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August 8, 2003


Philly 'Inquirer' Cartoon Called Anti-Semitic

By Dave Astor


NEW YORK--A number of readers and Jewish organizations are complaining to The Philadelphia Inquirer that a Tony Auth cartoon may be anti-Semitic.

Auth said this isn't true. "If you look at the body of my work, you can't cling to the belief that I'm an anti-Semite," he told E&P Online, noting, for instance, that he has frequently done cartoons critical of Israel's opponents.

His July 31 cartoon showed a Jewish-star-shaped fence penning in Palestinian men, women, and children. It was referring, of course, to the real-life fence Israel is building for what the country says is security reasons. "When I created the cartoon," said Auth, "I asked myself, 'How can I do a drawing showing that building a fence separates Palestinians and is an obstacle to peace?' I did not do it gleefully but with sadness."

About 150 people wrote the Inquirer as of Aug. 7, with most mail critical of the cartoon. Some said Israel is using the fence to protect itself from terrorists, not to imprison Palestinians. Others complained that Auth's use of a Jewish star was problematic because that symbol represents not only Israel but Jews in general. Israeli Consul General Giora Becher told the Jewish Exponent publication: "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."

And Harold Goldman, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, told the Exponent: "To me, 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."

But, Auth said, criticizing Israeli policies doesn't automatically make a commentator anti-Semitic. He did note that he's giving some thought to whether using a Jewish star was the right thing to do. The cartoonist acknowledged that the star may represent Jews in general, but added that "it is the symbol of the state of Israel. It's on Israeli jets and tanks and the flag."

Lee Salem, executive vice president and editor of Universal Press Syndicate, said in an e-mail to a critic of the cartoon: "From what I've read in the Israeli press, not even the Israeli populace is unanimous [about] the present policy. But that seems to have little avail here in the States. Questioning or criticism of Israeli policy by Americans is just labeled anti-Semitism."

None of Auth's 50-plus newspaper clients complained about the cartoon to Universal as of Aug. 7, according to Kathie Kerr, the syndicate's director of communications. She added: "When Tony did a cartoon critical of radical Islam, there was an outpouring claiming he was anti-Muslim. It's the lot of the editorial-cartooning profession." The Islam-related cartoon brought in about 3,000 critical responses.

Auth said the Inquirer has been "very supportive" of him with the July 31 cartoon and over the years. He joined the newspaper in 1971, and won a Pulitzer Prize five years later.


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