Eli Valley published a strongly anti-Semitic cartoon on May 14, 2012, on the English-language Israeli blog “972 Magazine," a radical website dedicated to anti-Israel rhetoric. Titled “The hater in the sky,” the cartoon depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eating Barack Obama’s limbs, then forcing him to give him oral sex, all in the name of Israeli defense.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama are in space where the prime minister has pressured the US president to install an anti-meteor “intergalactic robot ray gun” to protect the West Bank settlement of Ariel, no matter the cost. Suddenly, Netanyahu gets a case of the space munchies, so he eats the limbs of the servile Obama. He then sexually assaults his dismembered body and leaves the president in space.
The cartoon parodies the US-Israel “special relationship,” as every moment of hesitation by Obama, either in installing the ray gun or in feeding his limbs to the prime minister, is viewed by Netanyahu and US pundits and politicians as an abandonment of Israel.
Jane Eisner, editor of the Forward, told The Jerusalem Post, “The Forward had first rights to the cartoon and declined to publish it. It did not run in our publication, because I did not think it was appropriate to publish.”
Valley claims that his cartoon is not anti-Semitic. “A cartoon that said all Jews are innately predisposed towards eating Gentiles would be anti-Semitic. A cartoon that pillories Netanyahu’s repeated humiliation of the United States president, and that pillories certain American politicians, journalists, organizations and activists for aiding Netanyahu in the way he has treated his country’s greatest ally, is not.”
Valley sees his work as mocking the powerful. In any case, you can’t satirize the powerless. It’s like a rich person mocking a beggar in the street. It might be humorous to some, but it’s not satire. And I don’t see my community as beggars.
And he considers the Jewish American community to be powerful. Though Jews continue to see themselves as powerlessness, this demonstrates their disconnection between self-image and reality. Those who criticize his work are ghetto Jews who are afraid to talk about problems because they believe the Jewish community is in such a precarious position that it cannot survive any criticism, even from a cartoon. They’re the ones living in fear and panic, not me.”
Valley finds there to be many Jewish issues — e.g., Israel, Zionism, Jewish community presumptions, the place of fear in Jewish communal life — that are considered inviolable in large swaths of the community — or large swaths of the “institutionalized” community, ie. those who affiliate with Jewish institutions. And he is determined to satirize them in the crudest manner possible.
Eli Valley was born Eliezer Valley in Rhode Island and grew up in upstate New York and Cherry Hill, New Jersey. His father is a rabbi and his mother, who is no longer religiously observant, was a social worker and later a lawyer. His parents divorced when Valley was young and he lived with his mother. He experienced intermittent bursts of religious activity, either through the phone wires or when visiting his dad and he says the contrast between their two cultures had an influence on his comics.
He grew up in the comfortable community of Cherry Hill NJ, about five miles (8 km) southeast of Philadelphia. The town was named in 2006 among the 'Best Places to Live' in the United States by Money Magazine and it was ranked eighth safest place to live in the same survey.
After high school, he studied English literature at Cornell University. After college he went to live in Prague for four and a half years, at the end of which he published a book in 1999, “The Great Jewish Cities of Central and Eastern Europe: A Travel Guide and Resource Book to Prague, Warsaw, Cracow, and Budapest.”
“I wanted to try living in a different place and I couldn’t afford to live in Western Europe,” Valley says. “I gradually became more involved in the Jewish community and culture in Prague, and I became a tour guide in the old Jewish quarter.
He has visisted Israel a number of times, including one five-month stay in Safed in Israel during the period he was living in Prague. “I was 22 or 23 and it seemed like a very romantic idea to me. There was an American community there, lots of Californians who brought a mix of New Age spirituality and Judaism. It was interesting, but also psychotic.”
In Feb. of 2012, he was in Israel and gave presentations of his work to students in the visual design departments at Shenkar School of Engineering and Design, the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and also at Beit Ha’am on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.
Valley currently lives in New York, in the East Village. He is the Artist in Residence at The Jewish Daily Forward. His work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Jewcy, and Haaretz , among others. In addition to his employment at the Forward, Valley has a day job as a writer and editor for The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, an organization created by hedge fund billionaire Michael Steinhardt, one of the founders of Birthright Israel.
