Another Guardian cartoon throws Charlie Hebdo victims under the bus

Last week, we commented on a Jan. 8th Guardian cartoon (by political cartoonist Andrew Marlton) reacting to the jihadist attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo, which implicitly blamed the victims for inciting their attackers. 

Recently, we noticed another cartoon, published by The Guardian on Jan. 9th (the day four Jews were murdered in a Paris kosher grocery store), which similarly throws the Charlie Hebdo victims under the bus. 

Here’s the Guardian cartoon by Joe Sacco, a pro-Palestinian artist best known for his graphic novel, Footnotes From Gaza.

The first frames:


In response to the text in the last frame, it should be stressed that the Charlie Hebdo depictions were clearly taking aim at the prophet Muhammad, not Muslims qua Muslims. Indeed, after the cartoonists were murdered, the gunmen were heard shouting, “the Prophet is avenged”. 

The second set of frames:


Note how Sacco conflates the issue of racism with blasphemy.

Again, the Charlie Hebdo depictions of Muhammad were criticized because an Islamic hadith prohibits images of Muhammad and, therefore, many Muslims believe that those who do so are guilty of blasphemy, not because it evoked anti-Muslim stereotypes.

The final set of frames:


The depiction (in the middle frame ) of the iconic image from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and accompanying text, suggests that Sacco is somehow blaming the West’s putative mistreatment of Muslims for their present inability “to laugh at a mere image”.

At the end of the day, Joe Sacco had an opportunity to honor the memory of fellow cartoonists who were murdered because they resisted attempts to have their creative freedom stifled. But, instead of standing in solidarity with the victims of extremism, he chose to smear them as “vapid” and racially insensitive, and contextualize the intolerance which fed the jihadist rampage by asking, in the familiar pattern of those whose political faith is based on immutable Western guilt, ‘What have we done to provoke them’?

38 replies »

  1. I do believe that is his full name is Joe Saccoshit.

    See that, Joe? I’m using Sarcasm. Except I point my anger towards one person, whereas you point your anger towards all Jews.

    Vive la Difference!

  2. You have misread this one Adam

    “Tweaking the nose” is an idiom which means to antagonize or to provoke or to make fun of. It has nothing to do with actual facial features.

    He does not conflate Racism and Blasphemy he is citing them as vehicles to cause offense. But is saying one vehicle is condoned and one is against the law. He is distinctly NOT calling the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists racists.

    His final call is not to ask ‘What have we done to provoke them’ (though he does pose that question) but to ask what can we do to sort out ‘how we fit into each others’ worlds’.

    • Then why did he, in the next frames, procede to the black and Jewish caricatures, both of which draw upon old racist stereotypes? The Muhammad cartoon, as I observed, did not evoke racist stereotypes, and was certainly not a shot at Muslims qua Muslims, but at the prophet Muhammad. Again, he’s conflating racism with blasphemy. The former is outlawed in France. The latter is not.

      • No, you are missing the point Sacco is trying to make. He is saying that antagonizing Muslims (Religion) by ‘insulting’ the prophet is ‘vapid’. He essentially does not automatically agree that it is OK to do this as it creates antagonism for not much gain (‘vapid’ in his opinion) – It seems to be OK to cause offense via cartoons of Muhammad, but why?

        So next he uses other sources of offense to test the readers sensitivity to boundaries between freedom of expression and the rights of groups to be free of attack. If its OK to be comfortable with offending via cartoons of Muhammad – how are we with other types of offenses? He plays the game of offending in the middle frames: 1) racism (the black man in the tree) 2) Jewish stereotyping. In this one he goes further by first pointing out that Charlie H sacked a person for antisemitism – it is actually against the law in France.
        He is asking how is the reader with these images? Comfortable? Appalled? Well we should be appalled.

        In the last of the middle frames he poses the question of when we set lines (or boundaries) for different types of offense we are setting up points of attack. If we have different limits we are causing points of attack. Good satire will test lines but he asks who exactly are we attacking with satire?

        In no way is he throwing Charlie Hebdo victims under the bus, nor is he in any way excusing the attacks. But he is asking why we think it is OK to have different levels of offense.

        • Obviously your main profession is to whitewah antisemitism, antisemite.
          Analysing the graveyard frame it is quite astonishing that Sacco mourns Christians, cartoonists and a Muslim, but not Jewish victims. Considering the frame with the Jewish nose – and when he pretends to be careful and thoughtful, the phrase tweaking the noses of Muslims is on purpose -, because he compares the present situation with 1933 which is the big lie. Nowhere in Europe Muslims are in any danger to be thrown in concentration camps, to be murdered in masses by the police or gassed. Even if Muslims were harassed in Europe, they have a lot of countries to go, the Jews had none. This constant comparison is really sick. Abusing the holocaust to whitewash Muslim terror, to compare constant antisemitic propaganda by far right, fascists and nationalsocialist media in the thirties to a blasphemical cartoon by a left radical paper with small circulation indicates how obsessed these minds are, they have no grip of scales and dimensions, only their brainwahes bias.

