Cartoons don’t have to be fair, and this wasn’t

For the record, editorial cartoons are not obligated to be accurate or fair. It’s better, maybe, when they are, but those virtues are not required. The idea is to take a simple idea and drive it home.

I try to not blow my stack when I disagree with them, as I try not to go nuts over columns I disagree with. Like cartoons, columns are not obligated to be accurate, but they are better when they are. Why? It is easy to toss aside a column that is filled with errors as the ravings of a partisan lunatic.

The object of a cartoon or a column, I believe, is to reveal truth and to persuade people to join with your opinion. One that only convinces those already in the choir falls short.

If I am able to change one person’s mind with a column, it is a success.

So here we look at the work of cartoonist Darrin Bell. Wikipedia tells me he is a recent Pulitzer Prize winner, he is syndicated — which means a lot of people see his work — he lives in L.A., and he is Black and Jewish. 

I comment on this cartoon not because of Bell’s ethnicity, race, religion — whatever — but because he starts his narrative in 1967. A deliberate decision.

(I am ignoring his erroneous suggestion that no one cared about Palestinian human rights over the decades. That is false, many have, including many Israelis.)

In 1967, Israel fought the Six Day War in which she vanquished Arab enemies who, led by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel  Nasser, threatened to destory the “Zionist entity” as they liked to call it. Nasser ordered U.N. peacekeepers out of the Sinai — and they meekly left, in case you wonder why Israel does not trust the U.N. — and began amassing armies on Israel’s border. A brief history is available on

In what every rational person understands was a defensive war, Israel struck first, defeating Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. With the victory, Israel took control of the Golan Heights, from Syria; Gaza, from Egypt, and the so-called West Bank (actual name, Judea and Samaria), from Jordan.

Bell’s choice of 1967 is as tainted as The New York Times 1619 Project deciding that 1619 was the year of America’s founding, rather than 1776, when we declared our independence from Britain, which introduced slavery to its colony. Unlike cartoons, the 1619 Project was supposed to be fact, but that’s a subject for another day.

If Bell were being completely honest — not a requirement for cartoonists — he should have chosen 1948, the year Israel declared its independence after the U.N. partitioned what was called Palestine into two states — one Jewish, one Arab.

A two state solution. Does that sound familiar?

The Jewish Israelis had their own state, and the Arabs had their own state.

Israel democratically elected a government, and launched plans to build an economy, to make the desert bloom, to open universities and museums, to create a home where Jews could live in safety and security for the first time in two millennia.

Arabs could have done this too, but they did not. Instead, five Arab states attacked the fledgling Jewish democracy, hoping to kill the baby in its cradle.

They chose war over statehood.

The Arabs lost the 1948 war, but Jordan grabbed the so-called West Bank, which it occupied until driven out in 1967 when Israel captured the so-called East Jerusalem. That is the part of the city that contains many of Judaism’s sacred sites.

Here’s a question for Bell, and those who think like him, such as U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib:

When Jordan controlled the West Bank, from 1948 to 1967, why did it not allow the creation of a Palestinian state? Why was no one even talking about self-determination and human rights then?

I ask the same about Gaza, when controlled by Egypt. No state, no talk about self-determination and human rights.

Why is that?

The inconvenient truth that Israel haters try to ignore is that there was a two-state solution, which was rejected by the Arabs, who chose war instead. As usual.

Various peace plans have been offered to them, which they have rejected, most astonishingly the 2000 Camp David offer. That was brokered by Bill Clinton and gave the Palestinians almost everything they wanted. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat walked away, and Clinton put blame for the failure squarely on his shoulders.

I have no idea if Bell knows the history, or just chose to reject it. Cartoonists are free to be unfair, and he was.

16 thoughts on “Cartoons don’t have to be fair, and this wasn’t”

  1. Stu
    You are so right in your thinking. Human nature what it is there will always be conflict and hatred. No matter what we do for good there will always be someone who will try to undo it. I admire your courage and fortitude. It is an never ending battle.. I am proud to say we are friends.

  2. You are absolutely correct in criticizing this terrible and totally inaccurate political cartoon. Please keep fighting for the facts and the truth.

  3. Years ago I was hired by a small Philadelphia ‘alternative’ newspaper to do a political cartoon. I submitted my first political cartoon (which I thought — blush — was brilliant) and was fired on the spot. The political cartoon is supposed to represent the thinking of the newspaper’s owners. I foolishly went against the tide and got washed overboard. But the Stinkquirer had two leftist cartoonists over the years — Tony Auth and Signe Wilkenson, who loyally and faithfully preached the leftist line of the various owners, as wrong as the two cartoonists often were. And both won Pulitzer Prizes. The caterwauling began with Thomas Nast’s depiction of Boss Tweed. And it continues unabated. Political cartoonists are often wrong, but never unsure.

    1. Often wrong, never uncertain. They say that about columnists, too.
      There are so few editorial cartoonists left, the Pulitzer should be shelved.

    I always admired your hutzpah. You never shy away from telling the truth. You don’t pick sides. You tell the truth. So, the rhetorical question is this. Why can we not reach the people that need to hear the truth ? We ( you ) couldn’t reach them to save Philly in the primary and you probably won’t reach them concerning this latest edition of the Jewish – Arab wars.
    Keep up the fight, my friend. The world needs fighters such as you.

  5. Well done. So clear and concise. People will believe what they need to believe, no matter the truth. You did make it a kittle more difficult for them. Thank you.

  6. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    I saw this cartoon when it appeared in the Inquirer, and I was rather puzzled by it. I didn’t find it persuasive or attractive. Your comments helped in understanding the perspective of the cartoonist. It now suggests to me, at least, a reorientation on this old conflict from that of “the thinker” (the famous piece of sculpture is obviously there) to that of the political activist.

    Your argument about 1948 vs. 1967 is persuasive. But has the “thinking” public long been ignoring “human rights”? That seems implausible. It is perhaps more a matter of the cartoonist shifting toward political activism –say, assimilation of the Palestinian cause to “human rights” activism. Emphasis on “human rights” and activism (as contrasted say, with litigation) is an approach especially prominent since the 1990’s. It has been a shift against “natural rights” and “constitutional rights.” But wouldn’t we do better to have our various domestic conflicts back in the legislatures and the courts? (Too slow for “absolute justice, immediately!” ?)

    Will this old conflict in the Middle East now be resolved by political protests and activism on the streets? I highly doubt it. What we have seen of late is a flare up of old national and nationalist conflicts–with the waning of globalization. Compare the recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The conflicts in the Middle East are comparable to the old nationalist conflicts in the Balkans: always simmering and ready to explode again. (Recall that WWI started there.) Our politics generally seems to swing from one extreme (globalizing universalism) to the opposite (militant emphasis on particular groups and their discontents).

    I think that globalization has tended to inject the problems of the international system (international relations) into each political society –often by means large-scale immigration and growing inequalities over decades. Also important is the shifting influence of large-scale foreign and international economic interests in domestic politics. This tends to destabilize older, working, domestic political coalitions.

    I imagine that you saw something of the conflicting protesters on the streets of NYC.

    Still thinking,
    H.G. Callaway

      1. Philadelphia, PA

        Dear Stu,

        Like you, I’ve become ever more skeptical of the Pulitzer Prize. My own skepticism dates back decades. It seems to have become the NYC establishment’s blessing and reward for (useful) political correctness?

        H.G. Callaway

  7. Clinton lied. The negotiator he appointed (Dennis Ross aka “Israel’s Lawyer”) scotched the agreement. He added a clause that greatly restricted Palestinian fishing rights and Arafat had to back away.

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