Given Valley’s denial of anti-Semitic themes in his work, in order to evaluate this claim, we should first have a better understanding of Anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews. They can be classified into four broad themes:
1. Horrific physical and personality characteristics of Jews
One can dehumanize a people by using grotesque caricatures. Jewish physical characteristics are drawn to horrify the reader, depicted as being olive brown skin, curly black hair, large hook-noses, thick lips, large dark-colored eyes, excessive hairiness, and wearing kippahs. These physical characteristics can be unified in the form of a monster or vampire.
The personality of Jews has often been stereotyped as cunning, treacherous, greedy and money-mad. They are vindictive, heartless, thieves, murderers, seducers of innocent non-Jewish girls, parasites, and of course, the toxic charge of deicide.
2. Blood Libel
This stereotype claims that Jewish religious law commands Jews to kill non-Jews, a classic of the Nazi movement, and the horrific accusation of Jews killing children for their blood (known as “Blood Libel”). Jews are also shown eating body parts.
3. Jews are conspiring for world domination
Jews are accused of conspiring to manipulate world leaders and events, a belief in the hidden Jewish control of others, Jews wanting world domination, and especially control of the U.S.
The “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was first published in Russia in 1903. It was an antisemitic hoax purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. The Protocols purports to document the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting of Jewish leaders discussing their goal of global Jewish hegemony by subverting the morals of Gentiles, and by controlling the press and the world's economies.
Today’s advanced version of the Elders of Zion – though the protocols are still alive - may be said to be the “Israel Lobby.” In March 2009, Charles W. Freeman, Jr. claimed that a powerful lobby is determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process," although "the bulk of the lobby is comprised of Jewish Americans," the lobby also includes Christian Zionists.
The Israel Lobby is also a favourite theme of Thomas Friedman of the New York Times who finds the lobby behind many of the decisions of the American government. In Dec. 13, 2011, he wrote: “I sure hope that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
4. New anti-Semitism
The new anti-Semitism attacks primarily the existence of a nation-state of the Jews, in a demonization and delegitimization of the state of Israel. This is done by applying double standards requiring behavior of Israel not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
So let’s compare the cartoon “The hater in the sky” to classical stereotypes of Jews. We have clearly all four themes. Netanyahu is shown with bestial features, we have the blood libel with the eating of limbs, and Jews are manipulating a world leader, and Israel is required to meet standards that are not applied to any other nation.
Valley claimed that the caricature is only of a single Jew Netanyahu. But Netanyahu is identified in the cartoon as “the leader of the Jewish people.” And we are shown a chorus of “Israel firsters” who are demanding Obama ignore the interests of the American people and instead work to the defense of Israel – at all costs.
The first “professional” cartoon of Valley was sent to the Israeli anti-Semitic cartoon contest announced on February 14, 2006. He sent a cartoon of a grotesque Jew with two penises simultaneously sodomizing a Muslim woman and a Christian woman who are crying out to Allah and Jesus to save them. With one hand the Jew is creating massive tsunami waves and with the other he is launching a plane at the Twin Towers. On his head is a skullcap, and his testicles emit an odor of garlic, borscht and the tears of virgins.
Clearly Valley had found his calling. He apparently felt quite good about drawing a cartoon making use of a Jew with horrific physical characteristics who accosts and rapes non-Jewish women. Since then, he has maintained his close association between his cartoons and the lexicon of anti-Semitic themes.
Valley drew a comic called “Israel Man and Diaspora Boy” on May 13, 2008 that parodies Jewish concepts of masculinity embodied in Israeli-born Sabras, as opposed to effeminate Diaspora Jewish men. This could be taken out of the Nazi handbook with the obviously Aryan superman facing the parasitic Jew. Clearly the Israeli Jew has nothing to do with Judaism while the real Jew is in the diaspora.
In a fake ad published on November 07, 2008 for a week-long evangelical trip to the Holy Land and titled "Evangelical Zionist Tours of Israel," Valley expresses his contempt of Christian Zionists. Fitting the definition of the New Anti-Zionism, there is clearly no defense of Israel and those who support Israel clearly have tainted ulterior motives. He expresses all the anti-Christian fears that lurk in the heart of many an American Jew. Obese and monstrous Evangelicals are shown going to Israel, praising Hitler as a “Servant of the Lord,” and looking forward to the “mother of all Holocausts for Jews and Muslems who don’t convert.”
