Not anti-Semite, Just anti-Zionist

I differentiate between the Jewish community at large and the doctrine of Zionism, writes New Zealand cartoonist Malcolm Evans in response to "Drawing the line" by Sara Leibovich-Dar, Haaretz Magazine, August 29.

Someone once said that anyone who sets out to explain himself risks being misunderstood and I took that risk, because I relied on the reporter's professionalism to get the story right. So it was with a growing sense of frustration, sadness and concern that I read so many inaccuracies, distortions and falsehoods in the published piece.

The fact that my most repeated theme - my dismissal was a consequence of my refusal to accept the editor's claim that he had the right to direct my work, should have received such little emphasis, worries me.

I was not dismissed because my cartoons compared Israel's policies to Nazism, as Leibovich-Dar wrote, but rather, as I said in our interview, because one cartoon which drew an analogy with Apartheid raised the ire of some in the Jewish community here, which subsequently led to a breakdown of my relationship with my employer, culminating in my dismissal.

I am more concerned that paragraph three of the story is a terrible distortion of what I actually said. Leibovich-Dar wrote: "Evans is angry at the Jewish community and at Jews from other countries who, he says, complained ... " I didn't say that and I am not angry at them at all. I fully respect their right to complain and I fully understand how their sensitivity to any statement critical of Israel, might move them to do so.

How the reporter could have interpreted that what I said was in any way connected with the racist belief that "Jews controlled the media," is absolutely unbelievable. That sort of claim is typical of the very worst sort of Nazi anti-Semitic claptrap and I thought I had made it very clear that I wanted nothing to do with such a disgusting and racist remark.

I was very specific when I said that I differentiated between the Jewish community at large and the doctrine of Zionism. I was fulsome in my praise and admiration for the wonderful contribution which Jewish people, over many centuries, have made to the culture of the world, but that I considered Zionism to be something else.

When I explained that my cartoons were prompted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict having escalated to a ferocity not seen before, I quoted Nietzsche - "Beware when you fight demons, lest you become one." The story should not have let your readers think I claimed authorship of that wisdom. I don't care for many of Nietzsche's other thoughts.

My close and dear Jewish friend whom I described as agreeing with my cartoons, does not have family who, as you wrote, are "survivors of the Holocaust." They were victims of it: They died at Auschwitz.

In the next paragraph, the story fiddled with another point I clearly made, namely that it seems to me grossly unjust that centuries of anti-Semitism which ultimately culminated in the Holocaust, history's greatest crime and for which European Christians were clearly responsible, should result in Palestinians losing their ancestral lands.

If you're coy about pointing the finger at Christians, I'm not.

There were other inaccuracies and distortions in the story, some of which were attributable to other people, but for the record;

Auckland Jewish Council co-chair Geoff Levy has every right to defend Israel and the Jewish community and Zionism, and I respect his right. But his claim that my cartoons have caused harm to the Jewish community here is just a ploy of those who wish to stifle debate by alleging its potential to foment racism.

And further, for Geoff Levy, who is a lawyer, to claim that I have broken a law of this country, without moving to have such a charge tested in the appropriate forum, is contemptuous and yet another tactic in the apologist's arsenal.

The story often described both my cartoons and the New Zealand Herald as having or expressing "pro-Palestinian" views, a distortion which more fairly and correctly should perhaps have read: "anti-Zionist" views.

At my meeting with the Auckland Jewish Council, which was arranged at my initiative, I did not refuse to answer the question of whether or not Israel had a right to exist; rather, I said that it was not a question for me to answer.

My "Uncle Sam at the psychiatrist" cartoon was not a negative idea warning of a possible Semitic conspiracy, but rather a positive idea born out of my optimism that perhaps one day Israelis and Palestinians might settle their differences and see the ultimate benefits of working together to build a future. The little "Goy" phrase is a common line among Jewish comedians.