We would also like to draw your attention to another article on anti-Semitic cartoons:
Jew-Hatred in Contemporary Norwegian Caricatures.
No. 21 1 June 2004 / 12 Sivan 5764
Major Anti-Semitic Motifs in Arab Cartoons
An Interview with Joël Kotek
The main recurrent motif in Arab cartoons concerning Israel is "the devilish Jew." This image conveys the idea that Jews behave like Nazis, kill children and love blood. The similarity with themes promulgated by the Nazis is evident. Many Arab cartoons praise suicide bombing or call for murder. The collective image of the Jews thus projected lays the groundwork for a possible genocide.
A caricature may have as much influence on public opinion as an editorial.
Palestinian cartoonists often place emphasis on the anti-Semitic accusation of "ritual murder" of children. This is underscored by their claim that Israelis target Palestinian children. To dehumanize Jews, Arab cartoonists often depict them as malevolent creatures: spiders, vampires or octopuses.
Several Arab hate motifs also have permeated Western society as they resonate with
the long-standing anti-Semitic prejudices of the Christian world.
"The collective image of the Jews created by Arab cartoons lays the groundwork for a possibility of genocide. My collection of Arab caricatures demonstrates this. One can argue about whether these genocidal ideas are conscious or subconscious. My view is that they are still at the subconscious stage."
Dr. Joël Kotek, a political scientist at the Free University of Brussels, searched the
Internet daily for anti-Semitic cartoons in the Arab media for over two and a half years
and found about 2,000. Even an initial superficial analysis revealed that the cartoons
not only targeted Israel, but were aimed at all Jews. His subsequent research resulted in
a book co-authored with his brother Dan Kotek. Published in French, its title translates
as In the name of anti-Semitism: The image of the Jews and Israel in the caricature since
the second Intifada.1
In a world where image plays a central role, the cartoon, Kotek stresses, has become
a popular and efficient means of communication. A caricature may have as much influence
on public opinion as an editorial.
The visual impact of these drawings is further strengthened by the fact that many Arab cartoonists are quite gifted illustrators.
Kotek says: "The main recurrent theme in these cartoons is 'the devilish Jew.' By
extension, this image suggests that the Jewish religion must be diabolic, and the entire
Jewish people evil. I even found a Greek Orthodox cartoonist of Lebanese origin, who
conveys the message that the Jewish religion has caused the State of Israel to be so 'evil.'
The cartoons convey the idea that Jews behave like Nazis, leading readers to conclude that the only logical solution is their elimination. As the Arab world is becoming increasingly convinced of these ideas, they have no inhibitions showing them on a multitude of websites."
Ten Major Themes
Several hundred Arab cartoons from Kotek's collection are categorized according to ten anti-Semitic themes in his book: "The first theme is based on the oldest anti-Semitic motif, demonization of the Jew. In the Islamic world the Jew's status - like that of Christians - is that of a dhimmi, a second-class citizen.
"Israel, an entire state of these 'inferior creatures,' has
won military victories against the Arab world. By their logic,
this was only possible, they believe, because Jews are 'satanic
beings.' In the cartoons I collected, the Jew is depicted as
inhuman and an enemy of humanity. This dehumanization
is necessary to justify the hoped for elimination.
"On 28 December 1999 - well before the second
Palestinian uprising - Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official
Palestinian Authority journal, published a cartoon expressing
this core idea. It depicted an old man in a djellaba,
symbolizing the twentieth century, taking leave of a young
man wearing a tee-shirt symbolizing the twenty-first
century. In between them stood a small Jew with a Star of
David on his breast, above which an arrow pointed to him
saying, 'the illness of the century.'2
"A few months later on 22 March 2000, the same journal
ran another cartoon showing a large Pope talking to a small
Jew with the skin, feet, and tail of an animal, and a big hooked
nose, wearing a kippa. The Pope exclaimed 'Peace on Earth'
while the Satanic-looking Jew calls out 'Colonies on Earth.'"3
A second central theme in the cartoons Kotek has
collected is the Jew as a murderer of God. "This is originally
a Christian motif. Bernard Lewis has shown how this theme
had been appropriated by the Islamic world. This
representation serves in efforts to obtain the sympathy of
some Christians by adapting one of their central myths.
