update deskAntisemitism

West praises campaign art director whose cartoons feature blood libel

Images show Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shoveling skulls, Israel’s flag made to look like a Nazi one, big noses and allusions to genocide.

Cornell West in New York City in 2015. Credit: A katz/Shutterstock.
Cornell West in New York City in 2015. Credit: A katz/Shutterstock.

Cornel West, the left-wing progressive firebrand and independent 2024 U.S. presidential candidate, has defended Dwayne Booth, an art director contributing to his campaign whose work has generated outrage.

West called Booth “one of the great artists in American culture,” comparing him to “the great satirists of the past—from Jonathan Swift to Ishmael Reed. He exposes the hypocrisy and cruelty in our lives and society.”

One image by Booth featured three men drinking blood out of wine glasses as Israeli and American flags stood in the background. A peace dove stood to the right and the caption read: “Who invited that lousy anti-Semite?” Another depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a red-eyed butcher covered in blood, holding a knife and a Palestinian flag. One more showed a gun with an Israeli flag pressed up against a baby’s head.

Others included references to Nazis and the Holocaust with a starving group of concentration-camp prisoners holding anti-Israel signs, and a Star of David in a design mimicking the Nazi flag. Booth also depicted Netanyahu shoveling skulls like coal into an old-fashioned train. The caption reads that he is “charging full steam ahead into the history books as the first Israeli Prime Minister magnanimous enough to bring every last Palestinian man, woman, and child in on the peace process.”

Dwayne Booth
Dwayne Booth. Credit: Canary Mission.

J. Larry Jameson, interim president of the University of Pennsylvania, has condemned the antisemitic artwork created and shared by Booth, who is a lecturer at the Annenberg School for Communications, where he teaches about editorial cartoons.

“I want it understood that these political cartoons, posted on a personal website, were not taught in the classroom and do not reflect the views of the University of Pennsylvania or me, personally,” he said in a statement. “They disrespect the feelings and experiences of many people in our community and around the world, particularly those only a generation removed from the Holocaust. And, for me, it is painful to see the suffering and tragic loss of life of noncombatants in Israel and Gaza be fodder for satire.”

On Tuesday, following the reporting of his work, Booth put up a cartoon showing two men holding sideways a sign that said “Peace!” in a word balloon. The caption accompanying the cartoon read, “If you turn the image this way you can clearly see he’s promoting an anti-Semitic trope about big noses.”

On Oct. 10, Booth posted an image of a bloody bird skeleton with a caption, that read, in part: “We must also admit our collective failure to recognize the disgraceful fact that Gaza has been Israel’s Abu Ghraib for generations.” On Oct. 30, Booth shared an image of an overweight man crushing a dove as blood spurted out, which he titled “A Bird in the Hand (Ethnic Cleansing in Gaza).”

For Thanksgiving, Booth posted an image titled “Unthankful” that featured a stereotypical 1950s-style family preparing to eat a pile of skulls and bones with the caption “For the Genocide Upon Which We Stand.”

On Dec. 15, Booth offered a cartoon of U.S. President Joe Biden with his head buried in a giant pile of skulls alongside the caption “Joe Biden looking through his support of Israeli aggression for a reason why anybody with a soul might be able to forgive his complicity with genocide and vote for him in 2024.” On Christmas, Booth published an image featuring Biden smashing a baby Jesus in the manger with the accusation that he “murders helpless Middle East babies.”

In June, Booth proclaimed his support for West, posting an image of the longtime leftist agitator with “Go West!” For his part, the candidate called Booth “my dear brother. I am blessed to have him as the premier art director in my presidential campaign for Truth Justice Love!”

Booth’s work has been featured in Harper’s, Truthdig.com, The Los Angeles Times, the Village Voice, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, The Advocate, Z Magazine, the Utne Reader, Slate and MSNBC.

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