The incredibly offensive cartoon published last week by Norway’s third largest newspaper, Dagbladet, generated a huge volume of emails to the editor. While we cannot vouch for the language used by all of the complainants, it is a major step to compare this form of protest to the violence and threats unleashed in the aftermath of the 2005 Mohammed cartoon riots.
Yet Dagbladet has done precisely this in an editorial lamenting the Jewish reaction to the cartoon (emphasis added):
The political caricature is a satirical portrayal where exaggerating or twisting reality are typical tools. These empower the caricature, but also open up to many different types of interpretations of its meaning. Sometimes these lead to a total disconnect between the purpose of a caricature and the reactions to it.
We witnessed this when Jyllands-Posten – and subsequently Dagbladet and other Norwegian Newspapers – printed the satirical cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. We now have similar reactions to a cartoon that Dagbladet printed last week. Jewish communities, human rights organizations and private individuals across the world have strongly criticized Dagbladet for publishing what they consider an anti-Semitic cartoon by our guest cartoonist, Thomas Drefvelin. They leave little room for nuances and reflections.
We utterly reject this comparison. Jews have not been rioting in the streets or openly threatening the lives of Dagbladet employees or cartoonists. It is highly unlikely that Dagbladet’s editor-in-chief fears for his life as a result of printing this cartoon. While a deluge of emails may make for uncomfortable reading, they represent a wholly legitimate form of protest far removed from the violence alluded to by Dagbladet.
Which is somewhat hypocritical considering Dagbladet’s linkage of its cartoon to the issue of freedom of speech:
Meanwhile, it is important to distinguish between friend and foe when considering this question of values. Dagbladet has a long and consistent history of fighting anti-Semitism. This is a result of our belief in human values ??and rights, and our position on freedom of speech and religious freedom. There must be maximal freedom on both these counts. Thus, religious sentiments, dogmas or rituals can not be exempt from criticism. To open up for questioning religious beliefs in the public debate is a guarantee of religious freedom and the safety of the believers.
Dagbladet has clearly missed the point. Its cartoon went way beyond criticism of religious beliefs or rituals and crossed into classical anti-Semitic tropes and stereotypes of the like that have brought catastrophe upon the Jewish people.
Dagbladet appears to be unrepentant. Even if we take at face value the newspaper’s defense that it is opposed to anti-Semitism, Dagbladet has clearly not learned any lessons from this incident.