"Lewis said that the first manifestations of anti-Semitism
in the Middle East originated among Christian
minorities there who were inspired by Europeans. These ideas
initially had only a limited impact. The poison spread after
1933, when Nazi Germany promoted hatred of the Jews in
the Arab world. Thereafter, the Palestinian conflict enabled
the diffusion of an anti-Semitic interpretation of history.4
"In the Muslim worldview one cannot kill God, but can
wound Him. Their discourse says that not only did the Jews
betray Mohammed, but before that, they had turned Jesus
- a prophet, according to Islam - into a martyr. In a
dangerous mutation, Islamic anti-Semitism says, as if it were
to the Christians, that the Jews treat Palestine as they treated
Christ. In this way they transform the story's main characters:
the Israelis have become the Romans and Jesus has become
"Whenever there is a report from Bethlehem, the Israeli
soldiers are depicted by Arab cartoonists as Romans, while
Bethlehem is described as Christ's birthplace. In the Islamic
world the motif of the Jews wounding the prophet is not
ancient. Its inventors are Christian Arabs in the 1980s."
Israel as a Nazi State
"The third motif in these cartoons is Israel as a Nazi
state. This is based on two contradictory allegations, which
the Islamists try to reconcile. Their first claim is that the
Shoah never happened. Their second contention is that if it
did, it has caused more damage to the Palestinians because
they believe they are being treated worse than the Nazis
treated the Jews.
"Long before Sharon came to power, the theme of the
Israeli as a Nazi was well-represented in the Arab caricature.
According to it, all Zionists from Peres and Barak to Sharon
are inspired by Nazi methods. The paradox is quite evident
if one remembers the Arab sympathies for the Nazis during
the Second World War. After the war many Arab intellectuals denied the crimes the Nazis committed during the Holocaust.
These were rarely denounced.
"A cartoon in the Egyptian Al-Akhbar shows Barak
dressed as a Nazi with a Hitler moustache, blood dripping
from his hands.5 In another caricature in the Egyptian daily
Al Goumhouriya from 1996, Hitler is shown wearing a
swastika band on his arm, while telling Shimon Peres,
wearing a Star of David band on his arm: 'I made a mistake
by not understanding the importance of American support.'6
"A 1993 cartoon in the Syrian daily Teshreen shows
one soldier with a Star of David on his helmet and another
with a swastika on his helmet. The caption reads: 'The
Security Council has studied the case of genocide of the
Palestinians.' The long list is of Israeli crimes; the small list
of Nazi crimes.7 In the Lebanese Daily Star in 2000, four
consecutive drawings show how Sharon, with a Star of David
on his lapel, becomes Hitler with a moustache, and on his
lapel, a swastika. The cartoonist Jabra Stavro, born in Beirut,
has won many prizes."8
Kotek says: "The fourth motif - zoomorphism - is a
very common theme throughout the world. To abuse one's
adversaries, one dehumanizes them by turning them into
animals. In Nazi, Soviet and Romanian caricatures, the Jew
is often depicted as a spider, perceived as an evil animal.
Stavro in the Daily Star portrays Barak, with a Star of David
on his breast, as a spider interrupting the peace process.9
"The two other predominant anti-Semitic zoomorphic
motifs are the blood-thirsty vampire and the octopus. The
vampire image is a classic theme used by anti-Semites. I
have not found any other people besides the Jews
represented as such. This genocide-preparing design
originates in Christian imagination.
"Another caricature by Stavro in the Daily Star of 23
October 2000, depicted a spider with a Star of David on its
body and the head of Ehud Barak in a web on which the
word 'war' is written many times. A cartoon in the weekly
La Revue du Liban shows an octopus with the Star of David
on its body, its tentacles strangling Fatah, Jihad and Hamas.