          • Aside from the relevant issue that the cartoon was drawn BEFORE the supermarket killings, Sacco is primarily addressing the nature of satire and the relative acceptable/unacceptable offense it gives.

            “Analysing the graveyard frame it is quite astonishing that Sacco mourns Christians, cartoonists and a Muslim, but not Jewish victims”
            – No Jews were shot in the Charlie Hebdo attack. the 12 graves are for the 12 victims of that attack.

            “He compares the present situation with 1933 which is the big lie”
            -No he is not. He says that even if you find the Jewish stereotype acceptable now, ie it is a valid piece of satire (and he most certainly is not saying you should), go back 82 years and place that ‘joke’ in the context of the developing holocaust. Now is it valid/funny/a joke?

            “to compare constant antisemitic propaganda by far right, fascists and nationalsocialist media in the thirties to a blasphemical cartoon”
            – He is not making that comparison. He is asking whether it is always OK to attack anyone. In fact he is saying that in 1933 the (then valid) ‘joke’ of the Jewish stereotype presaged the holocaust, and implies that the (now valid) satire of Muhammad leads “us drive them from their homes and into the sea”, unless we find away to “fit in each others worlds”.

            Personally, I disagree with Sacco. I think that satirical attack on ideas and things which hold power over populations (including religions, corporations, police forces, politicians (for the ideas they support)) are valid and indeed necessary for the working of democracy. I do not agree with attacks on the weak, the disenfranchised nor individuals for their personal beliefs.

            • No Jews were shot in the Charlie Hebdo attack. the 12 graves are for the 12 victims of that attack

              Aside of your irrelevant sidestepping and deflecting answers, antisemite, this tells all. in fact the only woman murdered was Jew, that`s why she was murdered and the other not.
              You better shut up, antisemite.

              • If I got that wrong, I’m embarrassed. I did not think she was a practicing Jew. Her Father was, and I understood that she was no longer within the faith. Like I said if that is wrong I apologize to her and her family.

                However I stand by the other points I made.

            • “No Jews were shot in the Charlie Hebdo attack”
              Really Dinkle?
              Then how do you explain this,
              From “The Independent” 12th January, 2015.
              “On the morning of Wednesday 7 January, however, Elsa Cayat was the only woman singled out to be murdered in the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. “It seems she was selected to be executed because she was Jewish,” said her cousin Sophie Bramly, a film producer and author. “They had a list of who they wanted to shoot and said they weren’t killing the women. But she was the only woman who wasn’t spared.”

  3. In taking this approach Sacco makes it clear that he identifies most Muslims with the terrorists in Paris. He then justifies the murder of Jews as the legitimate airing of a particular grievance that he would like to be addressed, overlaying his chosen cause over the the murders. In effect Amedy Coulibaly and the Kouachis massacred human beings in order to bring Sacco’s issues to the fore. Yet it is just as plausible that Jewish targets were selected (there were maps showing the location of Jewish schools found in Coulibably’s vehicle) for other reasons such as a belief in a Protocols Jewish conspiracy to control the world. No doubt Sacco would eagerly wish to have us integrate that perception as well.

    Sacco’s commentary should also be criticized on a couple of other points. Maurice Sinet was fired in order to distance the magazine from libel when it targeted Sarkozy’s son who was a non-political non-public figure. The magazine ordered Sinet to issue a apology, Sinet refused and was fired as a result. Sinet’s refusal was the basis of dismissal. He then ends the piece by constructing a bogus fear that reactionary forces would “drive them [Muslims] from their homes and into the sea”, an obvious inversion of very real Jewish fears that this has been a policy of the Arab nations that surround them. The list of inversions of Jewish related memes by Palestinian sympathizers (the “right” of return, Gaza as a concentration camp or Warsaw Ghetto) is rather long and Sacco continues this rather revolting trend of milking sympathy using false equivalencies.

    • Cartoonist Georges Wolinski was also Jewish. I missed the fact that Sacco had in effect baptized dead Jews. He was careful enough to include a minaret instead of cross for the one Muslim member of staff.

  4. I am I a difficult place here.

    1. I understand the value of a free press and freedom of expression but recognise that said freedom is not absolute.

    2. I am very uncomfortable with the deification of journalists. If a journalist is imprisoned somewhere, that is not necessarily an attack on free speech. The journo may be guilty of some crime.

