“The pen is mightier than the sword” and “a picture is worth a thousand words”; “Discretion is the better part of valor,” which more pertinently can be adapted to the better part of comedy is knowing what NOT to say and when NOT to say it.” How does this assortment of aphorisms assemble into coherence? In one small cartoon, worth more than a thousand letters of commendation. This vulgar visual in the wrong hands (it will undoubtedly end up there, as it metastasizes through this global village) will be wielded with more devastation than a sword. The offender, himself a caricature of a cartoonist, could not resist proving just how clever he is and in the process of “in-valorous” indiscretion, cast a cartoon completely devoid of comedy. It will be abused by Muslims, Leftists, Rightists, anti-Semites, anti-Israelists, and conspiracy-theory kooks.
The cartoon is a simple box focused on the relationship between its two subjects, a skyscraper and an airplane. The objects are clearly defined: The skyscraper has an American flag atop its roof; on the fuselage of the plane is written Israel and if that were not clear enough, it is piloted by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. I forgot to mention that the building is a pre-9/11 Twin Tower and that the “Israel” plane Netanyahu is piloting is about to crash into it. The cartoon’s message is that Netanyahu is a kamikaze terrorist attacking the United States and in the process detonating Israel. This image portrays the heinous accusation that Israel’s Mossad was actually behind 9/11, obvious to all except for its creator who, no doubt, thinks himself funny and clever, insightful. What this “cur-toonist” is, in fact, is its homonym, “INCITEFUL.”
This visual offense was published here in Israel in last Thursday’s Haaretz newspaper, reaffirming that Israel is the one nation in the region with Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press, despite baseless accusations to the contrary. Americans and citizens of the democratic West, having grown up with these freedoms as the basic fabric of society, take them for granted, assuming them as a birthright. At times, despite making my living by the grace of these freedoms, I too had been guilty of taking them for granted. Now living in Israel, the only bastion of freedom of speech in this benighted corner of the world, I have come to view these freedoms differently, more sacredly. These freedoms are to be cherished, and by that I mean not abused.
Haaretz newspaper in general and this culpable cur-toonist in particular vomit vitriol and call it a paper, thereby abusing the gift of speech and Freedom of the Press. In past columns I have referred to the loony-Leftist Haaretz and its stable (pun absolutely intended) of writers. The paper proudly claims as its purveyors of perspective the infamous Amira Haas who exhorted Palestinians to exercise “Freedom of Speech” metaphorically by replacing words with stone epithets and hurling them at the Jews of Israel, putting into practice the old adage “sticks and stones may break my (Jewish) bones…” Not to be outdone, Haas’ colleague on the paper is the notorious Gideon Levy, the toast of terrorists. While Amira Haas merely lives among the Arabs in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s putative capital, and exhorts the locals to insurrection, Levy’s articles play persuasively in the international theater. One can hear his tropes accusing Israel of apartheid and ethnic cleansing in the slander brought by the world against the Jewish nation. Most disgracefully, during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, he accused Israeli fighter pilots of attempted genocide against the citizens of Gaza. His column entitled “Lowest Deeds from Loftiest Heights,” and its quote, “they (Israeli pilots) are now perpetrating the worst, the cruelest, the most despicable deeds,” caused a Member of Knesset to denounce him as an enemy of Israel and a traitor. One does not think Levy was offended by the appellation.
The proof of Israel’s Freedom of the Press is that Haaretz still puts out its daily filth, though its circulation is in freefall. Levy’s scandalous claims over the summer led to many hundreds of cancellations of subscriptions, which may not seem like much but considering Haaretz’s low readership numbers, the bite was felt. And it is with the cancellation of subscriptions and falling readership that “Freedom of Choice” becomes the corrective to Freedom of Speech run amok. It would be unlawful and inappropriate for the government to shut down Haaretz on the grounds that it is an offensive rag, but it would not be inappropriate for the people of Israel to do so by financially ignoring it, which they are. The paper holds little if any credibility in Israel, but in truth does have an audience and influence in the nations of the European Union which are all too happy to imbibe its poison. Let them drink heartily; they never were interested in supporting Jews or Israel anyway.
Haaretz brings to mind the advice of Mark Twain, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” But what can you expect from an “Am HAARETZ?”
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at