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Winter 2004
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Britzophrenia
Stefan Kanfer
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England’s two faces.

There are two Britains. Call it Britzophrenia. One mindset can be seen in the life and works of Winston Churchill, who was unafraid to call the enemy wicked, and who stood on principle, not fashion. Tony Blair follows in that tradition, steadfast in the face of English whining and imprecations, because he knows that to be craven in these times is to hand victory to the worst evil this earth has to offer in 2004.

Then there’s the other Britain. It is chillingly on display in an editorial cartoon by Dave Brown, an artist who works for the Independent, a paper of little distinction but wide influence. Brown thought it would be amusing to caricature Ariel Sharon consuming a Palestinian infant. He based his drawing on the savage Goya painting Saturn Devouring One of His Sons. Confronted with charges of anti-Semitism, Brown explained, “My cartoon was intended as a caricature of a specific person, Sharon, in the guise of a figure from classical myth who, I hoped, couldn’t be further from any Jewish stereotype.”

This was, of course, disingenuous. Brown’s caricature showed the head of the Jewish state nude, with an exaggerated nose and a wide-open maw. The balloon issuing from his mouth asked a question in what Brown must have imagined as a Yiddish intonation: “What’s wrong . . . you never seen a politician kissing babies before?” The drawing and its caption may not have pleased Blairites, but it certainly drew applause from Islamists—including in India, where Muslim demonstrators reproduced the cartoon on a protest poster. These folks were only too happy to view a Jew-baiting picture from a major Western newspaper.

To compound the outrage, the British Political Cartoon Society has just named Brown’s cartoon as the Best of the Year: take that, Yids! It’s worth noting that there has yet to be a cartoon anywhere in England showing another Arab baby in Israel. This one’s name: Bayan Jassem. The tiny Iraqi had a heart defect, and was recently flown to Israel—Sharon’s own Israel—where specialists cured him.

But never mind. Whatever Dave Brown writes or says on his own behalf calls to mind a story (perhaps apocryphal) about a craven Victorian anti-Semite. The nineteenth-century Jewish philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore was speaking to a man on a London street one day when a fellow Jew walked by. Montefiore’s companion made several ugly comments about the pronounced Jewish features of the passerby, before remembering to whom he was talking. The man had better manners than Dave Brown (but then, doesn’t everybody?): “I ask a thousand pardons,” he said to Montefiore. “You look angry enough to eat me. I beg you not to devour me.” Replied Montefiore: “Sir. It is impossible. My religion forbids.”

Brown can now return to his sty, award in hand. He’s had his oink, and it’s time for more enlightened (and more courageous) people to move on. Besides, the objects of Brown’s hatred have better things to do. Like saving lives—their own, and others. Britzophrenia notwithstanding.

 

 


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