Circumcision has been hotly debated in Scandinavian countries in recent times, but this week, Norway’s third largest newspaper, Dagbladet, took the issue well beyond the boundaries of civil debate and straight into the realm of blatant anti-Semitism.
The cartoon Dagbladet published on Tuesday ostensibly depicts the circumcision of an infant, but the sinister-looking people carrying out the ritual are actually cutting off the baby’s toes and stabbing his head with a demonic-looking fork. On the right side of the cartoon, you see police arriving on the scene, but after being assured that the practice is simply an expression of religious belief, they leave.
“Mistreating? No this is tradition, an important part of our belief!” the woman is shown telling the policemen.“Belief? Oh yes, then it is all right,” the officer responds while the second policeman apologizes for the interference.
The men in the cartoon bear a striking resemblance to the hideous caricatures of Jews in classic anti-Semitic cartoons, right down to their black garb and beards. And they are holding books – ostensibly volumes of Torah – that are soaked in the blood of the screaming child.
Circumcision is depicted as a form of mutilation and torture, and the idea that there is a religious basis for the practice serves as the cartoon’s punch-line, as if there are “beliefs” that call for cutting a baby’s toes off with a bolt cutter.
“This is a despicable attack on Jews and a fundamental tradition of Jewish life,” said HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams, who was attending the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism when the cartoon was published.
“That this cartoon has been published as delegates meet from around the world in Jerusalem to coordinate the fight against anti-Semitism graphically illustrates the need to combat this pernicious Jew hatred.“
After complaints about the cartoon from the Jewish community in Norway, the cartoon’s artist, Tomas Drefvelin, wrote an email to MIFF, a Norwegian pro-Israel organization, denying the cartoon was anti-Semitic. It was meant, he wrote, “not as criticism of either a specific religion or a nation [but] as a general criticism of religions.”
“I gave the people in the picture hats, and the man a beard, because this gives them a more religious character,” he said. “Jew-hatred is reprehensible. I would never draw to create hatred of a people, or against individuals.”
While Drefvelin may not have intended to employ classic anti-Semitic tropes and caricatures, his cartoon now takes its place as the latest in a long line of fiendish depictions of Jews in black coats and hats carrying out outrageous and morally offensive acts designed to inspire reactions of disgust from the public.
Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, compared the cartoon to Nazi propaganda, which often exaggerated Jewish rituals to give them a demonic appearance. “This is a violent cartoon which is meant to inspire hate and contempt against one particular people,” he said.
You can register your outrage by writing directly to Dagbladet’s editor-in-chief John Arne Markussen at firstname.lastname@example.org. While this cartoon has understandably generated a great deal of anger and hurt, we call upon our subscribers to make your complaints in a civil fashion and to make it clear exactly why the global Jewish community would find the cartoon so utterly offensive. Remember – a civil discourse is more likely to successfully make our point.
The Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism
The 4th International Conference of the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism is currently taking place in Jerusalem. Click here for more on the Conference.