Cartoon capers

star-deathDo it yourself viral cartoons

There was something wrong about this cartoon and I don’t mean the blaming Israel and America for the failure of the Arab Spring. I’ve been a photographer and Photoshop artist for more than enough years not to notice when a graphic has been incompetently altered.

If you have been an Israel advocate for any length of time you will recognise the technique. A graphic is shared dozens of times for a each new batch of Israel Haters to comment about Israel’s evil. It doesn’t matter if a photograph is staged, digitally manipulated or taken in another country. It doesn’t matter if a graphic is original or modified from something completely different – like this one.

The graphic that made me suspicious.

Fig A

When the first (or last – depending on how you look) graphic, Fig. A, was distributed the positioning of the flags made me suspicious. The cartoonist clearly has enough graphic ability not to need to cut and paste the American and Israeli flags to make his point.

The doorway texts look odd. Notice that IRAQ is in a different san-serif† typeface than the others which are serif fonts.

So I looked for the original. This is where reverse image search is useful for Israel advocates. I used Google Image. The image had been shared dozens of times. If the recipient didn’t like the message he changed it to suit his agenda.

In Fig. B Palestine is added to the mix. This is a bit of a graphic communication fail. The positioning of the American flag on Death’s scythe implies Israel uses the United States as a weapon to apply their bloodthirsty programme against the Palestinians. No soldier in the American military fights Palestinian terrorism in Israel, the Authority or Gaza. In this version Turkey is the next place for American-US intervention (against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) we presume).

In Fig. C the flags are dropped as is the Arabic (Farsi?) script. Look closely at the chest area of Death’s robe. Some label has been quite crudely removed.

Fig. D is the extended version adding Bangla Desh, Pakistan and Bharat. Bharat???? I had to look this up. Apparently Bharat is the short form of Bhārat Gaṇarājya for the Republic of India. I’m guessing the new label is in Urdu. I’d love to know what it means. Do I have any Urdu readers among the Five Minutes for Israel community?

Fig. E, by contrast is shortened, to Iraq, Syria and Egypt. It is, perhaps, the most interesting alteration. As best as I can make out with Google Translate the label in red means, Avoid the coming democracy. Any Turkish speakers, out there? The label on the last door,  Misr‡ (Egypt) is the least competent alteration, yet.

Fig. F is undoubtedly the original for Fig. E. The message, as I interpret it, that democracy brings bloodshed and death – where will it spring up next? has no Israel or American connection, whatever.

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Found No. 1


Who was the artist?

Surprise, surprise it has no direct connection with Israel. It was an attack against the Wahhabi movement, probably the most extreme, ultra conservative version of Islam, that dominates Saudi Arabia. Some say that Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaeda movement was inspired by Wahhabism. Others say he followed the ideology of Sayyid Qutb, the leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 60s.

The Saudis have spent at least $87 billion propagating Wahhabism abroad during the past two decades, and the scale of financing is believed to have increased in the past two years. Even the European Parliament known for turning a blind eye to the Islamic connection to violence is aware of this, not that will stop them attacking the easier target of Israel.

From a digital forensic perspective comparing the labeling on Death’s chest with attempts to erase it seems to prove this was the earliest available version.

You should ask why is the word Wahhabism so neatly hand-lettered while the country names are computer generated? Why is the grey wall so patchy if not a less than perfect attempt to change existing labels? I don’t have an acceptable answer. So if you can find yet another. earlier version I will be delighted to hear from you.


The point of all this …

… is not to show how clever I am. However, as an Israel advocate, I have found that sometimes you can stop some images in their tracks by establishing their origin or manipulation. Check out Palestinian Photoshoppery, the BBC is not convinced it’s a fake and Fauxtography 101.

One can clearly see in the cartoon that inspired this article an idea, deeply embedded in Arabic/Muslim culture, that the Jews are responsible for all the world’s ills. Unfortunately for Israel quite a few international politicians, who should know better, seem to feel the same way.  The ridiculous idea that solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict or even eliminating Israel will end conflict in the Middle East is a product of this.

Quite the contrary, the failure of Arabs to take responsibility for solving their own problems, preferring to find a scapegoat in Israel and/or the United States is a major factor in not solving them. This is true in Egypt where the conflict between those who wish a modern state and those who wish a return to the 7th century is the fault line. It is true in Syria where ethnic conflict is the catalyst. It is true in the relations of Iran with her neighbours based on the ancient Shiite-Sunni feud.

Even without knowing the provenance of the graphic, telling those who share it to stop looking for scapegoats but look for solutions.

Israel and America have no interest in stirring up bloodshed in the Arab world.

Do it yourself

Do you have something to add to the image. BE MY GUEST.


Death goes door-to-door. Can you provide captions?

Extra credit

† In typography, a sans-serif, sans serif, gothic, san serif or simply sans typeface is one that does not have the small projecting features called “serifs” at the end of strokes.
‡ In Hebrew Egypt is Mizraim-מִצְרָיִם. Variations of the name predates the 7th century Arab invasion of the country by up to twenty-one centuries.

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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