On Gaza there grew up a widespread impression
Hamas was the victim of Israel’s aggression.
But others contend it’s beyond all debating
That rockets and tunnels are quite irritating.
The natural target for political satire is power. So on the face of it Israel is the
obvious target in the conflict with Hamas over Gaza. For Israel is the dominant military
power in its region having beaten combined Arab armies four times; its settler policies
have extended its control over the West Bank; it is the only Middle Eastern country to
have a stockpile of nuclear weapons; and the U.S. is its patron. Hamas, on the other
hand, is hemmed into a narrow sliver of land cut off from any supplies other than those
allowed in by a hostile Israel or Egypt. Consequently when hostilities break out
periodically between Israel and Gaza, leading to a far greater number of Arab than
Jewish casualties, it was not surprising that many satirists would aim their fusillades at
Arab cartoonists, habitually hostile to Israel, now saw Hamas and the Gaza
people as victims of Israeli aggression and brutality. They depicted the Israelis as blood-
sucking monsters: “Benjamin Dracula, Killer of Gaza Children”. Even worse – as
Nazis: An Israeli tank looms over a Gaza child casting a Swastika shadow; Gaza is
boiled in a “Holocaust” pot. And there is crude anti-Semitism, with Jewish money
dominating the world.
In Britain and Europe, too, there was much anti-Israel sentiment among
cartoonists. The Gaza strip is analogized to the Warsaw Ghetto. An Israeli rocket
explodes in the eye of a world globe. An Israeli soldier, asked to identify a tiny pair of
baby boots from a pile of corpses, answers: “Combat boots”. A hungry baby is shown
crawling toward a bottle but is stopped by the Israeli blockade. Netanyahu, rather than
Hamas, is shown as a suicide bomber. America is implicated: at a crime scene with a
murdered Gaza the U.S. says “Blame Hamas”; and Uncle Sam parades with an oil
Sheikh, blithely ignoring the Gaza devastation.
Even in America there was anti-Israel satire. During a previous Israel-Gaza military confrontation in 2009 the world’s most syndicated cartoonist, Oliphant, had depicted Israel as a storm trooper propelling a huge Star of David with fangs reaching out to crush a woman and her baby. The Anti-Defamation League called this a “hideously anti-Semitic cartoon.”
Jon Stewart had also provoked an angry response in 2009 from Israel’s supporters; but they were even more offended by his commentary in 2014. The Israeli’s give warning when they are about to attack an area. But what are Gazans supposed to do when Israeli’s tell them they have three minutes to evacuate? “Evacuate to where? Have you seen Gaza? It’s this ***ing big.” Should they leave Gaza? But “Israel blocked this border. Egypt blocked this border. What, are they supposed to swim for it?” He then showed the “asymmetrical nature of this conflict” through the contrast between the relaxed NBC correspondent in Tel Aviv and his embattled counterpart in Gaza. When confronted by a storm of criticism from Americans and Israelis (the Times of Israel countered with a joke by joke rebuttal), he opened his next show with his entire team of fake journalists hurling abuse at him as soon as he mentioned Israel.
Even so, the preponderance of satire in the U.S. was anti-Hamas. The picture of a tiny, totally surrounded Hamas dominated by a large oppressive Israel was offset by the awareness of a tiny Israel surrounded by a combination of Arab countries which, despite some temporary agreements, were fundamentally hostile to Israel. Hamas, in fact, was still officially dedicated to Israel’s elimination.
So there were cartoons depicting Hamas’ sending rockets from civilian locations. A Hamas “missile defense shield” consists of a terrorist holding up a small child; HAMAS spells out “Hiding Among Mosques And Schools”; Israeli armor (a tank), versus Hamas armor (a rocket mounted on a school bus); “Israel uses weapons to protect its people. Hamas uses people to protect its weapons”.
Then there are the tunnels, with cartoons portraying the cost in terms of forgone houses, schools, etc; a tunnel of love juxtaposed to a Hamas tunnel of hate; Hamas terrorists emerging from a toilet; several cartoons on the theme of “No light at the end of the tunnel”, including one following an “Exit Gaza Conflict” sign.
Other cartoon themes show a delighted boy and his mother at a Hamas-Mart selling guns and suicide bomber clothing; Hamas fighters standing on a great mound of rubble labelled “Gaza”, and announcing “We have won!”; and the Dry Bones strip proposing: “It’s The Same Thing With Different Names In Different Places” – Hamas, Isis, Islamic Jihad, Boko Haram, Al Queda, Hezbollah, etc.
Onion Magazine directed its barbs at both sides of the issue. There was support for Jon Stewart’s sympathy for the Gazan people: “Palestinians given ample time to evacuate to nearby bombing sites.” On the other hand there was an Onion headline: “Palestinians starting to have mixed feelings about being used as human shields”. The story tells of a Gazan who is undecided about Hamas’ strategy, but it ends with the note that: “At press time sources confirmed an inbound missile was about to solidify thousands of Palestinians’ opinions on the tactic.” But the core Onion posture was a plague on both houses, citing international observers as agreeing that “Israel’s and Hamas’ respective disregard for Palestinian life have actually lined up pretty nicely. They might be dead set on one other’s destruction, fine, but you can’t say they don’t make one hell of a complementary team when it comes to Palestinians dying.”
This kind of even-handed derision has not been common in satirical comment on the Israel-Hamas conflict. Yet among analysts of the problem there has been this near-consensus: beyond periodic truces the conflict can only be resolved in the context of a solution to the broader Israel-Palestine issue. Moreover, the broad outlines of this solution have been well known. How to get there is another matter.
On Israel the experts concur in a view:
Instead of one country there ought to be two.
Although the idea is too good to ignore
I’m afraid that we’ve been there quite often before.