When the official newspaper of Berkeley published a color caricature of me as a spider-like creature with one leg stomping on a Palestinian child and another holding an IDF soldier spilling the blood of an unarmed Palestinian, there was universal condemnation of what was widely seen as a throwback to the antisemitic imagery of the Nazi era. The chancellor condemned the cartoon, stating that, “its antisemitic imagery connects directly to the centuries-old ‘blood libel’ that falsely accused Jews of engaging in ritual murder.”
Writing in the Daily Cal, students from a pro-Israel organization at Berkeley debunked the claim that the cartoonist and the student paper editors at the Daily Cal could not have known that this cartoon was seeped in traditional antisemitic stereotyping, when considering its deep roots in European, and even American, publications.
In the cartoon, Dershowitz is depicted with a hooked nose and a body of a large amorphous black sphere. His exaggerated head and contorted legs and hands evoke images of a spider. The rhetoric of Jews as ‘invasive’ insects in society, trying to take over resources and power, has long been used to justify violence, persecution and murder. The two elements of the cartoon, with Dershowitz’s face in the front and the black body in the back, plays into the antisemitic trope of Jews as shape-shifting, sub-human entities using deception and trickery in order to advance their own agendas. This rhetoric is nowhere more common than in Nazi propaganda, and can be traced far beyond WWII in European and American media.
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