Aug 5, 2014

The dangerous essentialism of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic cartoons

In Australia, there should be no place for reactionary essentialism while we debate politics and ideas, says Overland editor Jeff Sparrow.

Jeff Sparrow

Writer, editor, broadcaster, and an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University.

What do the cartoons by Glen Le Lievre and Bill Leak tell us about racism and the Gaza conflict? Most obviously, that bigotry against both Jews and Muslims exists in Australia and has almost certainly been exacerbated by the crisis in Gaza. But there’s more to it.

It’s worth thinking through the reactions to the images. The Sydney Morning Herald was widely — and correctly — condemned for the Le Lievre cartoon, both in Australia and overseas. Much of the commentary also focused (in my view, incorrectly) on the Mike Carlton opinion piece that the drawing illustrated.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

17 thoughts on “The dangerous essentialism of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic cartoons

  1. John64

    Along the same lines:

    “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”

    That’s from the Likud Party’s Platform under the Chapter on “Peace and Security”. (Source:

    It goes on and talks about how Likud will not accept “a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”

    So if you’re against that, are you anti-Likud? Anti-Israel? Or Anti-the Jewish people?

  2. mark argy

    When did Judaism become a race?

  3. MarilynJS

    I think it was outrageous that the stupid Herald caved into the big mouthed whiners like Vic and the Jewish board of deputies over a cartoon that was in fact factual. They Jews of Israel were sitting on the hill in their skull caps and their bloody flag is the star of David so what was wrong with the cartoon?

    Spooner on the other hand had two cartoons outrageous and just plain cruel and racist.

    One had Hamas supposedly stopping refugees entering the tunnels and being the evil doers, the stated aim of Bibi is to destroy the tunnels. Spooners cartoon was actually advocating genocide.

    The second was just as dreadful but the AGE hasn’t taken them down or apologised to the Palestinians here.

  4. Kevin Herbert

    Well argued Jeff Sparrow.

  5. Hiroya Sugita

    I’m not sure about Bill Leak’s racist streak. One thing I’m sure is that he is a News Ltd employee and thus his cartoons are in line with his editors/employers.

  6. AR

    I was extremely disappointed that the SMH disavowed the cartoon accompanying Carlton’s article – I thought that both were accurate and pertinent.

  7. Glen

    So if Le Lievre had omitted the star and the cap, the cartoon would have been unobjectionable? I suspect the squeals may have been just as loud. It was the content of those photos that was grossly objectionable here, and Mr Sparrow — and AJN — don’t appear to have noticed.

  8. Andrew McIntosh

    That Lobbecke cartoon doesn’t make me sympathetic to either side portrayed.

  9. david hare

    The SMH was wrong to back down over these standover tactic. The worst thing about the backdown is it also implies some sort of censure to Carlton’s completely objective article. It seems to me that since 1976 if not earlier the first line reaction of Zionists to any criticism of Israel – the state – is consciously mired in terms of “anti-Semitism” and supposed Religious bigotry. Apart from being an egregious slur as a tactic, this ignores the realities of who and how many people are identified as semitic, including many Arabs and Mediterranean people. But it seems as though this appropriation of the term Semitic” by Zionists is merely part of an armory of attack responses, no matter how apt the comment or comparison.

    It’s a disgrace Carlton and Lievre were duped by Fairfax over this.

    And Carlton also made the fatal mistake of mentioning the Holocaust. Again any use of this term no matter how contextualized is inevitably a red rag, especially to the Likud supporters. Apart form being an egregious slur and atctic, it ignores the realities of who and how many people are identified as semitic, including many Arabs. But it seems as though this appropriation of the term Semitic” by Zionists is aprt of an armory of attck which extends to the mass indiscriminate murder of civilians. You can’t have it both ways, in the end. And this is where responses from intelligent and morally honest Jewish commentators is most necessary

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details