Antonio Moreira Antunes, the Portuguese cartoonist, decided recently to portray Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog, leading around a hapless, blindfolded president Trump, on a leash.
Last Thursday, an editor at the New York Times decided to publish the now infamous cartoon in the paper’s international edition.
Readers were outraged. Management at the Times initially dismissed the fuss and the cartoon’s publication as merely an “error in judgment.”
Much ado about nothing.
It wasn’t until Sunday that the paper issued a remotely appropriate statement, saying they were “deeply sorry for the publication of an anti-Semitic political cartoon.” It took three days for some of the top editorial talents in the English-speaking world to ascertain that this was more than trifling.
Also on Sunday, to its credit, the paper published a blistering critique by columnist Bret Stephens (who is a friend of the writer), in which he stated that the general tolerance of anti-Israel coverage in the media (including the Times) had somehow inured a “mid-level” editor to the egregious excess of this particular cartoon.
I am in no position to question the rendering of the chain of events presented by Stephens and the Times that led to this particular outcome. In its Sunday statement, the New York Times opinion page tweeted, “because of a faulty process, a single editor working without adequate oversight downloaded the syndicated cartoon and made the decision to include it on the Opinion page. The matter remains under review, and we are evaluating our internal processes and training. We anticipate significant changes.”
Summing up the paper’s delayed and rather subdued response to the flap, Stephens writes: “In other words, the paper’s position is that it is guilty of a serious screw-up but not a cardinal sin. Not quite.”
The fact that someone who is either so ill-informed, oblivious, or hate-filled, is positioned to determine the editorial content of the Times international edition is a powerful corporate statement. As are the grudging, distant comments issued three days late. I’d love to know, what on Earth were they discussing for three days?
The paper’s official response takes audacity to new levels. It diminished publication of an aggressively anti-Semitic “cartoon” into a matter of “process and training.” It gives me the creeps to write this, but it is terrifyingly reminiscent of the “culture” that permeated fascist Germany, allowing very ordinary people to commit the most extraordinary genocide collectively. Indeed, the singularly exceptional quality of Nazi Germany was how roles and acts were atomized so that no single person felt responsible for the horrific mass murder in which everyone participated.
And the press was a critical element of that “process.”
The devolution into an organized criminal state is a “process” as well, the result of millions of little decisions, made innocently, by average people. Over time, lines blur, boundaries shift, and social tolerance for the unthinkable becomes mainstream.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that the midlevel Times editor who made a colossally numbskulled decision is the next Eichmann. But he is, by the Times’ own admission, a cog in a machine that is dangerously malfunctioning. He is also an editorial employee at the self-anointed paper of record. So, I assume that he is educated, intelligent, professional, and has some knowledge of history. I also assume that he understands well what appears to be an entrenched anti-Semitic culture of the Times and what is acceptable “comment” when discussing things Jewish or related to Israel.
I spent the better part of the last three days poring over images from the years between world wars when Julius Streicher’s Der Sturmer magazine was the unrivaled king of Jew-hating. The Der Sturmer Jew had a boundless and horrifying propensity for evil, cruelty, exploitation, cowardice, avarice—basically, every extreme and disgusting trait imaginable. The Jew existed to manipulate and control the world and did so by secretly spreading disease, murdering children and drinking their blood. He raped women to satisfy insatiable sexual urges, controlled global banks, media, and pretty much everything and anything that mattered. The Jew did so with unsurpassed cleverness, sneakiness, immorality, and impunity; devising and spreading capitalism and communism, and generally bearing responsibility for all that is impure, evil, destructive.
The portrayal of Benjamin Netanyahu as a dachshund is deliberate. He is the Jew as bottom feeder, the hound dog with a powerful nose to sniff and snuff out even the smallest, burrowing creature. And he very self-assuredly leads a blinded dupe of a president, obediently following and doing the Jew dog’s bidding. As in Der Sturmer, which borrowed heavily from millennia of models, the Jew is a corrupt, controlling predator.
I take the innocuous midlevel editor very seriously. He or she is possible because of a combination of hatred, politics, ignorance and a pedestrian need to get a job done.
He is part of the “process” in which the oldest, most tenacious and virulent hatred becomes normalized in one of the premiere print publications in the world.
An earlier version of this article identified the cartoonist as El Pais, which is a Spanish-language daily newspaper in Spain.