This theme of the Israel lobby controlling America and the new anti-Semitism can be seen in Valley’s cartoon published on May 06, 2009 and attacking Abe Foxman of the ADL. Titled “Abe Foxworthy: The Redneck Who’s Paranoid About Anti-Semites,” in which Foxman is in a limousine that crashes into one carrying comedian Jeff Foxworthy, and the two men merge into a being railing about how, among other things, “if you criticize Israel’s settlements but don’t criticize Wal-Mart when they run out of tackle and bait you might be an anti-Semite!”
Control over what Americans are thinking can also be seen in his cartoon of June 4, 2010 in which mainstream Jewish organizations are accused of conspiring to hide the truth about Israel. In “Bucky Shvitz, Sociologist for Hire,” Valley invokes “casino mogul Milt Levy” (presumably Sheldon Adelson), who comes up with a suitcase full of money in order to obtain the results he wants from sociological research.
In “Never Miss an Opportunity” published on October 27, 2011, a zombie Theodore Herzl, father of modern Zionism, is shown as the narrator. The title refers to a statement made by Israeli statesman Abba Evan at the Geneva Peace in 1973 when he said “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Often misquoted as “The Palestinians never miss…” the phrase has become a standard talking point in certain circles.
In what can be alternatively titled “No. You Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity…” Valley chides what he perceives as the many Israeli and Jewish communal missed opportunities to foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
His cartoons also show a visceral dislike of Jews, particularly observant Jews, using all the stereotypical anti-Semitic physical characteristics. In a January 13, 2010 cartoon in The Forward entitled “The Odd Couple,” Valley portrayed an encounter between Brian Greenstein, a young Jew visiting Jerusalem for the first time, and Avi Klopnik, a caricature of an ultra-Orthodox extremist with all the stereotypical anti-Semitic characteristics of a Jew.
For Greenstein, who doesn’t understand Hebrew, Klopnik’s words sound like music to the soul, while in fact Valley puts into Klopnik’s mouth select quotations from Jewish public figures and clergy, such as: “A woman who wears a prayer shawl should be wrapped in the shawl and buried.”
Going to an extreme, Valley has the orthodox Jew state “We should destroy Muslim holy sites and kill their men, women, children, and cattle:” a statement that goes against Jewish law and it is doubtful if Valley could find even one example of such a religious individual expressing such an opinion but a assertion that fits quite well with his anti-Semitic sentiments.
The cartoon shows Brian Greenstein in different frames with the name of Orthodox organizations involved in the education of Jews in America. Ohr Somayach is a yeshiva based in Jerusalem, Israel, catering mostly to young Jewish men, with little or no background in Judaism, but with an interest in studying the classic texts such as the Talmud and responsa. The JSU (Jewish Student Union) and the NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth) are connected to the Orthodox Jewish movement in the US.
The stereotype of Jewish control over the USA is repeated in Valley’s cartoon of February 24, 2012 titled “Choose Your Own Apocalypse.” Here Eli Valley becomes a prophet in predicting that the Jews will cause the US to declare war on Iran. Anyone disagreeing with this move to war will only find work in a lavatory.
This war will result in the deaths of 1,500 American soldiers and the burning of Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Eilat. The US drops a nuclear bomb on Southern Iran resulting in 200,000 deaths. A giant irradiated sea monsters arises and devours everyone at AIPAC, freeing American policy, and allowing the USA to broker a genuine peace between Israel and Palestine.
Irrespective of Valley’s rationalizations, his comics make use of all of the classic anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews. One can imagine that this “nice Jewish boy” had learned his craft at Der Stürmer, a Nazi newspaper that was a significant part of the Nazi propaganda machinery and vehemently anti-Semitic. He clearly has sexual problems and hates his Jewish heritage. And the sickness extends to those who publish his work and admire his cartoons.
Eli Valley’s message is simple in his cartoons: Israel is an apartheid state, ruled by neo-fascists and fanatical religious fundamentalists. American Jews that support Israel are either dupes, or are cynically exploiting the fear and ignorance of other Jews to rake in the dough. The Jewish establishment in the US pushes the party line of Israel’s “right-wing” government, and viciously clamps down on dissent. Meanwhile, the Likud regime continues to victimize Palestinian Arabs and shun peace while manipulating — with the help of fundamentalist Christian fanatics — the US government, in best Elders of Zion fashion.