Thursday, September 21

Letter to the Editor: Political commentary needs to be culturally sensitive, mindful


We are grateful that the Daily Bruin has apologized for the offensive editorial cartoon that ran in yesterday’s edition. As individuals, and in our organizational capacities, we have repeatedly emphasized the need for collective humility – to realize when we have hurt others, to show the courage to admit error and to manifest the integrity to make amends.

In a diverse culture, it’s presumptuous to think that we fully know and understand each other; accordingly, we should be mindful about misusing or maligning deeply held cultural or religious touchstones. As the Bruin noted in its apology, “it’s wrong to perpetuate harmful stereotypes – intentional or otherwise.”

We understand that political cartoons have a long history as an important means of political debate. Unfortunately, that history also includes times when editorial pages have descended into racist and anti-Semitic imagery. We can and must do better than that. Speech has consequences.

None of us would like core symbols of our identity appropriated or mocked, and we should be vigilant in objecting if it happens to others. In our fall message to the community, we called upon the campus to elevate the political discourse and reject cheap shots and caricature.

We renew that call today. As we pursue our political passions we must strive to do so without demeaning each other. Wielding the power of the pen carries with it also the responsibility to remember that words and images matter.

Kang is the vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Gorden is the interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

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  • Daniel Brooks

    When a cartoonist like this “crosses the line,” what usually gets lost is the poor intellectual integrity of the cartoonist’s point. There was no law legalizing the “seizing” of “any” Palestinian land.

    I bet if the cartoonist were asked to explain the law he was commenting on, he’d embarrass himself.

  • Cause and effect

    So will there be any repercussions for the creator of the cartoon and all parties at the Daily Bruin that approved its publishing? We all know that had this cartoon been about Muslims or African Americans or any other minority group, heads would be rolling. But of course, Jews are the eternal punching bag…

    • wolflen

      it seems its very PC to hate jews..notice the top brass at UCLA and other schools just give lip service to such actions..if the administration had any balls they would fine the artist and shut down the paper for a period of time to reflect on “freedom of the press” vs outright publishing of hatred at a public university..the artist states he stand by his work..apparently he is proud to hate jews..and with the smug attitude..”do something about it!..”

    • WillieStargell8

      Why is a valid challenge to illegal and provocative settlements that are acknowledged even by the current administration to be an obstacle to peace labeled anti-Semitic? The Ten Commandments is not per se only a Jewish sacred text, and in any event, the cartoon was not desecrating it or calling its fundamental principles into question. Rather, it was applying one of the commandments to sharply point out the offense the settlements represent to the Palestinian people. I have yet to hear or read a cogent argument as to why the cartoon was anti-Semitic.

      • ModernMaccabi

        I wonder what the reaction would be if the Daily Bruin posted a cartoon of the Quran and a terrorist. Do you think it would be okay? Or would people be upset and condemn it as bigoted? Just some food for thought.

        • WillieStargell8

          Fair question. I would hope that if the cartoon quoted a passage from the Quran that a terrorist was violating or violated, it would actually be welcome and an indication that, contrary to the current administration’s provocations, there is a distinction between “radical Islamic terrorism” and sincere followers of the Quran.

          • ModernMaccabi

            I think that hypothetical cartoon would be inappropriate and offensive to many people because it would infer that followers of Islam are somehow complicit or responsible for the actions taken by a few extremists. Much like many Jews would be offended at being grouped together with Netanyahu and the Israeli government. Also, I should point out that I’m not necessarily against the cartoon in general or others like it. But given that it is a college newspaper on a campus where Jewish students have recently been subjected to discrimination, abuse and intimidation, publishing a cartoon like this wasn’t the best editorial decision. Especially in this day and age where college students talk about “safe spaces” and the such for other minority groups.

          • WillieStargell8

            That strikes me as a tenuous series of connections, wherein only Jews identify with the Ten Commandments and thus are tarred with the Israeli settlement policy. There is no need to conflate criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism, and a reasonable interpretation of the cartoon in question is invocation of the Ten Commandments– not a group that identifies with that bedrock — as a somewhat blunt hammer pummeling the settlement policy. No reason to view the Ten Cs as the Jews as attacker or attackee.

          • ModernMaccabi

            No reason? It was intended as a direct commentary on the leader of the world’s only Jewish state. Come on, you can’t be serious.

