Latuff’s specialty: comparing Israelis to Nazis.
Guardian supplement profiles work of cartoonist Carlos Latuff, notorious for frequent comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany and for award-winning entry in Iranian Holocaust cartoon competition.
The Guardian’s ‘G2’ supplement today contains a profile of the Carlos Latuff, a cartoonist ‘who has become an unlikely star of the Arab spring – and, more recently, cartoonist to protests and conflicts around the world.’ The article concentrates on Latuff’s ubiquity during the Arab Spring, and details how he has risen to such prominence by shunning traditional media and promoting his work online. However, it presents allegations that his work is anti-Semitic as part of a campaign against him, and fails to adequately articulate the sheer viciousness of his work, which frequently resorts to comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.
‘Carlos Latuff: The voice of Tripoli – live from Rio’, by Jack Shenker, opens by providing the background for the Brazilian-born cartoonist. Having described the development of his career, it cites the praise of Graham Fowell, the chairman of the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain, who states that Latuff’s work ‘depict[s] the ridiculous ironies of our imperfect civilisation, only much quicker.’ Shenker notes, however, that ‘[n]ot everyone has been so flattering’:
‘Since visiting the West Bank in 1999, Latuff has become known for his support of the Palestinian cause; some campaigners claim his work is antisemitic. “Part of the supposed ‘evidence’ for my antisemitism is the fact that I’ve used the Star of David, which is a symbol of Judaism,” he says wearily. “But check all my artworks – you’ll find that the Star of David is never drawn alone. It’s always part of the Israeli flag. Yes, it’s a religious motif, but in Israel it has been applied to a state symbol; and it’s the institutions of the state – the politicians and the army – that I’m targeting. Including the flag of Israel in a cartoon is no more an attack on Judaism than including the flag of Turkey would be an attack on Islam.”’
The statement that ‘some campaigners claims his work is antisemitic’ suggests that these allegations are only raised as part of a campaign to discredit his advocacy for the Palestinians, as opposed to being a genuine concern about the images he produces. While Shenker provides Latuff with the opportunity to dismiss the charge that he is antisemitic because of his use of the Israeli flag, he fails to mention any other reasons for the controversy surrounding the cartoonist.
Despite Latuff’s statement in an interview with the pro-Hamas lobby group MEMO that ‘respect’ was key to his understanding of freedom of speech, and that there was a ‘BIG difference between criticism and attack’, his work frequently consists of equating Israel with Nazi Germany, with Palestinians recast as Jews awaiting genocide.
For example, in 2006 Latuff participated in the International Holocaust Cartoon Competition, which was sponsored by the Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, to denounce what it called ‘Western hypocrisy on freedom of speech’. The event drew criticism from a wide variety of states and individuals, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the US State Department, which called the competition an attempt to ‘denigrate the horror that was the holocaust.’ The exhibit’s curator, Masoud Shojai, spoke of a desire to make the exhibition an annual event:
‘Actually, we will continue until the destruction of Israel’.
Latuff’s entry, which gained second place, was a direct comparison between the Palestinians in the Middle East and the Jews in Nazi Germany, with an Arab man in concentration camp garb, including a red crescent badge affixed to his uniform:
His entire portfolio is full of crap like this.