    3. More specifically, I have found the deification of Charlie Hebdo very uncomfortable. Just because they were brutally and unjustly murdered, they were no more or less open to criticism for their choices.

    4. More specifically still, from what I have seen of Charlie Hebdo, I find its cartoons to be crass, deliberately offensive and not particularly clever or witty. I suspect that, had it not been for last week’s events, Adam and most supporters of CifWatch (including me) would have been vocal critics of the magazine. It was (and remains) a vociferous critic of Israel.

    5. All that being said, I have had difficulty getting behind the “JeSuisCharlie” rhetoric and chose not to attend the London rally for that reason. I empathise with the victims as
    human beings and am disgusted by the actions of their murderers, but I could not, in all conscience, support the magazine as a beacon of free speech. If I had done so, I would be a hypocrite if I then called out those useful idiots who chanted “We are all Hezbolla now” etc.

    6. Yet more specifically, I support Adam’s observations about the conflation of blasphemy and racism, and find the manner in which Sacco makes the point to be ill-judged, but I disagree that any attempt to criticise CH or refuse to show its Mohammed cartoons is a justification of the killings or a missed opportunity to “honor the memory”.

    • Hopefully the Charlie Hebdo massacre will continue the conversation of free speech rather than define it.

      Dare I suggest, Labenal, that one reason you may have chosen to stay in rather than mourn en masse is that, as a staunch defender of Israel, you (and I) have seen enough mindless, senseless violence over our lifetimes that this massacre was nothing new. On that end, I am amazed only 4 people died at the market. The police did an amazing job saving all those lives.

    • Very welll thought, but as I wrote earlier, it is not forbidden to criticise the message, but to shoot the messenger. Feeling offended is quite common, and in a democratic state there are means to defend his cause in court, but religion or ideology can`t be safe places from satire. And even this left radical paper has its rights to offend under French laws, whether we like its vicious anti-Israeli cartoons or not. But we have the right to criticise it, especially when it trespasses the border to antisemitism.

    • Labenal, thank you for a really exceptional post,

      Although I have some similar thoughts to yours, as summarized by you above, I don’t think I could have expressed them as succinctly as you have.

    • I too, have had feelings about the whole “Je suis Charlie” thing, which carries not some, but quite a lot of dissonance. This had nothing to do with blasphemy or racism in the cartoons. In fact I will even go so far to say that CH offended probably not much more than a cartoon in the Sunday Times of Netanyahu offended many Jewish sensibilities, but on a more regular basis, to a limited readership. No, it was in the end point blank murder with a largely fake pretext , in part motivated by hatred of Jews and Israel. And the killing of Jews – also racist of course, had a desired effect of unsettling and dividing opinion and reaction with antisemitism and anti-zionism conflation.

      Like many, I have never fully accepted that US and British troops on Islamic soil was the reason given by Islamic fascists to doing what they do.It is a given pretext. There is always a pretext that has nothing to do with the desired effect. And the same applies to the cartoons.Was it racist or was it blasphemy? Does it really matter what we agree or disagree on?

      Islamic fascists who are brainwashed to murder belong to a cult – a fanatical death cult – hell bent on undermining liberal and democratic values that it perceives as weak and to be conquered. Those who engage in this terrorism instinctively know how things will pan out and the reaction only encourages them to carry out further acts.It does not even matter to them that Muslims also fall victim to this dark strategy. It draws its support from Islam which has many flaws and is also weak to resist, because the ideology is derived from it .

      How to stamp it out is also causing extreme divisiveness and is part of the process to weaken and achieve an objective. The sickening Sacco drawings is just symptomatic of the moral confusion that has been aroused.What is now alarming is to the extent and frequency antisemitism has become.

      Ideologically Jews are the Islamic fascists’ target.

      To do nothing is NOT what I am saying.

  5. I think anyone should be able to print whatever they want even if it is highly offensive to me. Better to know who is bigot than not know. No one, however, has a right to a specific job and every employer has the right to fire anyone if they do not like what they printed. That is not a violation of free speech as the author could continue to make cartoons in other forums.

  6. The Marlton cartoon did not in any way “blame the victims”, and nor did the Sacco effort – but the latter IS repulsive because it equates Hebdo cartoons with those infamous Nazi images that directly attacked Jews in such a hateful manner.

  7. A creative satirist or commentator finds a way to reach out to those who still make the effort to think. That is how any such work should be judged. I believe that it is the improper actions & arbitrary claims of leaders, e.g., the clerics, that have to be exposed, not of their followers. Therefore, a more proper critique of the cartoonists would be to show their actions are unproductive.

