PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — A cartoon that first appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer is having repercussions as far away as Seattle, where the cartoon also appeared. The editorial cartoon by Tony Auth, which first appeared July 31, depicts a wire fence in the shape of a Jewish star. Enclosed in each of seven sections — the six points of the star, as well as the center — stand groups of Palestinian men, women and children. According to Auth, the drawing was designed to illustrate "that the State of Israel is building a fence that separates Palestinians and is an obstacle to peace." But that´s not how many people saw it. "It was really outrageous," said Israel´s consul general in Philadelphia, Giora Becher. "It was insensitive for the cartoonist to use the Jewish symbol of a Magen David, and to use it with barbed wire and some connotation of the concentration camp." Harold Goldman, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said, "The Tony Auth cartoon crossed a line between what is acceptable political commentary and satire to what is clearly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel commentary." Nancy Baron-Baer of the regional Anti-Defamation League office added that the cartoon evoked memories of the Holocaust, "where the fence was used to commit atrocities, equating that to the Israelis´ building a fence to keep terrorists from committing atrocities." By using a symbol of the Jewish faith, she added, Auth "has put his criticism forth to say that it´s representative of all Jews, not just the State of Israel." Auth responded that over the years he has drawn many cartoons critical of suicide bombers. He also said that those who seek to peg him or the Inquirer as anti-Semitic are dead wrong. "It is only possible to regard me and my work as anti-Semitic by selectively looking at certain cartoons," he said. Several groups — including the federation; the ADL; the Zionist Organization of America; the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia; the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, and others — lodged formal complaints with the paper. A letter written by the local JCRC and the Va´ad: Board of Rabbis said the groups were "appalled that Mr. Auth can take a symbol of the Jewish people, the Star of David, and so distort and pervert it — that it borders on desecration." The cartoon, said Steve Feldman, executive director of the ZOA´s Philadelphia branch, "defames the Jewish people and defames Israel." "It´s the furthest thing from the truth," he said of the cartoon´s message. "Israel is trying to protect itself, not fence anyone in." People also took issue with the fact that no suicide bombers were depicted in the cartoon, even though the security fence is designed to keep terrorists — not ordinary Palestinians — out of Israel. The Israeli government has noted that a similar fence around the Gaza Strip, in place since the mid-1990s, has been successful at keeping out terrorists. It should have been clear to Auth that "we´re not building it to discriminate against the Palestinians, but to protect ourselves against the vicious attacks," Becher said. Auth said that "the overwhelming majority of drawings" he has done on the Middle East criticize Palestinian suicide bombers and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, and are "greatly sympathetic to Israel." "It´s as if any criticism of Israel has to be accompanied by a history of the region," he said. "Our readers are relatively well-informed readers. This medium is essentially excellent for making one point at a time." He noted that he´s "received a lot of positive response from the cartoon — from Jewish peace activists who probably feel like they´re in a lost cause." The syndicated cartoon also ran in the Aug. 2 edition of The Seattle Times, and was met with sharp criticism there as well. According to James Vesely, the Times´ editorial-page editor, "we´ve got a lot of angry calls," adding that several people have canceled their subscriptions. The newspaper was expected to run a number of critical letters on Aug. 6. Vesely said he has no regrets about running it, and noted that no other subject stirs up readers like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "We´ve used Tony for 15 years, and I like his work and the graphic representation he uses, and I would not let protests determine what we print on the editorial pages," he said. The dust-up surrounding Auth´s cartoon comes about two months after a cartoon in The Chicago Tribune by Dick Locher also met with strong criticism. That sketch apparently showed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as being more accepting of the Mideast peace process once America gave it more money. The Tribune issued a public apology for the cartoon after several days of readers´ protests. It is that type of response some demand from the Inquirer. Cynthia Ittleman, a senior research analyst at the media watchdog group CAMERA, wants the Inquirer to understand that the cartoon "grotesquely misinterpreted the fence," and that it should "not dispense cartoons like that in the future." Barton Hertzbach, board president of Philadelphia´s JCRC, said his group is trying to arrange a meeting between the Inquirer and leaders of local Jewish organizations. "A formal apology would be appropriate," said Hertzbach, adding that "we want to let them know in a face-to-face meeting how much we are offended."
Cartoon angers Jews