When a cartoon is beyond the pale
A letter to Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) concerning his caricature of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng published in The Daily Maverick on Thursday, 2nd July 2020.
By Stephen Schulman
Dear Jonathan Shapiro,
I have long admired your artistic talents in caricaturing even though I have at times disagreed with their contents and message. Still, we live in an age of democracy and freedom of expression and you and I, like others, have the right to express their views. I now wish to exercise that right and take issue with your scurrilous caricature of the chief justice of your country South Africa.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, a devout Christian and a respected personage with a long history of fighting for human rights, had actually dared to express his personal beliefs that were anathema to and ran counter to the official oft trumpeted biased anti -Israel mantra of the ANC leadership and you included: simply calling for a more even handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and recognizing the validity of the existence of the State of Israel. Had he adopted the well worn official line of vilifying and demonizing the Jewish state, encomiums would have been showered upon him, but with his thoughtful and measured words he had actually rocked the boat and gravy train and in so doing had incurred the opprobrium of and brought the full wrath of the political establishment, its faithful followers and sycophants down on his head.
The age old adage states: “A picture is worth a thousand words!” In your caricature of this august gentleman, you have pulled out all the stops, using all your talent to besmirch and humiliate him. Firstly, you have resorted to the well-worn sordid trick of mocking and distorting his name with the pejorative “Moegoe Moegoe“ – making him sound like some bothersome insect while knowing only too well that Moegoe is South African slang for “a stupid person, coward, or weakling”. Shame on you Jonathan Shapiro!
For his sins of calling for a non-lopsided approach to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, you chose to label the Chief Justice the “Chief Zionist” – a venomous assault on his credibility and objectivity. Furthermore, he now has the Jerusalem dividing wall like a vise on his head, squeezing his cranium, addling his brain and distorting his vision. If you, Jonathan Shapiro, see Zionism as synonymous with this wall, allow me to enlighten you. Prior to its construction, there was a wave of bombings and terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. Many innocent men, women and children whose sole crime was being Jewish and living in Israel, were murdered, maimed, disfigured and blinded by terrorists and many families destroyed – many of them by suicide bombers – coming from the Palestinian Authority that consequently rewarded them for their nefarious deeds by granting the families of theses murderers and “martyrs” a generous monthly pension – the official ‘pay for slay’ policy! The suicide bombers, as promised by their Muslim religious leaders, would get their own special reward by ascending to the great celestial brothel where seventy-two non- menstruating virgins (Did they work in shifts?) were waiting for each one.
Was the wall – a necessary evil – effective?
The answer is a resoundingly positive one as since its construction, the number of terrorist attacks has plummeted and many lives have been saved and much suffering averted. The logic is quite clear: Had there been no terror attacks on Jews, condoned and sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, then the dividing wall would not have been necessary.
Now, Jonathan Shapiro, I ask you in the name of moral consistency, why do you not condemn other walls that have been erected? To name a few: Turkey illegally invaded Cyprus and built a wall dividing the island and in its construction caused much suffering to Greek Cypriots who were forcibly evicted from their homes, losing their livelihoods. Egypt built a wall to separate the Gaza Strip from its territory at the cost of destroying many homes of Gaza residents. Have you used your pen to voice your indignation or have you with double standards conveniently ignored them?
In your caricature, you labeled the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) a myth. A myth can be defined as a narrative of fictitious events without any foundation explaining certain phenomenon and that is sometimes used to propagate certain ideologies. You have therefore decided to place the Hebrew Bible in the same category as the Greek myths – entertaining but devoid of any value or truth whatsoever. In other words, you have negated the bedrock of the Jewish faith, its deep connection to the land of Israel and made a mockery of the religion. Many of your cartoons have reinforced this point.
Nevertheless, whilst publicly besmirching the religion you were born into, you have not been averse to using the Jewish community of Cape Town and shamelessly exploiting its services. I believe you chose to send your children to Herzlia, a Jewish Day School and had no qualms in requesting your mother to be placed in Highlands House, a Jewish home for the aged. In saying one thing and doing another, it is pretty clear that moral consistency is not your strong point. That, Jonathan Shapiro, in simple English is called: moral hypocrisy.
About the writer:
Stephen Schulman is a graduate of the South African Jewish socialist youth movement Habonim, who immigrated to Israel in 1969 and retired in 2012 after over 40 years of English teaching. He was for many years a senior examiner for the English matriculation and co-authored two English textbooks for the upper grades in high school. Now happily retired, he spends his time between his family, his hobbies and reading to try to catch up on his ignorance.