On Oct. 13, the Daily Californian — the student newspaper at the University of California, Berkeley — published an anti-Semitic cartoon portraying civil rights attorney Alan Dershowitz. The cartoon was published in response to a speech Dershowitz gave on “the liberal case for Israel,” according to a letter to the editor he published in the Daily Cal on Oct. 25.
The paper retracted the cartoon on Oct. 27, following several responses sent to the publication. “I cannot recall anything similar in The Daily Californian,” Carol Christ, chancellor of UC Berkeley, said in her own Oct. 24 letter to the editor. She noted the cartoon’s allusion to the Jewish “blood libel” stereotype, among other objectionable elements. Though he himself was the cartoon’s victim, Dershowitz said in his Oct. 25 letter to the editor that the cartoon “should be widely circulated, along with the names prominently displayed of the person who drew it and the bigoted editors who decided to publish it. Every potential employer or admissions officer should ask them to justify their bigotry.”
The cartoon has now been retracted, The Daily Californian has apologized, and the public has loudly sounded off on the ill-intentioned, but sadly unoriginal, message this cartoon perpetuated. Although this episode seems to have passed, this moment is an instructive one on how Jews must confront past issues continuing to linger, and as some believe, beginning to resurge in greater force.
For the past decades — if not longer — the United States has provided Jews with greater comfort and ease of mind than possibly any other nation in the world besides Israel. Because of the rights we have here, it has become easy for many to forget our past, to forget what not so long ago led to the death of millions of Jews throughout Europe. It has become easy to pretend that anti-Semitism and its weaker strains are permanently gone. But when moments like the publication of the Daily Cal’s cartoon manifest, an increasingly anti-Semitic far left (in addition to the reemergence of the traditionally hateful far-right) remind us that these problems do not permanently reside in history books. The Jewish community must note its reemergence, and to combat this problem, we must find ways to reconnect with our roots and build stronger bonds within our broader communities to fight these cancerous ideas.
One day, we will hopefully be able to put a final end to anti-Semitism and all hatred, shutting the history books for good. But, until that time comes, it is urgent to wake up to the challenges we must confront. We need to recollect our communal strength; if we do, the Jewish people will overcome these obstacles just as we have so many times before.