Powered byWebtrack Logo


Leunig silent on racist cartoon competition

It is, of course, a terrible thing that someone submitted the Michael Leunig cartoon, which I had refused to publish when I was editor of The Age, to the worldwide Holocaust cartoon competition run by an Iranian newspaper.

Whoever did this did a very bad thing indeed, and if what was done is against the law that person should be prosecuted. I can understand Michael Leunig's dismay.

Beyond the fact that someone pretended to be him and entered this cartoon - his cartoon - in a cartoon competition, what I'm not sure of is just what he was dismayed about.

In an article in yesterday's Age, Leunig is quoted as saying that he has "gotten used to dirty tricks, dirty tactics from the pro-war lobbyists".

"They want it proclaimed for all to see that Leunig is a friend of Muslim terrorists. They want to distort my position," he is quoted as saying.

Well maybe, though the Iranian Holocaust cartoon competition is a response, according to the editor of the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri, the country's top-selling paper, to the publication by a Danish newspaper last September of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Just how this is a "pro-war lobby" issue is not at all clear.

What is clear is that the editors at the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, who published the cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, are not Jews, nor, as far as I know, are the editors of the other European papers that published them. Nevertheless, the Iranian "journalists" decided that a good tit-for-tat response was a Holocaust cartoon competition.

And they must have thought they had landed in heaven - is it OK to say that? - when they received what they thought was an entry from far-away Australia where a renowned cartoonist had been censored by a Jewish editor nearly four years ago. And censored over what? A cartoon that clearly drew a parallel between Israel's treatment of Palestinians and the treatment of Jews at Auschwitz.

The Jew done the censoring. The fact that I am a Jew would no doubt have confirmed for the Iranian "journalists" who have set up this competition that even in Australia, the crafty Jews run the show.

It is, of course, just a happy coincidence that this view coincides, indeed reinforces, the brave stand of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has fearlessly asserted that the Holocaust is a myth cooked up by the Jews to justify the establishment of the state of Israel, which, God willing, will soon be destroyed.

It is a coincidence because no doubt Hamshahri is free to publish whatever it chooses because in Iran under the Ahmadinejad regime, freedom of speech is a basic right. Right.

In the article published in The Age, Leunig says nothing at all about this competition, how vile it is, how racist, how it shocked him that anyone would ever think that he would have anything to do with such an outrageous campaign.

The journalist who interviewed Leunig characterises the competition as one designed to "find a cartoon on the Holocaust insulting to Jews". This is a downright depressing way to characterise this competition, for it isn't a "Jewish" issue, a matter that concerns only Jews, just as any form of racism is not just an offence against the people against whom it is directed.

But there is nothing from Leunig on all this, not even a moment's reflection on the fact that the competition's organisers thought his cartoon - which is not a hoax - was a perfectly fine entry for this racist exercise.

Indeed, Leunig goes out of his way to praise the Iranians who were "courteously apologising, they had been co-operative. They cared."

Nothing on the competition and his shock that people could think he'd take part in something like this. Instead, there is his victimhood, the fact that people have been nasty to him, that "pro-war lobbyists" have made his life miserable and he has had "a gutful of hostility and hate mail all because I have resisted the rise of fascism - the idea of war".

Frankly, it is beyond belief that Leunig does not understand that his cartoons, in which he excoriates "pro-war lobbyists", and often any other people who do not share his view on the "rise of fascism", are inevitably going to draw passionate responses - from people, incidentally, who do not have Leunig's public platform and public support.

Leunig is a renowned and celebrated cartoonist, as well paid as any cartoonist, or journalist for that matter, in Australia. He is loved by many many people who consider him a genuine Australian genius. So this sense of victimhood can be hard to understand. And take.

If Leunig needs an example of someone who has paid a real price for journalistic bravery, who is a real victim, he should consider the case of the Jordanian editor who ran one of the least offensive of the prophet Muhammad cartoons to give his readers a sense of what is causing the outrage and who now sits in a Jordanian jail unsure of the charges against him or the prison term that he faces.

# reads: 612

Printable version