By Ronn Blitzer
Published August 18, 2019
Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., continue to speak out against President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the decision to bar them from visiting Israel last week, but now recent social media posts from the freshman congresswomen – part of the “Squad” that includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley -- include a political cartoon from an artist celebrated for his anti-Semitic imagery.
Tlaib and Omar posted to their Instagram stories a cartoon which depicts Netanyahu silencing Tlaib by covering her mouth, and Trump doing the same to Omar, The Jewish Daily Forward’s Batya Ungar-Sargon noticed.
“The more they try to silence us, our voices rise. The more they try to weaken us, the stronger we become. The more they try to discredit us, the truth prevails,” was the statement included in Tlaib’s post.
Ungar-Sargon pointed out that the artist who drew the cartoon, Carlos Latuff, has a history of cartoons that compare Israel to Nazis, including an entry in the 2006 Iran Holocaust Cartoon Contest that won him second place.
Latuff himself shared the cartoon on his Twitter page, and early Sunday morning he posted a link to an interview he did with the Forward where he discussed his controversial artwork. He defended his use of the Holocaust to criticize Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, even while acknowledging that the two are not exactly the same.
“Of course Israel isn’t building gas chambers in the West Bank, but surely we can find some similarities between the treatment given to Palestinians by the [Israel Defense Forces] and the Jews under Nazi rule,” Latuff said.
Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department updated its definition of "anti-Semitism" to include "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” This was after Omar introduced a resolution that endorsed the use of boycotts, specifically referring to their past use against Nazi Germany.
When confronted with criticism of his use of “traditional anti-Semitic motifs,” Latuff insisted, “My cartoons have no focus on the Jews or on Judaism. My focus is Israel as a political entity[.]” He did not explain why it was necessary to use anti-Jewish tropes to criticize Israel, other than to say, “It happens to be Israeli Jews that are the oppressors of Palestinians.”
Still, when pressed on the issue, he did say, “No doubt about real anti-Semitism. Of course you’ll have people hijacking the Palestinian struggle as a chance for bashing the Jews, like European neo-Nazis who demonstrate against the occupation of Palestinian territories or the Iraq War. It’s important for the left to keep them apart from the legitimate struggle for the rights of the Palestinians.”
He denied, however, that being anti-Zionist is anti-Semitic.
It is unclear whether Tlaib or Omar were aware of Latuff’s history when they shared the recent cartoon. Fox News reached out to both lawmakers, but they did not immediately respond.
The congresswomen were originally scheduled to visit Israel over the weekend. The Israeli government initially said they would be welcome, despite an Israeli law that bars visitation from those who support boycotts of the Jewish state, which Omar and Tlaib have publicly endorsed.
On Thursday, the day before they were set to embark on their trip, Israeli Interior Minister Arye Deri decided to block them from coming after all, with Netanyahu supporting the decision. The prime minister explained the decision in a statement, which described how the government had recently received a copy of Omar and Tlaib’s itinerary, which was labeled as a trip to “Palestine” and not Israel, and which Netanyahu said “reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”
Tlaib, who has family residing in Palestinian territory in the West Bank, was told that she could enter Israel if she submitted a humanitarian request and promised not to promote boycotts of Israel during her visit. She made a formal request that noted that this could be her last chance to see her elderly grandmother. Israel then granted her permission to come, only for her to then say she would not come after all, claiming, “Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother's heart.”
When talk show host Bill Maher criticized the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that Tlaib and Omar support, Tlaib suggested that viewers boycott his HBO show.