This is another cartoon by Stavro.10
"The Arab cartoonists often follow the Nazis as far as
the bestial representation of the Jews is concerned. The
messages transmitted are that the Jews are destructive,
inhuman and evil. In 1934 a Nazi cartoonist drew an octopus
with a Star of David whose tentacles covered the globe.11 A
2002 cartoon from Russia shows a Star of David with
America throwing coins on it. The star then mutates into an
octopus with rockets and planes in its tentacles.12
Snakes, Pigs and Cockroaches
"Occasionally, other animals are used to dehumanize
the Jews. Emad Hajjaj, a well-known Ramallah-born
cartoonist living in Jordan, designed a two-headed snake
with Stars of David on its body, depicting the heads of Sharon
and Barak.13 The cartoon's message is simple: these persons
are two faces of the same monstrosity. It was published in
the Jordanian daily Al Dustour.
"Sometimes one also finds pigs representing the Jew
in contemporary Arab cartoons. This classic dehumanizing
motif has its origins in the Middle Ages, though everybody
knew that the pig was a forbidden animal to the Jews.
“This approach of zoomorphism exists in every culture
and has cultural specifics. The snake is used by almost
everybody. It appeared very often in French caricatures about
the Germans before the Second World War and vice versa.
The Hutus in Africa consider the Tutsis cockroaches.
"In the Israeli press one rarely finds cartoons depicting
Arabs as animals. In such instances, they do not appear in
mainstream papers but originate from extremist bodies such
as the forbidden Kach movement or the Women in Green.
These occasionally present Arafat as a pig or snake."14
"Masters of the world"
"The fifth anti-Semitic motif in Arab cartoons echoes
the classic conspiracy theme, that 'the Jews control the world.'
This explains Arab thought as to why they have not been able
to win against these people. Before 1967, the classic theme -
also in the Soviet world - was that the Israelis were the aircraft
carrier of the United States in the Middle East.
"Today the opposite idea is depicted. Israel's opponents
allege that the Jews dominate the United States. By
implication, they also claim that the Jews are the 'masters
of the world' - a classic conspiracy theme exploited by the
Nazis. For the communists, the Jews were the bourgeoisie
and the capitalists; for the Nazis they represented the
essence of capitalism.
"Many Arabs wonder why the United States supports
Israel rather than their own cause. They find this mysterious and have developed a simple response: The Jews dominate
the world. As the Arab world is in a rather poor state, they
claim that its masters, i.e., the Jews, are the cause of their
problems. This motif is identical to that exemplified in the
Russian Czarist falsification of the Protocols of the Elders of
Zion. Thus, subconsciously, they want to get rid of these
'evil conspirators.' In the caricatures Israelis are rarely shown.
When they are, they are often represented as ultra-orthodox
Jews, which is another absurdity.
"The gifted American caricaturist of Algerian origin,
Bendib, designed a monkey with a Star of David on its breast
sitting on top of the globe on which small figures of the
Pope and an Arab are drawn. The monkey says: 'Jerusalem:
from New York City to Kuala Lumpur, undivided, eternal
capital of Israel; everything else is negotiable.'15 In this
cartoon the domination motif is thus combined with that
The Jew, a Corrupting Force
"The sixth recurring anti-Semitic motif is that of the
Jew as a corrupting force. This is a derivative of the theme
that Jews dominate the world with their money. Arab anti-Semites
allege U.S. presidents are linked to Jewish banks
and other Jewish money. What the Arabs forget in the
caricatures is that George W. Bush was their candidate in
the last American elections. Most Jews, who are liberals
and thus Democrats, voted for Al Gore. Jews also supported
Clinton. In the perception of the cartoonist, however,
everything becomes possible.