          • WillieStargell8

            A commentary on the policy adopted and increasingly aggressively implemented by that leader. The policy is Israeli, not Jewish. And the leader is not the spokesman for all Jews in the world.

          • ModernMaccabi

            The 10 Commandments are a religious symbol, not a political symbol. And using them in the cartoon implies that he is the representative of the Jewish people. At least to some. You just don’t see it for some reason. The Daily Bruin could have made a strong commentary without bringing religion into the discussion.

          • WillieStargell8

            I don’t agree that the criticism of Netanyahu via the Ten Commandments — yes, a religious text honored by Christians and Jews and probably other faiths in similar forms — is a criticism of him as a representative of the Jewish people. He is an Israeli leader, and yes, of course in a sense he’s a Jewish world leader. But when he is bellicose, and supports Trump and tries to embarrass Obama and builds walls and promotes illegal and provocative settlements that harm the chances for peace, I don’t view him as doing those things on behalf of Jews, only on behalf of Israel (at most). Those acts are political, every one. And the act of theft and characterization of the act as theft in this case are also political ones. You have to choose to see this as a religious slur and then proceed to be offended, because Netanyahu is fundamentally an Israeli political figure advancing his policies as an Israeli leader, not on behalf of Jews as a people. If it were otherwise, how could anyone criticize Netanyahu’s actions at all without being labeled anti-Semitic? The criticism of Bibi by invocation of the Ten Commandments, or for that matter, any moral Jewish text — and I’m sure there are many one could point to — has bite, and that’s why the cartoonist invoked it. But “bite” is not the same thing as offense or anti-religion or anti-ethnicity. Yes, the reason it has bite is that Bibi is bound as a Jew to follow the Ten Commandments and that declared failure is meant to cast aspersion, and yes has a moral character. But there’s a strong argument for the opposite of your view: that invocation of the Ten Cs is upholding what Jews are supposed to believe in and mostly do believe in, but Bibi as leader of the Israelis has not lived up to that sacred and honorable commandment that all Jews hold dear. He’s failed in his role as a political leader, but that doesn’t reflect on Jews as a people. If someone is accused of violation of a religious code, that doesn’t make the accuser a hater of that code, or of the proponents or originators of that code.

  • Brownstudent

    Seems like UCLA students and faculty have had to apologize for anti-Semitism a lot lately. Hopefully Jewish students and parents will think twice before attending this school.

  • Deborah Nagano

    You try to be culturally sensitive to everyone except Jews. My son is an alumnus of UCLA and I am an alumna of UCB. Neither school will ever see one damn dime from me and I hope all Jewish alumni do the same.

  • Edward Devotion

    Lofty sentiments that obscure the reality. Time to stop pretending not to know who creates the division that exists on the campus of UCLA and other universities where there is a hostile environment against those that don’t toe the “social justice” line.

  • marcywinograd

    I support the Daily Bruin’s decision to exercise its First Amendment rights and publish the cartoon. It was not anti-Semitic but a political criticism of an Israeli leader and his policies. It’s wrong to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. In fact, the cartoon suggests it is Netanyahu who is betraying Jewish values by disgracing the Ten Commandments, biblical values that are embraced by multiple religions. Policing legitimate political speech is anathema to a free and democratic society, which rests on the ability to dissent. The First Amendment was born our of raucous public debate about nationhood, not bland book club chatter among those who all think alike. As a UCLA alum, It’s painful and embarrassing to read public apologies for engaging in provocative discourse and for challenging settlement annexation that sanctions the stealing of Palestinian land to build settlements. I encourage the Daily Bruin staff and university chancellors to encourage, not discourage, free speech and critical thinking at UCLA. If anyone is owed an apology, it is the cartoonist for speaking the truth.

  • WillieStargell8

    People point to scripture and other religious texts — old Testament and new, Koran, Talmud, and more — all the time to make their political and social points. If they use those sacred texts to criticize an Israeli or Palestinian or Vatican leader, that doesn’t make the critic an anti-Semite, anti-Christian, or anti-Palestinian. All can assess whether the criticism is valid or consistent with the text relied upon, but just because a cartoonist used the Ten Commandments to criticize Netanyahu’s bellicosity and insensitivity to Palestinian perspectives doesn’t make that cartoonist, or anyone who publishes the cartoon — an anti-Semite. This wasn’t an example of a cartoonist ridiculing or disgracing through vulgar or profane caricatures or distortions the sacred figures of a religion, e.g., Moses, Jesus, Muhammad — though even that would be protected speech. One can and should debate whether a particular cartoon or other sociopolitical statement is appropriate, fair, offensive — and cartoons are of necessity shorthand statements with much left to the eye of the beholder. I don’t see how this cartoon crosses the line from pointed or robust criticism to “hate speech.”

