Illustration of Israel as devouring Moloch in Süddeutsche Zeitung


This picture, not surprisingly, greatly offended many readers when it was used to illustrate an article criticizing the amount of support given to Israel.It’s important to note that the artist originally created the design for a food magazine, and has been angered by the misappropriation of his work.  The picture itself is not antisemitic but, when placed in the context of the Süddeutsche Zeitung article and caption, it visualizes and reinforces antisemitic tropes.  The Times of Israel reports:

Heiko Flottau’s review, with the headline “The Decline of Liberal Zionism,” dealt with American author Peter Beinart’s book, whose title in German translates to “The American Jews and Israel. What is going wrong,” and German TV journalist Werner Sonne’s book “Raison d’état? Germany’s Liability for Israel’s Security.” The article appeared in the prominent paper’s July 2 edition.

Under the lurid illustration, the caption reads, “Germany at your service. For decades, Israel has been provided with weapons, partly free of charge. Israel’s enemies consider the country to be a voracious Moloch. Peter Beinert regrets that it’s gotten this far.”

One day after the article came out, editor Franziska Augstein issued a statement that “the publication of the illustration in this context was a mistake.”

The representation of a female figure carrying food to a monstrous beast lying in bed reminded me of illustrations to Little Red Riding Hood. The reference to a ‘Moloch’ in the caption also helps suggest that the horned troll, brandishing his knife and fork, may be casting his greedy eye on the girl as well as the tray she carries.

The paper’s response to criticism has been grudging:

The Süddeutsche issued a statement on its website Tuesday, under the title, “Is a Horned Monster Anti-Semitic?” The paper wrote that the cartoon had “nothing to do with anti-Semitic clichés,” but added that as “the photo led to misunderstandings, it would have been better to have chosen a different photo.”

This is an evasive statement.  Yes, the picture itself, in its original context ‘has nothing to do with anti-semitic cliches’ but, in conjunction with the review and caption, it clearly taps into antisemitic tropes, in particular the blood libel.  (One strand of the blood libel is the claim that Jews worshipped Moloch, the false god who demanded child sacrifice).

The paper also claimed that the picture was only meant to represent how Israel’s enemies see the country.  However the text of the caption hardly works to discourage such a view,

Germany is serving. For decades now, Israel has been given weapons, and partly free of charge. Israel’s enemies think it is a ravenous Moloch. Peter Beinart deplores this situation.

and, although the article is behind a pay wall, a glance at the opening suggests that the writer has jumped at the opportunity, courtesy of Beinart, to explore ideas which are somewhat taboo in Germany. A later statement, published on Wednesday, is rather more apologetic in tone.  However there is still an emphasis on readers’ perceptions, on ‘misunderstandings’.

I would imagine that not all readers of Engage are great fans of Peter Beinart.  However when I first read the story I found it hard to imagine he would approve of the use of this offensive (in context) picture, and I was glad to have this assumption confirmed.

10 Responses to “Illustration of Israel as devouring Moloch in Süddeutsche Zeitung”

  1. OyVaGoy Says:

    Good piece. And Beinart is often – but not always – great.

  2. zkharya Says:

    It’s also very nasty and dishonest how they co-opt Beinhart into confirming their view.

  3. Warped Mirror PMB Says:

    David already posted the link to my JPost blog on the topic. The thing is that Franziska Augstein’s statement on the drawing was completely outrageous, because she obviously played dumb and thought that’s good enough.

    Moreover, it’s pretty clear from the “review” of Beinart’s book that they like him so much because “as a Jew” he supposedly can say things a German could never say… And lo and behold, it seems they’re playing this game all the time: the very next day Moshe Zuckermann got to play the “as a Jew” role to favorably review a book that describes Israeli policies toward the Palestinians as a “creeping genocide:…

    Those who read German can have fun with the exquisite academese Zuckermann employs to lend credibility and authority to something that looks very much like Electronic Intifada stuff:

  4. zkharya Says:

    [Moreover, it’s pretty clear from the “review” of Beinart’s book that they like him so much because “as a Jew” he supposedly can say things a German could never say… ]

    But theirs is an entirely bogus argument about Beinhart. Beinhart is critical of Israel, but doesn’t say anything like this. He is just a peg on which they think they can hang their views, and get away with them.

    • Warped Mirror PMB Says:

      Well, I haven’t read Beinart’s book, but judging from some of the stuff he publishes on Open Zion and some of the people he employs to write there, it isn’t just criticism he’s interested in…

      • zkharya Says:

        Well, if you are equating Beinhart with what this newspaper is saying, your judgment, Petra, is seriously warped.

  5. Ben Says:

    PBeinart’s not really my cup of ME commentary tea–he’s a little too respectful of the BDS cult and tends to overplay the entire “I’m a Jewish rebel who’s being blackballed by the establishment” during points where he’s simply being proven wrong/ignored/both–but put him next to the Phil Weisses and M.J. Rosenbergs of the world (to say nothing of the Antony Lerman/Max Blumenthal/Adam Shapiro lunatic fringe) and it’s clear he’s a voice worth listening to if not always agreeing with. Though if told I had to be team Beinart or, say, Team Jeffrey Goldberg, I’d vote Jeff every time!

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      I’m with Ben on Beinart v Goldberg. Indeed, no context.

      However, I’m curious as to what I’ve missed concerning Lerman. I have, more than once, drawn attention to his propensity to blame the victim. This refers to his oft-repeated assertion that if only UK Jews were less Zionist, then antisemitism in the UK would diminish, if not vanish. He seems to miss the fact that long before Zionism had become a creed (i.e., about 1897), there was significant antisemitism in the UK. He fails to identify the causes of that antisemitism. Perhaps he wishes to blame the horns that British Jews sported prior to this date?

      This comes oddly from a presumably highly-qualified social scientist (twice Director of JPR), who must know that changes in the behaviour of despised minorities have never yet had the effect of changing the behaviour and attitudes of the oppressor. Just ask African-Americans, or members of UK ethnic minorities, or, come to that, British Jews.

      Perhaps he should seek permission from the Board of Deputies to study the archive I’m currently working on preparing for researchers on the work of the Board’s Defence Committees from the mid-1930s onwards (this is at the Wiener Library). We can always hope that he might actually be open to new evidence.

      So, Ben, please enlighten me (serious question): what have I missed about Antony lerman?

  6. David Olesker Says:

    Did anyone else notice that the “Jew” in the illustration is wearing a striped outfit? Isn’t that reminiscent of concentration camp uniforms?

    If the image was originally intended for an unrelated article is the monster supposed to be wearing pajamas?

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