The Israeli Embassy in Egypt has filed a formal complaint with the Cairo government over a political cartoon that depicted the Jewish State as a Nazi octopus.
The cartoon, published June 15, showed a humanitarian aid vessel sailing towards Gaza, grabbed by an octopus carrying an Israeli flag – but the traditional Jewish Star in the center of the flag was replaced with a Nazi swastika. It appeared in the Al-Watani al-Youm (National Daily) newspaper, considered to be the mouthpiece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.
The cartoon itself was a reference to the clash between Israeli Navy commandos and IHH terror activists aboard the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara, one of six vessels in a flotilla that attempted to violate Israeli sovereignty over Gaza waters in late May. The terrorists attacked the Israeli soldiers as they rappelled on to the vessel to take control after it ignored repeated calls to change course and head for Ashdod port.
Anti-Israel rhetoric, editorials and cartoons are not rare in Egyptian media. However, it is extremely rare for the Israeli diplomatic corps to respond to such provocations, especially at the embassy level.
Embassy spokeswoman Shani Cooper-Zubida explained in an emailed response to a query from the Reuters news service that a decision was made to raise the issue this time because "this one didn’t present legitimate opposition to Israeli policy, but defamation." Specifically, she said, it was "the comparison between Israel and Nazism" that prompted the Israeli Embassy to fire off a letter of complaint to the newspaper that represents Egypt’s ruling party.
"Using the Nazi swastika symbol in the heart of the cartoon, and even the idea of using it, is an insult to humanity and is tantamount to an anti-Semitic statement," the letter said in part. Newspaper editor Mohammad el-Alfy defended his decision to publish the cartoon in a subsequent editorial, claiming it was an issue of freedom of expression.
Brazilian cartoonist Carol Latuff was equally unrepentant in an email to Reuters in which he said "The Israeli ambassador could show the same interest that he shows for my cartoons, for the lives of the activists lost in the Freedom flotilla. Allegations of anti-Semitism are a well-known strategy of the Israeli government and its supporters in order to neutralize any criticism against the Israeli apartheid. These malicious allegations will not prevent me keeping on making my cartoons on behalf of the brave Palestinian people."