NGO to UN: Break ties with anti-Semitic cartoonist

Jordanian artist claims his images of Palestinians crucified on a Star of David are challenging Israel’s actions.

Bnai Brith in Washington 390 (photo credit: REUTERS/Str Old)
Bnai Brith in Washington 390
(photo credit: REUTERS/Str Old)
Highlighting this week’s visit to the region by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, B’nai B’rith International’s Director of UN Affairs, David J. Michaels, called on the global institution Wednesday to immediately distance itself from a prominent Arab cartoonist it considers to be “virulently anti-Semitic.”
B’nai B’rith issued a statement last week condemning the work of Emad Hajjaj, a Ramallah-born, Jordanian- based cartoonist, who contributes regularly to numerous high-profile Arab and international newspapers.
The organization also highlighted that through his work, Hajjaj is tied to a wide range of international organizations, including multiple UN agencies and some major corporations.
“There is no question that his work crosses the line into expressions of anti-Zionism and anti- Semitism,” commented Michaels, pointing to images created by Hajjaj that caricature Jews as murderers and monsters, portraying hanukkiot as weapons and showing the crucifixion of Palestinians on a cross marked by a Star of David.
“We know that the United Nations Secretary-General is in Israel and we know he met with the leadership in Jordan, we feel that right now is a key opportunity – especially only a week after International Holocaust Remembrance Day was marked by the world – for the UN to reject this kind of incitement,” he said.
Michaels pointed out that Hajjaj’s company, Abu Mahjoob Creative Productions, includes on its roster of clients the United Nations Development Fund for Women (now UN Women), the United Nations Development Program, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
Hajjaj also works with several Jordanian government bodies, the British Council and the companies Visa, Orange, Ferring Pharmaceuticals and German industrial giant Siemens. IREX, a Washington-based nonprofit whose stated objectives include conflict-resolution, has also had dealings with Hajjaj’s firm.
According to Michaels, B’nai B’rith has contacted these institutions alerting them to Hajjaj’s “longtime engagement in incitement and the most dangerous anti- Semitic libels and stereotypes” and urged them to discontinue their work with him. Some of the organizations said they would now look into the matter.
Responding to B’nai B’rith’s claims against him, Hajjaj told The Jerusalem Post that: “It is my right as a human being and as an artist to criticize the State of Israel for its actions against the Palestinian people through cartoons.”
He said that he often uses the Star of David as a symbol to criticize Israel, “because this what appears on the flag” of the Jewish state.
“This is not a criticism of Judaism, but of the State of Israel,” maintained Hajjaj, adding “I want to make it clear that I should not be considered racist or anti-Semitic for many reasons.
“I am one of the few Arab cartoonists that is sensitive to this issue and I am very careful with my work,” he continued, stressing, “I find it very disturbing that they [B’nai B’rith] did not talk to me directly but went behind my back to the companies that work with me.”
Hajjaj added that one of the goals of his drawings is to “appeal to Jewish people all over the world and show them that there is a different side of the story to what is happening in the Middle East and in the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
Michaels refuted this, however, saying, “we are disappointed, but not surprised by his response.”
“This is a real problem and we feel it is important that those in Arab society, including Jordan and the Palestinian Territories, become aware of this,” he said, adding that Hajjaj’s claim that he is merely using Jewish symbols as a way to express his views about Israel, is unacceptable.
“I am confident in saying that it would be completely unacceptable to critique the actions of a Muslim state and Muslim leaders by using the symbols that are sacred to Islam,” he pointed out. “This problem is ubiquitous in the Arab world and needs to be addressed by Arab opinion-shapers and the international community. The argument that it only violates Israeli state symbols and not Jewish symbols is an absurd one.”