South African cartoonist Zapiro

Hat tip to TY.
South African satirical cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (aka “Zapiro”) http://www.zapiro.com
says on this recent CNN interview that “It’s been harder being a Jewish South African who sees himself as contesting the mainstream Jewish view on Israel and on political Zionism, than it ever was being a white South African being involved in the struggle [against Apartheid]. That’s how hard it is. It’s actually harder.” (The relevant part starts at 5 minutes out of the 7 minute interview.)

For more on Zapiro controversy:

http://www.capetimes.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=4308823

Blind loyalty to Israel

March 18, 2008 Edition 1

The highly personalised nature of the attacks on Zapiro by Mike Berger and David Jacobson (March 14)[Muzzlewatch note: March 14 not not available online] reflects their profound political and ideological partisanship. Such blind loyalty to Israel does not, in fact, help the cause of Israelis or Jews. Instead, it reproduces intolerance and blind spots.

The cartoon that has offended them did not in any way attempt to equate Israeli military strategies of collective punishment in Gaza with the Nazi genocide.

Instead, it made the more general point that, given Jews’ historical experiences of oppression over many centuries, we ought to be acutely sensitive to matters of social injustice. In fact, many Jewish artists, writers, activists and intellectuals have come to similar conclusions.

The role of left and progressive Jews in the anti-apartheid struggle is a case in point.Cartoonists such as Zapiro raise uncomfortable questions and prod self-criticism, especially when it comes to the actions of their “own people”. Thus it is not surprising that Zapiro challenges fellow South African Jews for their unquestioning support for Israeli policies.

This tradition of uncompromising critique is Zapiro’s strength. Former President Nelson Mandela once told him that even though members of his family were known to be ANC supporters, he recognised that it was Zapiro’s job not to spare the ANC government from his sharp pen.

While Mandela could acknowledge the role of the political cartoonist, even when his cartoons lampooned and parodied Mandela’s government and party, Berger and Jacobson are calling for Zapiro to close ranks and show unflinching loyalty towards his “own people”.

Steven Robins

Cape Town

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