Letter: In a muddle over anti-Semitic attacks

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The Independent Online
Sir: Conor Cruise O'Brien engages in some very muddy thinking in his column inspired by the recent 'Jewrassic Park' cartoon in the Irish Times ('Is anti-Semitism beyond a joke?' 20 August). First, he seems not to have even really looked at the cartoon. It does not show 'large, carnivorous dinosaurs in hot pursuit of small grass-eating quadrupeds', but one dinosaur - Israeli helmet flying - in hot pursuit of a fleeing group of two-legged human figures.

Second, while he rightly acknowledges the distinction between being anti-Semitic (or anti-Jewish) and being anti-Israel, he then surrenders that notion after asserting that failure 'to observe the existence of an overlap' between the two categories would be 'nave'.

To his mind, the appropriateness of criticising 'this or that action of Israel' is little more than a thin cover for anti-Semitism. The Irish Times cartoon, he writes, 'may' have had 'a touch of unconscious anti-Semitism' because it showed 'predators in pursuit of harmless prey' when Israel's attack in south Lebanon was simply 'retaliation for bombardments from Lebanese territory'. But what prompted those bombardments? He ignores the long history of the conflict, and illustrates his case with a ludicrous parallel scenario of IRA bombardments from Dublin of Bristol and Cardiff.

Mr O'Brien is thought-provoking when he discusses the portrayal of Jews in cartoons through 16 centuries. But he again muddies the waters in his warning to modern cartoonists to consider whether they would wish their work to hang in the 'enormous grisly gallery' of race hate. They should have no worry if their cartoons, like the 'Jewrassic Park' one, are critical of the political entity that is the state of Israel and not the people who are Jews.

Yours sincerely,

MARYANN BIRD

London, N4

20 August

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