UC Berkeley paper apologizes for anti-Semitic cartoon

Newspaper issues 'regrets' over distraction caused by anti-Semitic caricature of Alan Dershowitz, declines to remove cartoon from website.

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David Rosenberg,

UC Berkeley campus
UC Berkeley campus

The University of California at Berkeley’s student newspaper, The Daily Californian, issued an editor’s note Wednesday, expressing “regret” over an anti-Semitic caricature of former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz after the chancellor of UC Berkeley condemned the paper for the cartoon.

The cartoon, which portrays Dershowitz as a bulbous, parasite-like creature hiding crushing Arab protesters, draws on anti-Semitic motifs common in Nazi propaganda.

The Daily Californian published the cartoon ahead of Dershowitz’s planned lecture on campus, an address he dubbed the “Liberal Case for Israel”.

A life-long Democrat, Dershowitz has nevertheless expressed criticism in recent years of the rise in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views on the far left, and the growing opposition to free speech among some within his own party.

Dershowitz had previously threatened to sue the school for effectively barring him and other pro-Israel speakers by requiring an eight-week-notice for “high visibility” individuals – a requirement Dershowitz claimed was imposed selectively against people holding certain viewpoints.

"If you are high visibility, you have to give eight weeks [notice before being allowed to speak]," Dershowitz told Fox News. "But if a department at the university invites anti-Israel speakers, they don't have to go through an eight-week waiting period."

Dershowitz noted a day after his lecture that a flyer posted in the UC Berkeley Law School bearing his image had been defaced with a swastika.

Following a public outcry over the student paper’s cartoon and the swastika found on campus, Chancellor Carol Christ condemned the caricature and called on editors to “reflect” on their decision.

“I condemn its publication,” she wrote. “Are you aware that its anti-Semitic imagery connects directly to the centuries-old ‘blood libel’ that falsely accused Jews of engaging in ritual murder? I cannot recall anything similar in The Daily Californian, and I call on the paper’s editors to reflect on whether they would sanction a similar assault on other ethnic or religious groups.

“We cannot build a campus community where everyone feels safe, respected and welcome if hatred and the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes become an acceptable part of our discourse,” the letter concluded.

While the cartoon remains available on The Daily Californian’s website as of the writing of this article, senior staff member Karim Doumar issued a statement on behalf of the editorial team apologizing for the “pain and anger” caused by the cartoon and expressing regret for the ‘distraction’ it caused from the artist’s message.

“We have seen with sharp clarity the pain and anger caused by an editorial cartoon that ran online in our opinion section on Oct. 18, and we apologize for this.

“The artist’s intent was to argue that the contents of civil liberties lawyer and professor emeritus at Harvard Law School Alan Dershowitz’s recent lecture at UC Berkeley were hypocritical. We regret that the artistic rendering distracted from the discussion the artist was trying to start.

“The criticism we have received reaffirms for us a need for a more critical editing eye, and a stronger understanding of the violent history and contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism. We appreciate those who have reached out offering to help us better our understanding of these issues. We will be taking them up on the offer.”