Anti-Semitic cartoon sparks controversy


LOS ANGELES, Jan. 5 (JTA) — The president of the Arab American Institute in Washington says he is “perfectly willing” to protest an anti-Jewish caricature that appeared alongside an essay he wrote in the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority.

Indeed, in a private conversation reported by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, James Zogby came out against the cartoon.

The caricature in the Dec. 28 issue of the daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida showed an old man, labeled “20th Century,” and a young man, labeled “21st Century.”

Between them stands a short Jew, with a hooked nose, skullcap and Star of David, who is labeled “The disease of the century.”

The layout of the page makes the cartoon seem part of Zogby’s essay on “Millennium Madness.”

Cooper became aware of the cartoon on the day it was published and faxed a copy to Zogby.

In an accompanying letter, Cooper told Zogby that “knowing of your work to combat ugly racist stereotypes, I hope that you will join in protesting directly to the publishers the inclusion of this hateful cartoon presented in the context of your essay.”

When it did not receive a response from Zogby by Tuesday, the Wiesenthal Center issued a news release citing its letter to Zogby.

“It is about time that important figures in the Arab world speak out against the vilification of Israel and the Jewish people, and we hope that Mr. Zogby will take the lead,” the statement said.

Reached Tuesday evening at his office, Zogby said the fax he received from the Wiesenthal Center was so illegible he could not identify the Arab inscriptions in the cartoon, adding that he would ask Cooper for a clearer copy.

Zogby also noted that his essay did not deal with Jews or Israel, and that he had never sent it to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, but to a competing independent Arab paper.

“I have in the past protested to papers using my articles that published anti-Semitic cartoons, and I am perfectly willing to do so in this case, if the caricature is as described,” he added.

Zogby subsequently called the Wiesenthal Center. According to Cooper, Zogby labeled the cartoon “grotesque and ridiculous” after hearing a description of it.

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