In new project, pro-Israel voices opt for satire over polemic
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In new project, pro-Israel voices opt for satire over polemic

Frustrated with classic ‘hasbara’ or public advocacy, Israeli cartoonists volunteer their talents for the cause

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A caricature by Yossi Shahar posted on the Israeli Cartoon Project Facebook page [courtesy/The Israeli cartoon Project/Yossi Shahar]
A caricature by Yossi Shahar posted on the Israeli Cartoon Project Facebook page [courtesy/The Israeli cartoon Project/Yossi Shahar]

Presenting Israel’s case to the world is a difficult endeavor, especially now when the country finds itself increasingly isolated diplomatically and culturally.

A new online initiative takes a different approach to Israel advocacy, however, striving to explain Israel’s case through satirical caricatures rather than emphatic argumentation.

Using Israeli cartoonists who volunteered their creative talents to the cause, The Israeli Cartoon Project has already garnered over 7,000 fans since its Facebook launch in June.

Asaf Finkelstein, 38, said the initiative was born out of a deep sense of frustration over the British Student Union’s vote to boycott Israel, and a statement by the CEO of mobile giant Orange, Stephane Richard, that he would pull his company out of Israel “tomorrow” were he not bound by contracts.

A caricature by Israeli artist Vladik Sandler courtesy/Vladik Sandler
A caricature by Israeli artist Vladik Sandler (courtesy/Vladik Sandler)

“We realized that the people opposing us are much more numerous than we are,” he told The Times of Israel, recalling a conversation with Israeli cartoonist Uri Fink. “We said: ‘Hey, no one’s listening to us any more.'”

So Finkelstein, who promotes Israeli nonprofits, turned to his friend and colleague Yossi Klar, and together they began recruiting Israeli artists “on both sides of the political map” so as not to be tainted as partisan.

Shay Charka, an Israeli caricaturist, didn’t hesitate for a second when he was approached by Finkelstein and Klar. He said that fighting the pro-Palestinian global boycott campaign against the Jewish state and Israel defamation is one of his top priorities.

“There’s a huge amount of ignorance in the world about what goes on here,” Charka said. “It’s very easy for people to ‘buy’ horrific images of us, while there are no buyers for our argument of ‘listen, it’s not that terrible.'”

The only way to fight hostile images, Charka argued, is with images of our own.

A caricature posted by Israel artist Shay Charka courtesy/Shay Charka
A caricature posted by Israel artist Shay Charka (courtesy/Shay Charka)

“A caricature grabs you immediately because of its humor,” he said. “It works like a Trojan horse: once you’ve smiled, you’ve opened up. And that’s when the message can trickle down, even if you didn’t mean for it to.”

Veteran Israeli caricaturist Uri Fink said he had attempted to launch a similar initiative a few years ago through an Israel advocacy comics competition, but failed. “I’m a caricaturist but not such a great manager,” he said. So when Finkelstein approached him several months ago, he immediately jumped on board.

A caricature by Israeli artist Uri Fink posted on the Facebook page of The Israeli Cartoon Project courtesy/Uri Fink
A caricature by Israeli artist Uri Fink posted on the Facebook page of The Israeli Cartoon Project (courtesy/Uri Fink)

“Caricatures are the best weapon in this war of ideas,” Fink told The Times of Israel.

Even though political caricatures have existed since the 18th century, they are much more effective in the age of social media, he opined.

“It jumps out at you, it takes you a second to get the message, and you go happily on your way,” he said. “It’s not too deep.”

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