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Cartoon Wars Rage On!

by Norwegian Chef Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:55:37 AM EST

Over the last few weeks the saga of the Islamic cartoons has bubbled quietly under the main radar screens.  Here are a few main items.

Harpers Magazine famous for political commentary satire and cartoons published the 12 Danish cartoons in its June edition in an article by famous American cartoonist Art Spiegelman.  He uses a "fatwa bomb meter" to rate their offensiveness.  A good article about the publication in Harpers can be found here in the Sydney Morning Herald.


Another University newspaper also published the cartoons to little reaction.  After publishing the cartoons in The Courier student newspaper of the Dupage College, Illinois, most of the copies were stolen.  The story can be found here.

Thus after hardly any noticeable publication of the cartoons in April, there seems to be some recurrence in May.

Over in Yemen where 2 of the editors are still in jail and one still in hiding, the trials continue to be postponed.  The main trial of Mohammed Al-Asadi, Editor in Chief of the Yemen Observer, continues on Wednesday May 24. See article here.

Meanwhile the Yemen Observer itself plagued with the withdrawal of so many advertisers is facing tough economic times.  This is crystalised the following article:

Yemen Observer and the Storm

It is not easy to run a newspaper in Yemen, especially if your dreams are that you want to be professional.
The Yemen Observer was first established in 1996, and ever since has been trying to stand against different storms and challenges that vary in strength, length and effects. The mightiest of all was the three-month compulsory closure.
The reputation created against us in the official media by the Ministry of Information was that we insulted the Prophet (PBUH).
These alarming damages have caused us the loss of many of our advertisers. Those reasons and many others are now hindering  our success realized in the past few years. We have been proudly the main source of news from Yemen in English, and major online search engines like Google and Yahoo syndicate news from our website on their news pages. Wherever you search for Yemen, Observer stories and links pop up.
Admittedly, we have had a hard time printing the newspaper on time. One of the major reasons is that the printing house has doubled the cost of printing by almost 75%. They have also made tough conditions to continue printing for us. Those conditions mean "Go Away!"
We had long and heated discussions among the senior decision-makers of the newspaper on how to tackle the issue. A final decision was made, in accordance with the demand of the market and, in particularly, the demands of the advertisers.
The size, shape and papers are now changed, but we can assure our readers that the level of quality will remain as high as possible. We also plan to continue developing innovative ideas to improve further.
We have been working hard to realize our mission -  to be the link between the reader and the news, reporting events when and where they occur  - or when we get access to them, given that access to information in Yemen is extremely difficult.
It is an obligation to continue the Yemen Observer's mission of providing exclusive news and presenting facts objectively in a professional manner.
The ordeal of the Yemen Observer is still pending, and little progress has been made. However, we are able to print the newspaper after a decision was made by the Prime Minister on May 2, in which he cancelled the illegal action taken against us by the Ministry of Information on February 8.
It had been a tough time that we went through during the past three months. It is still tough now. While we are allowed to reprint the newspaper now, there are fears that obstacles will grow ever further.
We believe in our mission and we will adhere to the principles of the Yemen Observer.
If the Observer is forced to close, it will be Yemen that will lose.
We don't want a Yemen without the Observer. Let's all wish so.

Meanwhile in other parts of Europe two new cartoon controversies arose.

The first is between Bulgaria and Libya over the never ending situation of the Bulgarian health workers arrested in Libya.  The Bulgarian daily Novinar published 12 cartoons caricaturing  Libya and President Qadaffi.  One showed Qadaffi as a devil.  This resulted in a fiery retort from the Government in Tripoli.  The Libyan Foreign Ministry summoned the Bulgarian ambassador and warned that such provocations could have consequences.  Bulgarian officials denounced the cartoons in an effort to protect the imprisoned health workers.  A good article can be found here in the International Herald Tribune.  This horrible situation with the imprisoned medical workers just seems to never end.  Hopefully for their sakes, some conclusion will be reached soon.

Another row occurred between Italy and Israel. A cartoon was printed in daily paper of the Refounded Communist Party Liberazione on May 12 depicting the entrance to the Palestinian occupied territories just as Auschwitz extermination camp's gate. In the image the separation fence was accompanied by the sign "Hunger liberates".  The drawing provoked the harsh reaction of Israeli ambassador to Italy Ehud Gol along with that of the representatives of the Italian Jewish communities.   The incident was followed with grave desecrations the next day in a Jewish cemetery in Rome and the burning of Israeli flags at a Liberation Day rally in Milan.  Romano Prodi later apologised for the flag burnings.  A good article on the cartoon row can be found here in the Editor's Weblog.

These incidents helped prompt a raft of commentaries about the Mid-East policy of the new Prodi Government.  However the newly appointed Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, a former Communist who was Italian premier in 1998-2000, outlined a centrist policy for Israel and Palestine in line with most European Union Members. A good article on the new policy can be found here and here from Reuters.  However many Israeli conservatives are sceptical as this article from Ynet News notes.  See also this article also from YNet News.

Personally despite the wide variations of feeling within his coalition, I feel Prodi's intellect and diplomatic skills and that of his senior team will allow Italy to play a much more heightened constructive and balanced roll in the Middle East unlike his highly unconstructive predecessor.

Finally the student paper, The Insurgent at the University of Oregon my own alma mater has sparked a major national controversy published a series of cartoons about Jesus, many of which are quite full-on pornographic.  Fox News and Bill O'Reilley himself took offence.

In response to Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly's charge that University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer is "a disgrace" and "a coward who needs to be fired," Frohnmayer shot back, "Being called names by him is like being called ugly by a frog."

The Eugene Register Guard has a good commentary on the issue here.  Also a good article in the Oregonian here.  The Nashville City Paper headlined, "Outrage now a national hobby".

Such is a few weeks in the cartoon wars that wage on across the globe.

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The incident has even weirder ripples.

Gilad Atzmon reports:

More than two months ago, following the cartoon scandal and the outrage of the Muslim world that ensued, a group of Israelis announced their own anti-Jewish cartoons contest. At the time, they received very wide coverage in the Israeli media and Jewish supportive press around the world. At the end of the day, the Israelis in particular, and Jews in general, insist on being 'seen' as open-minded beings, people who can easily handle self-mockery.

The contest is now over. More than a few cartoons were submitted from around the world, many of them made by Jews and Israelis. Most of the cartoons are hilariously vicious, but -- how can one put it -- the Jewish and the Israeli media are now far less enthusiastic about the entire issue of self-mockery. Two out of the four jurists (Art Spiegelman and Amos Biderman) were quick to distance themselves from the contest, dismissing the submissions as disappointing, low quality work. While Spiegelman suggested that the cartoons were "frightening for being too real, lack any sense of irony, and look very much like genuine Anti-Semitic cartoons," Biderman insisted that the illustrations are not funny at all and fall into the category of "letting the shit hit the fan."

Atzmon goes on to critique the cartoons and discuss the themes they covered, and to speculate about the degree of alienation and betrayal that they may represent in the current generation of progressive Jews worldwide, when they consider the current state of Israeli politics, the Occupation, etc.

This has to be one of the stranger spinoffs of l'Affaire des Toons so far.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 08:07:14 PM EST


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