Creative Destruction

January 1, 2007

Is This Image Anti-Semitic?

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 9:18 am

Antisemitic - Or is it?Racialicious writes:

Apparently there’s been a lot of anti-semitism in Seattle lately, prompting their alt-weekly to devote an issue to Jewish issues. But check out the graphic they chose to illustrate one of their regular columns. Textbook hipster racism.

That’s the graphic over to the right. Racialicious is one of my very favorite blogs, but I’ve gotta say, this case doesn’t look so textbook to me. I asked about it in Racialicious’ comments, and Lyonside wrote:

The drawing is reminiscent of the hooked-nose portraits of Jewish men so common to the medieval and modern era. A more subtle dig may be the thinning hair on top, but in general, the nose that was longer than the cartoon’s HEAD (in profile) is the obnoxious part.

I’m sure it was meant to be ironic, but I see it as a lack of taste. And awareness.

It’s just not true that the nose is longer than the profile’s head. It’s a big nose, but it’s not that big. And although the nose is exaggerated, it’s not distended and freakish, like the noses in “classic” antisemitic cartoons often were. Look at the noses (especially the husband’s) in this German cartoon from 1934, for example:

1934 antisemitic cartoon

Look: I have a big nose. And it hooks. Many of my relatives also have relatively big, hookish noses. It’s a common trait among Jews whose folks came to the US from Eastern Europe. Are cartoonists supposed to pretend that me and thousands of Jews like me don’t have this nose? And how will wiping out representations of Jews with a classic Jewish nose — those Jews, in other words, who are least likely to be mistaken for gentiles — be a blow against antisemitism?



  1. Are cartoonists supposed to pretend that me and thousands of Jews like me don’t have this nose?

    Just that nose? Just the one? All those thousands of Jews like you and with only one nose between them?

    That must suck.

    Comment by Daran — January 1, 2007 @ 10:53 am | Reply

  2. When I hear the phrase “anti-semetic” I just think “Here comes the pro-Israeli propaganda”. That’s the real meaning of the word these days. It’s original meaning has been completely hijacked.

    A better title would have been “Is this racist?”

    Comment by DavidByron — January 1, 2007 @ 1:09 pm | Reply

  3. Well, maybe the solution is to reclaim the phrase for as long as necessary (ie while anti-semitism still exists – sadly, i can’t see it becoming redundant any time soon) rather than ditching it.
    Also, that point cuts both ways. While some factions tend to throw accusations of anti-semitism at any criticism of Israel, there are other instances where anti-semitism is camouflaged behind apparently legitimate anti-Israel arguments.

    Comment by Nella — January 1, 2007 @ 2:32 pm | Reply

  4. The first image is recognizeably male. That’s mostly due to the beard but perhaps also because cartoonists and caricaturists tends to draw female noses quite small. I didn’t get anything else out of the drawing, including a Semitic look or a balding pate.

    So I guess I’m happy for whoever thinks this image is anti-Semitic, as that must mean they have no bigger worries than to dream up stuff to grouse about. And besides, to insist that one should see something that isn’t really there defeats the purported cause, which I presume is to be free of bias.

    Comment by Brutus — January 3, 2007 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

  5. i think the same people who find that image anti-semitic found the snickers superbowl ad homophobic.

    i have a big nose and am not jewish. people regularly ask me if i’m jewish, including jewish people. i don’t think it’s any big deal.

    Comment by kingfelix — February 7, 2007 @ 6:16 pm | Reply

  6. suck on my marklar, ooo yeah right there. south park had some jew aliens and they pretty much got it right.

    Comment by hebey jeebey — March 2, 2007 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  7. FYI Being Jewish is optional, as it is a religion. I could become Jewish by faith tomorrow, and to the majority of people, it is the religion to which they refer. It is not an ethnicity. Don’t give Judaism more clout than it already tries to have. It’s just as much of a religion as any other. Seriously WTF.

    Comment by jews_not_a_race — January 5, 2008 @ 4:55 am | Reply

  8. Is it racist? Is a large nose considered a handicap implying an inferiority? I don’t consider a stylized drawing as anything but what it is. This is my perception based on my exp. Thats the problem here. What my perception of something may be, does not define the reality of the same object when perceived by another.

    What if the stories in that Seattle mag had been about another group that suffers from racism? Had the artist portrayed a black mans caricature with exaggerated lips, what would be the public response?

    It would be immediate and it would be severe. Our perception has now changed.


    We are more aware of black and white racism because of this countries history and contributions to slavery as well as slow implementations of rights and freedoms that were deliberately delayed so as to keep an entire portion of the population segmented from another. Anything depicting a black person in a stereotypical manner gives us immediate pause and concern. Our perceptions are more attuned to the strifes.

    The intent of this drawing may not be racist. Regardless, anything used in the past as a systematic method designed to demean and humiliate any distinct population group will always be a powerful weapon against that groups psyche. Weapons of any type require careful considerations.

    Racism is not as main stream as it once was. It’s moved from demonstrations in front of schools to anonymous internet forums and other quasi-invisible venues. With this camouflage readily available any stereotypical portrayals will always be immediatly suspect from at least one potion of the population.

    How do we bridge these gaps between intents and perceptions? Do we qualify our responses based on public reactions? Wheres the middle of the road that everyone can meet at and see things as one? There is none. That is why we have art and artists. Art is not meant to pacify. It’s meant to stir. We can all look at art and argue its meaning. We argue about the artists perception instead of ours. It’s the middle of the road or as close as we will get to one.

    What about the artist? What was his perception? What did he intend to do here? Was it an accidental portrayal of a stereotype or simply his impartation of the Jewish identity he was trying to portray? I like this quote by Albert Einstein.

    “Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.”

    This artist created his perception of a Jewish man. It’s immediately identified as such by a large percent of the populations due to their exposure to a particular stereotypical feature. In doing so he opened a debate that helps everyone express the perceptions they hold.

    I think he has done a fine job.

    Comment by Sean — May 31, 2008 @ 12:17 am | Reply

  9. […] “pig man” and encouraging his readers to mock the size of Waxman’s big nose (a standard, highly offensive stereotype) and to spray vulgarities at […]

    Pingback by A look at John McCain’s blogger-consultant — August 17, 2010 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

  10. […] “pig man” and encouraging his readers to mock the size of Waxman’s big nose (a standard, highly offensive stereotype) and to spray vulgarities at […]

    Pingback by A look at John McCain’s blogger-consultant - — May 21, 2011 @ 3:45 am | Reply

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