  • marcywinograd

    Cause and effect, Wolflen, Daniel, what are you suggesting? That one of the greatest universities in the world suppress First Amendment rights or ban timely criticism of a political leader? Think about that for a minute; a college campus where political debate if off the table and only those who espouse the status quo, however cruel, are allowed to speak. Such a dystopian proposal would guarantee an assemblage of robots. The cartoon is an intelligent thought-provoking commentary on the retroactive legalization of grand theft, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes to make way for settlements. If you support Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, if you cheered for the 600,000 or so settlers who seized stolen land in the West Bank or East Jerusalem, or if you want to advocate for annexation of the entire West Bank, speak your mind, sirs, but don’t try to shut down debate by conflating political commentary with anti-Semitism. Those reading this should know there is a diversity of opinion in the Jewish community, and some of us support equal rights for all.

    • wolflen

      marcy..Im sure you are a nice person who does not hate entire groups of people because of their political beliefs .. but the “school newspaper” is NOT a free press–it is a taxpayer funded enterprise..it does not have “editorial control” of its contents..that is it is not a “loose cannon” .. its overseers are the university admins..and they allow a lot of extreme points of view..much of it from the far left..not my opinion..its what they print..read the paper..if the paper prints a POV that is against any group/country etc is has approval of the admins..to not see this is thinking “the Bruin” is akin to the NYTimes..hmm..and in some ways it is…
      .
      your support for “Palestine” is ideal at best..as their position is the total elimination of Israel..which is a bit more radical than building a settlement on their own land..where is the state of Palestine that the “two state solution” is to provide for..this “war” will not be settled around a table or a tank..as long as there is an Israel..there will be those that hate it and want it destroyed..then pro-palestine fans can say..”oh well..I guess the land is ours now..”

  • Ross

    Someone once said, “anti-Semitism used to be about people who hated Jews, but now it’s about who Jews hate.” This is the perfect example. All the polls have shown for years that Israel is less and less popular amongst Jews in the U.S., and that the younger the Jewish demographic the more critical of Israel Jews in the U.S. are. There is a very good reason for that: they myth of a lovely little Jewish country just trying to survive as a democratic state being menaced by Arab dictators and terrorists has given way to the reality that is very different. That reality shows a colonial settler state that has viciously displaced and dispossessed an indigenous people. As an American Jew, it took me over 50 years to wake up to the fact I had been brainwashed in a liberal synagogue and household, with the strong inculcation of a biased media to believe in this fantasy of “poor little Israel”, the “only democracy in the Middle East”. Now that the truth is out, the argument gets shifted by those defending the indefensible to a crude level of accusing critics– including Jewish critics, of anti-Semitism for one reason: Israel’s defenders do not have the facts to back up their argument. I challenge anyone who goes to the West Bank or the Gaza strip to tell me that is the working of a democratic state or of “Jewish values”. Rubbish! That is a Jim Crow segregation as ugly and deadly as Mississippi was in 1950 or 1900. So when you hear the slur, “anti-Semitic”, know that’s because they have no other argument. To censure the obvious political act of criticizing a political entity such as Israel and conflate that with anti-Jewish sentiment is cowardice abetted by ignorance.

  • ModernMaccabi

    This post by “Jane Jewell” is so full of lies I don’t even know where to start! No, Holocaust survivors were not EVER “carted off to Israel (then *BRITISH Mandate Palestine) against their will.” Likewise, the U.S. government refused to take many of the Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. It was not the Zionists. The bottom line is you are a bigot and a liar who has the temerity to come to this page and spread your hatred. Disgusting.

  • Joel Thorne

    History Lesson: “Palestine” originated as a Roman name imposed on Jews and their land, Israel, about 2000 years ago, reflecting the Jewish heritage and history of the land. Additionally, Jews were first called “Palestinians” by the British who coined the term.

    Your fake flag of “palestine” is merely a modified flag of Jordan, another British creation.