    There was an excellent comment by a US Supreme Court Justice who said that legally prohibiting the expression of any disagreement will eventually lead to the digging of more graves. There can be no sorting out even between those who agree that such prohibitions should be enforced, e.g., between Shias and Sunnis.

  8. It seems as though Sacco hasn’t got a clue as to why currently satirists might be “tweaking the noses of Muslims” (his phrase) in the first place. Perhaps he fell out of a tree. Be that as it may, his work is done and all that is missing is a cartoon depicting him counting his money, all the while wondering why the world is this way.

  9. No one said the Hebdo cartoons were in good taste–that’s not the point. Even if you think they were horribly offensive and racist, how in the world can the Guardian in any way defend the murderous terrorism of the Islamists?

    The Guardian and its writers are a disgrace to decency and “journalism”.

  10. Two points that bother me and make me feel deeply uncomfortable:
    1) If someone maliciously and groundlessly (or just for amusement) calls out ‘FIRE!’ in a crowded cinema or theater or store and innocent people are killed in a stampede for the exits I think it highly unlikely that the person responsible could use the defense of ‘freedom of speech’ in any court in the US or most Western countries (and probably not in any country).
    If I was stupid enough to walk into a mosque or any crowd of male Muslims and shout abusive comments about Muhammad or shout abuse about Islam I know that I am most likely going to be killed, and since I know that, far from dying a heroic death, I would in effect be committing suicide for no useful reason. On the other hand a cartoonist or a satirist reaching a vast audience is not making a futile gesture if it strengthens freedom. At the moment I find this whole question one I cannot stop mentally wrestling with.

    2).Judaism prohibits Jews from engaging in needlessly dangerous actions to the self such as, for example, exploring unsafe ruins for fun that may collapse and kill you, or drinking water from streams in the dark in case you swallow a leech. I would have thought going into a mosque and abusing Muhammad was in the same category: it’s an action that could needlessly result in your death. Maimonides converted to Islam rather than sacrifice his family to Muslim killers, even though he claimed as soon as it was safe that such a conversion was not valid and he wasn’t a Muslim.

    Salman Rushdie publicly re-declared his Shia faith and confirmed the shahada in an attempt to get the fatwa lifted, but did not succeed and I suspect wasn’t believed by the thought police (who probably hadn’t read his satire anyway).

    • original moshe while I agree that anyone who shouts FIRE! in a crowded place of entertainment is not entitled to claim they were exercising their right to free speech.
      I would extend that to include this scenario.
      A play, or film, the contents of which I know beforehand will offend me does not give me the right to go into that cinema or theatre and start attempting to disrupt the performance or demonstrating in a way that affects others in that place of entertainment. If I have gone in there by accident and been offended then I should leave quietly, and perhaps attempt to get my ticket money back by explaining to the management why I was offended. Certainly I should not go back again, shouting and wailing and claim that I am exercising my ‘right to free speech’.
      Definitely I do not have the right to murder, the performers, writers, other members of the audience or the management because I claim I was offended.

      If a play or film offends you, don’t go to see it.
      If a magazine or newspaper offends you, don’t buy it again.
      If something on TV offends you, use the remote control or turn the set off.

      As for walking into a mosque or crowd of male Muslims, perhaps Labenal could explain if there is still a criminal offence in England and Wales of ‘action liable to cause a breach of the peace’, if there is then you have a) possibly broken the law, and b) been stupid. But that does not give anyone the right to kill you no matter how offensive, or stupid, you may have been.

      Before one of the usual suspects asks the obvious stupid question. I no longer buy “The Guardian” and have stopped reading the online version.

  11. Have read all the comments above . Like Labenal, I also have conflicts of thought in this matter . Its not black n white .[sic]. However what depresses me is the thousands , nay hundreds of thousands of anti semitic cartoons that emanate from the Islamic press , and that image by Sacco is just typical example he cites of the extreme gross images published .?
    Images and propaganda of hate and dehumanisation do influence people and are intended to . You can call it satire if one or 2 chuckle , but its hate nevertheless expressed through art . The correlations between the Arab anti Semitic cartoons and imagery and Nazi propaganda and imagery is quite developed and spiteful .
    Yet the journo’s over here again look at CH and issues of free press , whereas journos in the Arab world are government paid and sanctioned to practice anti Semitic imagery . Its just so disproportionate that it pisses me off .

  12. Economies of scale:
    While the tiny minority of Jews, before the Holocaust an estimated 12 millions, was and is in danger of extinction, a Muslim population of more than 1 milliard is nowhere near to such an erasure, on the contrary.
    Anybody who compares this is an antisemite or a seduced useful idiot per definition.