"Bendib draws God holding a fat bag of dollars. On it
the names of major Jewish organizations are written:
'ADL, AIPAC, ZOA.' God outstretches his hand to Bush, who
slaughters a child on the altar of the Holyland Foundation
for needy Muslim children. The caption reads: 'And the
Almighty dollar [represented by God] said: "Sacrifice me, a
Muslim son, or else." And George the W. said "You've got it
Lord, if this improves my chances for a second term."'16
"A caricature in Teshreen shows bearded Jews with
sidelocks and a bag stepping on Hitler to access an open
safe filled with money on which is written: 'U.S.' The
Holocaust is thus introduced as a motif of blackmail in order
to extract money."17
Blood Libel Motif
"Yet another major theme in Arab cartoons is the bloodloving
or blood-thirsty Jew. This originates in Christian anti-Semitism.
The Christian anti-Semitic libel alleged the Jews
needed Christian blood for their Passover service. Its claim
is that the Jew is evil, as his religion forces him to drink
blood. In today's Arab world this image of unbridled hatred
has mutated into the alleged quest for Palestinian blood.
"There are so many of these cartoons that I could select
only a few for my book. Blood-drinking Jews are frequently
shown by Al Ahram, one of Egypt's leading dailies. On 21
April 2001, it printed a cartoon showing an Arab being put
into a flatting mill by two soldiers wearing helmets with
Stars of David. The Arab's blood pours out and two Jews
with kippot and Stars of David on their shirts drink the blood laughingly.18
"Another well-known Egyptian cartoon portrays Sharon
with horns and blood dripping from his mouth.19 A Jordanian
cartoonist Rasmy shows a plumber repairing a number of
taps. From the American tap comes oil, from the Turkish,
water and from the Israeli blood."20
Kotek says that to the best of his knowledge, the blood
theme is anti-Semitic, and not a general racist theme. No
other people has been accused of drinking blood. The origins
of this myth are in twelfth century Christian England, where
the blood libel was invented.
"The eighth recurring anti-Semitic theme in Arab
cartoons is the most extreme. The concept that the Jews
not only murder, but preferably target children, is what
the cartoonists try to convey through their imagery. This
depicts the Palestinians primarily as children or babies.
Thus, Arab and Muslim propagandists turn Palestinian
children into the paradigm of the victim, despite the fact
that most of their dead are adults."
Kotek observes: "The Palestinians do live a tragedy on
a daily basis and have had over the last decade about 5,000
dead. Many Israelis have also been killed. During the same
period of time, two million Sudanese have died; three million
Africans around the big lakes; 200,000 Bosnians; 150,000
Algerians and 100,000 Chechenians. The media, however,
concentrate on the Palestinians.
"A Palestinian caricature shows the Statue of Liberty
lifting with her right arm a Palestinian child dripping blood.
In her left hand, she protectively holds Barak.21 A Kuwaiti
cartoon shows an old Jew wearing a kippa and carrying a
gun, shafting a child into a burning oven to bake matzot. The
reference is both to the Shoah - which now the Palestinian
child is portrayed as undergoing - and ritual crime.22
"The official website of the Palestinian Authority's press
service carries a caricature of Sharon with a blood-covered
axe slaughtering a baby, or fetus, against a background of a
butcher's hooks with children hanging from them, next to a
sign saying 'Palestinian blood.' A large sign on the counter
"In the Qatari journal Al Watan, Sharon is shown
drinking from a cup on which is written 'blood from
Palestinian children.' On the bottom of the cup it says 'Made
in the U.S.A.'24 In Al Hayat al-Jadida, Sharon offers the
bleeding head of a young Palestinian on a plate to George
Bush.25 The earlier-mentioned cartoons of the Jew as a
blood-thirsty vampire thus combine two anti-Semitic themes
in one design."
Arabs want Peace, Israel does not
"The ninth anti-Semitic motif used is that Israel is a
'perfidious' country which does not want peace. The theme
of 'the perfidious Jew' is an ancient one in Islamic anti-Semitism.
