Every so often, an attack is mounted against the Jewish people that demands we raise our voice in protest. Suddeutsche Zeitung, one of the largest and most influential newspapers in Germany, has performed such an attack by publishing a cartoon that hearkens back to hateful propaganda of the Nazi era.
The online Jewish publication, Algemeiner broke the story yesterday. They write,
The cartoon, published by Suddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and entitled “Krake Facebook,” German for “Facebook Octopus,” shows Zuckerberg as a half-human sea giant grasping with tentacles at computers around him. Depicted with a hooked nose, the 29-year-old entrepreneur is shown smiling while his curly hair creeps out from under an oversized hat that has the Facebook logo on its brim.
The newspaper, based in Southern Germany, linked the cartoon to the recent purchase of WhatsApp by Facebook.
Certainly Germany has made some progress over the years in making reparations to Holocaust victims. In recent years, an influx of Russian Jewish immigrants has even been welcomed by Germany. Yet, it is evident that some level of underlying anti-Semitism still exists within the psyche of some Germans. When the creator of the cartoon was asked about the anti-Semitic nature of the image, the Jerusalem Post reports,
The SZ cartoonist, Burkhard Mohr, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday he was “shocked” his cartoon was deemed anti-Semitic. “Anti-Semitism and racism are ideologies which are totally foreign to me,” he said, flatly rejecting the notion that his cartoon could be viewed as offensive to Jews. He explained that his cartoon was designed to be a commentary on Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp. What he “meant was a cartoon depiction of the company Facebook beyond a specific person,” he said. “I am sorry that it led to this misunderstanding and hurt the feelings of some readers.”
Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper on Monday called the cartoon “an outrage” and said is was anti-Semitic. Algemeiner further quotes Cooper, “The nefarious Jew/octopus was a caricature deployed by Nazis. That was used pretty much as a staple by the Nazis in terms of their hateful campaign against the Jews in the 1930s. [An] exaggerated Jewish nose removes any question if this was unconscious anti-Semitism.”
I am not writing to bash Germans in any way, but rather to call attention to a cartoon that crossed the line of human decency and reflects deeper issues that must be addressed. We cannot allow anti-Semitism in any form – be it portrayed through a cartoon, article, film or comment by a public figure – to be ignored. If we do, we ourselves are guilty of a most heinous sin.
Let me explain. In the Book of Genesis, God gave Abraham a promise that became the basis for Jewish national existence. In other words, the creation of the Jewish people was not man’s idea but God’s. Evidently, the Lord of the universe had a plan for the family of Abraham to be used for holy purposes. The Bible tells us,
And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
Those who believe in the authority of Scripture should take this passage both literally and seriously. There is a promised blessing upon those who “bless” the Jewish people and a curse upon those who “make light” of the Jewish people – a more literal translation of the Hebrew. If we devalue the Jewish people in the plan of God, the Lord promises to bring punitive measures. This is plain to those who believe the Bible, but perhaps unknown or shrouded in mystery to those who do not!
It is an act of love to warn those who perpetuate anti-Semitic stereotypes. This is particularly true of images reminiscent of Nazi caricatures of the Jewish people – even very public figures like Zuckerberg.
When this occurs, we need to cry foul. As followers of the Scriptures, we are obligated to warn those who do this that God still loves the Jewish people. We must remind them that repentance is the only right response, once they have been told of their sin against God’s chosen people.
We can say it was just a cartoon. But we know that it was more! We have sounded the warning. God is not pleased with anti-Semitism. Those who act in this way, whether consciously or not, should listen and make amends. One day, we will all face a loving God, who does offer forgiveness through Jesus the Messiah. But God is also just, righteous and unflinching when it comes to keeping His promises to the Jewish people and to us all.