- A ‘racist’ cartoon was ripped down by the Washington Post after backlash
- It depicted a Hamas terrorist tied to women and children as human shields
- While some readers reacted with fury, others argued it revealed a ‘sad reality’
The Washington Post quickly removed a cartoon of a Hamas terrorist following backlash from some readers branding it ‘racist.’
The political cartoon, titled ‘Human Shields’, depicted a large-nosed Hamas extremist with infants, children and women tied to him, as he questioned: ‘How dare Israel attack civilians…’
The cartoon was published online and in the newspaper’s print edition on Wednesday, November 8.
Drawn by cartoonist Michael Ramirez, the caricature was sharply criticized by some who saw it as a discriminatory portrayal of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, although it is unclear if Haniyeh was the intended subject.
In response, the outlet’s Opinions section editor David Shipley apologized for approving the publication in a note to readers on Wednesday.
‘The reaction to the image convinced me that I had missed something profound, and divisive, and I regret that,’ Shipley wrote.
Shipley continued in his apology: ‘Our section is aimed at finding commonalities, understanding the bonds that hold us together, even in the darkest times.’
The editor said the cartoon was initially intended to satirize a Hamas spokesman, but the backlash led him to believe the cartoon went against the ‘spirit’ of his section.
Several outraged letters were also included in the apology note, which slated the drawing as ‘grossly mischaracterizing’ and ‘blatantly mocking’ the crisis in the Middle East.
‘The caricatures employ racial stereotypes that were offensive and disturbing. Depicting Arabs with exaggerated features and portraying women in derogatory, stereotypical roles perpetuates racism and gender bias, which is wholly unacceptable,’ one reader from Fairfax, Virginia, wrote in a letter.
Suzanne van Geuns, a research associate at Princeton University, said in a separate letter: ‘I am a scholar of religion and media; I recognize a deeply racist depiction of the ‘heathen’ and his barbarous cruelty toward women and children when I see it again in Michael Ramirez’s Nov. 8 editorial cartoon.
‘It is in no way informative, helpful or thought-provoking to look at this conflict through the glasses of 19th-century colonialists.’
Numerous activists have also spoken out since the cartoon was published to condemn the Washington Post’s decision to run it.
‘This is the Washington Post. This is the kind of anti-Palestinian racism that’s acceptable for publication,’ said Palestinian American poet Remi Kanazi.
Left-wing British commentator Owen Jones added on Twitter: ‘This racist dehumanization is always a precondition for mass murder of the sort currently taking place in Gaza.’
‘It’s not even subtle in its racism,’ he said.
Ramirez has also come under fire in the days since the cartoon was released, and some have noted that his work is normally published weekly, however this week’s cartoon was his first since late September.
A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Ramirez’s future at the Washington Post was not mentioned in the outlet’s apology.
Although he has not published a drawing for the Washington Post since Hamas’ October 7 attacks, the cartoonist has released several for the Review-Journal.
This included another controversial take on the US reaction to the Israel-Gaza conflict published last week, showing a woman wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt holding up a sign reading: ‘Terrorist Lives Matter’ and ‘Blame Israel. Support Hamas.’
While some reacted with fury at Ramirez’ latest Hamas cartoon, others saw it as making a justified point in regard to the terror groups targeting of children.
Hamas’ attacks on October 7 killed over 1,400 and took around 240 hostage, many of whom were women and children.
Israeli authorities also report that at least 31 children were killed by Hamas in its attacks and the aftermath.
Last week, Save The Children director for Palestinian territories, Jason Lee, told the Washington Post that children make up two of every five civilian deaths in Gaza.
On social media, responses to criticism of Ramirez depiction in ‘Human Shields’ saw many question ‘what is inaccurate about it?’
‘I this offends you, you should REALLY see some of the cartoons they publish in Gaza, especially after October 7,’ said one Twitter user.
Another added: ‘While not subtle, it does depict a very sad reality, which you SHOULD acknowledge.’