Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

What's worrying us

It’s not all Arab terror, clashing demands of ultra-Orthodox and Reform Jews, concerns about what Obama might do in the coming month, Trump in the Oval Office, or barbaric Russians, Syrians, and other Muslims just over the northern border. 

There’s also been an explosion of concern about women’s legs, and cartoons of the prime minister, at least one of which has raised concerns about another political murder and brought the police to investigate a first-year art student and her teachers.

There is also what may be a more serious wave of accusations about sexual harassment, bringing forth a special version of tongue-clucking insofar as the accused have been religious Jews of prominence.

Women’s legs became an issue when Knesset guards refused entry to a parliamentary aide whose skirt showed too much.

Ha’aretz cartoonist lampooned the guardians of Israel morality with a creation showing a guard with tape measure against a female leg, and other ladies waiting their turn to be judged.

Then came the work of a young student at the distinguished Bezalel Academy, whose offering in a first year class appeared in all the major newspapers, and produced pondering among politicians of the left and right about the borders between free expression and incitement to violence. It featured the prime minister with a hangman’s noose in front of his face and the word Rope, taking its inspiration from a popular poster of Barack Obama without a noose, but the word Hope.

This became part of a collage of several Netanyahus with the picture of Yitzhak Rabin and the word Traitor, which figured in the incitement that ended with his murder. 

That was too much, representing a step beyond the depiction of the prime minister a week earlier, i.e., a gold-colored, life-sized statue that stood for a short time in the Rabin Square alongside the Tel Aviv city hall, until it was toppled in a videoed scene that recalled the fate of Saddam’s statue some years ago in Baghdad.

The police grilled the student who created the poster of the prime minister with a noose, and her teachers, but stopped short of any criminal procedures. Politicians and commentators sought to define the boundaries of artistic expression. There are laws protecting freedom and other laws imposing criminal penalties for incitement to violence, but there are no precise boundaries between them. Against the background of Rabin’s murder and the antipathy toward Netanyahu, comments approached the norm of Oliver Wendell Holmes, about crying fire in a crowded theater.

It didn’t take long for students at Bezalel to post another cartoon of the prime minister as naked emperor, with a noose aimed at his privates. The wording asks the attorney general if this is okay.

Depending on perspective, it was an artful response to charges of incitement, less dangerous than its predecessor, or ample reason to punish the Academy.

Then came another Haaretz cartoon, portraying a male Knesset member who protested what he saw as an excessive dress code by removing his coat and shirt while in a public part of the building. The headline is directed to one of the prime time news anchors, who warns viewers when a sexy or bloody video is about to appear, “Difficult picture, Yonit.”

Tragedy, comedy, potential danger, justification for UN sanctions and BDS, an illustration of the commotion that occurs in this peaceful little place as opposed to the barbarism of our neighbors? Or a playful pause until the same old stuff comes back to our headlines?

Comment welcome. Irashark@gmail.com.


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