Caricaturist Eli Valley is disturbed.
If one intended the most simple definition of that word, Mr. Valley would agree, since he is chronically and greatly upset at some American Jews’ wholehearted support of Israel and of Jews who undertake to call out anti-Semitism where its stench is apparent.
More appropriate, though, in the crabby cartoonist’s context, is the word’s pathological sense. Mr. Valley’s outlandish portrayals of Jews who don’t embrace his peculiar brand of radical political liberalism evidence a deep loathing of things Jewish. Any of his offerings would make the recent New York Times’ offensive cartoon portrayal of Benjamin Netanyahu — for which that paper apologized no less than three times — seem like a Peanuts panel.
The target of Mr. Valley’s most recent bile-spewing is Meghan McCain, the daughter of the late Senator John McCain, and a popular conservative pundit. Ms. McCain’s sin, in the cartoonish cartoonist’s eye: daring to decry the anti-Semitic rhetoric of U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
On a recent segment of a popular talk program, Ms. McCain, one of several panelists, became emotional during a discussion of the Representatives’ offensive comments.
“Just because I don’t technically have Jewish family that are blood-related to me doesn’t mean that I don’t take this as seriously [as do Jews],” she said of Ms. Omar’s infamous “Benjamins” comment about Jewish money influencing Congress to support Israel.
“With the rise of anti-Semitism in this country, is it more important to defend party politics, or is it more important to [address] anti-Semitism?” she asked her fellow panelists. “If what Ilhan Omar has been saying for the past few weeks were said by a white Republican male,” she elaborated, “how would you be reacting to it right now?”
Ms. McCain later teared up when mentioning former Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, calling the couple — with whom her late father was famously friendly — her “family,” and adding that she takes “the hate crimes rising in this country incredibly seriously.”
That was what outraged Mr. Valley, who ridiculed the conservative commentator for arrogating to herself the authority to speak out on Jewish issues just because of “her friendship with Joe and Hadassah Lieberman.”
To express the full degree of his indignation, Mr. Valley set pen to paper and produced a grotesque caricature of a crying Ms. McCain holding a Nazi-era yellow “Jude” star and pouring “Matzo Ball Mix” into a bowl while exclaiming, apparently about Ms. Omar, who was born in Somalia, “That refugee girl wants to exterminate US JEWS!”
Ms. McCain criticized the ugly cartoon as anti-Semitic, a comment Mr. Valley dismissed as “hilarious.” “A Christian woman,” he said mockingly, “is saying a Jewish cartoonist is anti-Semitic.”
Well, yes, precisely. And, sad to say, she is entirely correct.
Over at the Forward, which, having abandoned its print edition, now publishes online, deputy life/features editor Jenny Singer echoed Mr. Valley’s sentiments.
“Meghan McCain,” she wrote, “is a religious Christian” and thus, “cannot be a victim of anti-Jewish hatred, because she is not Jewish.”
Ms. McCain, of course, did not claim to be a victim of anti-Semitism, but rather a human being deeply pained by it. That her pain was amplified by her family’s friendship with, and respect for, a Jewish couple, does not deny her a right to protest what she regards as hateful rhetoric.
And to imply that it does deny her that is to be what Chazal call a kafuy tovah, an “inverter of a good deed,” or, rendered into simple English, an ingrate.
We contemporary American Jews at times may not fully appreciate the historic gravity of the fact that we live in so rare a time and place as we do. There is, to be sure — as recent events have tragically evidenced — an ugly underbelly to American society, one that harbors hateful souls who resent those they perceive as outsiders, prime among them (as usual) Jews.
But there can be no denying that our presence and our participation in American life are accepted, even welcomed, by the great majority of our fellow Americans.
And nothing could better capture that happy reality than a non-Jewish public personality being literally brought to tears by comments that, whether or not born of the aforementioned underbelly, bring joy to those who fester there.
It’s not the first time Meghan McCain has focused on anti-Semitism. Back in January, she called out “Women’s March” organizer Tamika Mallory for her association with the viperous Louis Farrakhan.
To some, apparently, such stances are somehow objectionable. To any reasonable person — Jewish or otherwise — they are proper, principled and responsible.
And, to us, deeply appreciated.