Mohammed is said to have tried to make peace
with the Jews at times, but, they allege, he was
systematically betrayed, and he murdered them.
"Rasmy shows a Palestinian throwing his weapons on
the floor saying: 'I give up my weapon to convince you.' An
Israeli soldier from behind the wall kills him saying, 'That's
how I believe you.'26 In a Syrian cartoon, an Israeli offers a
ball to Arafat holding a dove. On the top is written 'The Oslo
Accords.' The ball explodes, killing the Arab. The Israeli walks
away strangling the dove."27
Apologies for Suicide Bombers and Terrorism
"The tenth motif concerns apologies for suicide
bombers. I collected many cartoons calling for outright
murder. In the hundreds of designs I analyzed on this theme
I did not find a single one depicting the Israeli as a civilian.
He is always a soldier or an ultra-orthodox Jew. He has no
father, mother or child.
"A Jordanian cartoon by Rasmy shows a Palestinian
with his face covered and dynamite on his body, saying to a
Russian Jewish immigrant shown as an ultra-orthodox Jew:
'Come into my arms.'28 Another one by Emad Hajjaj shows a
Palestinian mother raising her arms, holding up her children
who are depicted as suicide bombers."29
Kotek concludes that these caricatures often express
a new type of anti-Semitism. "They are frequently 'calls for
murder.' To the cartoonists, death seems the only worthy
punishment that 'the Zionist enemy' merits. As Pierre-André
Taguieff notes in his book on the new Judeophobia,30 this
Islamic-Jihadic version is explicitly genocidal. It defines its
battle as a total elimination of the absolute enemy."
The Fascination of a Child
When asked how he became so interested in cartoons,
Kotek says that when he was nine years old - shortly before
the Six Day War - a book published by an Israeli scholar on
anti-Semitic caricatures already fascinated him. "Some
books you read when you are young, can influence your
"Belgium has always focused a great deal on
cartoonists and their iconography. Living there, one's mind
is more open to this art form. I even wrote an article on
Hergé, Belgium's most important cartoonist, who was an
"I was thus predisposed toward the caricature. It is a
simple and convincing tool to demonstrate quickly the
extremely serious developments taking place in the Arab
world. Their themes are used in the Western world as well.
The similarity of these cartoons with those of the Nazis is
evident, which has already been demonstrated in an earlier
book by Arieh Stav."31
In order to obtain the copyright for the caricatures,
Kotek wrote to many cartoonists in the Arab world. As
Belgium has an anti-Israeli image, especially in view of the
law suit brought against Sharon, many of those queried
automatically assumed that he was anti-Israeli. Quite a few
gave him permission to use their cartoons without payment.
A Peace Camp Rightist
"In Europe, being an anti-racist makes one
automatically a leftist. When you fight anti-Semitism
however, you are seen as a right-winger - a supporter of
the Likud and of Sharon. This is untrue, as I am a conscious
Jew who belongs to the peace camp. I see myself as a friend
of Israel, yet critical of some of its policies. But once you
become aware of the enormous Arab hate and demonization
of Israel you have to defend Israel. I am horrified by the
impact of anti-Zionism combined with the great ignorance
I often find among people about Israel.
"The cartoons in my book - representative of a much
larger collection - show how old Christian myths of the
diabolic Jew are resuscitated in the Arab world. Palestinian
cartoonists often lay the emphasis on ritual murder of
children. They then try to give this tenability by claiming
that Israelis target Palestinian children."
Kotek says that these allegations have also permeated
Western society as they resonate with the long-standing
prejudices of the Christian world. He follows the French and
Belgian media closely. "It occurs regularly that when French
or Belgian radio reports a Palestinian being killed, they also
tell his age. This is the only conflict in the world in which
the age of the victim is mentioned.
"In the collective sub-conscious of many Christians,
and now Arabs, anti-Semitic myths cannot be eradicated.
