To the editors:
The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists stands behind the Daily Bruin for publishing the February 13th cartoon about Israeli settlements. However, we protest its subsequent decision to pull the cartoon and apologize for having run it. The imagery your cartoonist, Felipe Abejon, used was well within the traditions of editorial cartooning in the United States.
American cartoonists drawing about the activities of religious groups have often depicted members of those groups betraying the tenets of their faiths. Cartoonists have drawn cartoons with Jesus dragging an electric chair up Calvary Hill to protest the death penalty. To protest terrorist attacks, they have drawn cartoons with Muslims committing acts of violence in the name of their “religion of peace.” Depicting Benjamin Netanyahu (in, by the way, an excellent caricature) breaking one of the Ten Commandments is not anti-Semitic. The depiction is anti-Netanyahu’s settlement policy. You can say the cartoonist is wrong in his opinion but not anti-Semitic for having held that opinion—one shared by many.
American cartoonists are not alone in defending this cartoon. According to Israeli cartoonist and member of Cartooning for Peace, a partner of the AAEC, Michel Kichka:
"Felipe Bris Abejon’s cartoon is not an anti-Semitic drawing. Using the Tables of the Law, a world-famous icon from the Old Testament, is a right choice for a cartoonist who seeks to achieve a strong effect using a universal image. While I don’t agree with the punch line, it doesn’t make Abejon an anti-Semitic cartoonist—Just someone who doesn’t like the politics of the Israeli government and its prime minister.”
Before the Daily Bruin gives all religions blanket protection from criticism for irreligious actions, we suggest you invite some working cartoonists to address free speech and graphic art. We can provide images that have provoked outraged reactions and then sparked deep discussion of a variety of controversies. Cartoons can be the start of discussion, not the end, but only if people have a chance to see them.
We believe the Daily Bruin should do its part and publish tough opinions, whether written or drawn, on all sides of controversial issues. UCLA students are strong enough and smart enough to see controversial images and judge them for themselves.
The Board of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists,
Ann Telnaes, President