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.