They present the Jews as 'the Eternal Jew,' a warmonger
and a danger for the world. This is no longer just an Arab
concept. Many recent polls in the European Union confirm
how strong these prejudices have permeated this continent."
Interview by Manfred Gerstenfeld
* * *
1. Joël et Dan Kotek, Au nom de l'antisionisme: L'image des Juifs
et d'Israël dans la caricature depuis la seconde Intifada
(Brussels: Éditions Complexe, 2003). [French]
* * *
2. Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 28 December 1999, Kotek, op. cit., p. 53.
3. Al-Hayat al-Jadida, 22 March 2000, Kotek, op. cit., p. 52.
4. Bernard Lewis, "Islam: What Went Wrong?" in The Atlantic
Monthly, January 2002.
5. Al Akhbar, 3 October 2000, Kotek, op. cit., p. 60.
6. Al Goumhouriya, 24 April 1996, Kotek, op. cit., p. 62.
7. Teshreen, 15 April 1993, Kotek, op. cit., p. 63.
8. Daily Star, 3 April 2002, Kotek, op. cit., p. 63.
9. Daily Star, 23 October 2000, Kotek, op. cit., p. 64.
10. La Revue du Liban, 8 December 2001, Kotek, op. cit., p. 65.
11. Kotek, op. cit., p. 158.
13. Al Dustour, 3 February 2001, Kotek, op. cit., p. 66.
14. Kotek, op. cit.., p. 152.
15. www.iviews.com, Kotek, op. cit., p. 69.
16. Kotek, op. cit.,p. 71.
17. Kotek, op. cit., p. 71
18. Al-Ahram, 21 April 2001, Kotek, op. cit., p. 76.
19. Al-Haqiqa, 5 May 2001, Kotek, op. cit., p. 79.
20. www.Arabia.com, Kotek, op. cit., p. 77.
21. Omaya, 28 October 2000, Kotek, op. cit., p. 91.
22. Al-Rai Al-Ram, 5 April 1988, Kotek, op. cit., p. 83.
23. Official website of Palestinian Authority, Kotek, op. cit., p. 82.
24. Al-Watan, 24 July 2002, Kotek, op. cit., p. 80.
25. Al Hayat al-Jadida, 6 October 2001, Kotek, op. cit., p. 84.
26. www.Arabia.com, 23 September, 2001, Kotek, op. cit., p. 94.
27. Al-Thawra, 1 October 1988, Kotek, op. cit., p. 94.
28. www.Arabia.com, 7 March 2001, Kotek, op. cit., p.96.
29. www.mahjoob.com, 27 August 2004, Kotek, op. cit., p.95.
30. Pierre André Taguieff, La Nouvelle Judeophobie (Paris: Les
Mille et une Nuits, 2002). [French]
31. Arieh Stav, Peace: The Arabian Caricature; A study of Anti-
Semitic Imagery (Jerusalem: Gefen, 1999).
Dr. Joël Kotek was born in Gent in 1958. He studied history at
the Free University of Brussels and has a doctorate in Political Science
from the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po) in Paris. He teaches
Political Science at the Free University of Brussels, specializing in the
subject of European Integration. He is also director of Training at the
Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Paris.
The cartoons in this interview have been taken from Dr. Kotek's
book. Other cartoons with English explanations from this book can
be found in the booklet, "Fighting Anti-Semitism," published jointly
by the JCPA and the office of the Minister for Diaspora and Jerusalem
Affairs, Natan Sharansky. A Hebrew version of this booklet can be seen at: http://www.antisemitism.org.il/antisemheb.pdf.
Dore Gold and Manfred Gerstenfeld, Co-Publishers. Zvi R. Marom, Editor. Joel Fishman and Chaya Herskovic, Associate Editors. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel-Hai St.,
Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-561-9281, Fax. 972-2-561-9112, Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 1616
Walnut St., Suite 1005, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5313; Tel. (215) 772-0564, Fax. (215)
772-0566. © Copyright. All rights reserved. ISSN: 1565-3676.
The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect
those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.