatry.
Though outside of the synagogue, some Orthodox Jews may be uncomfortable about some religious statues, the response is more of avoidance, or even tolerance, and not violent.
But what about cartoons?
Considering the dozens of Moses and God cartoons I have absorbed over the years in the New Yorker with just a smile or even an “ugh,” I wondered how I might respond to drawings less cute and more pointed at what I hold dear. A trip online to Google where under “images” I typed in “anti-Semitic cartoons,” brought me an answer.
Suddenly I was in a world where huge hooked noses, scraggly beards and demonic grins were on every face, and pitchfork, gun and sword-bearing Jewish stereotypes wrecked Zionist havoc around the world.
Though I have grown accustomed to such stuff, it still hurts. And though I feel, taking the high road, that this type of speech is protected under the First Amendment, why is that at the same time, like many Jews, I also feel relieved to know that there is an organization, the Anti-Defamation League, devoted to challenging such hate speech?
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