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Op-eds

Zapiro draws criticism

  • Howard Feldman 2018
It was my fault. Because not only did I invite cartoonist Zapiro into the studio for an interview but because I asked him about his Israel views. I also invited listener comments and questions.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Nov 30, 2017

My intention was to focus only on the release of his new book Hasta La Gupta Baby which was due to be launched in Johannesburg immediately following my discussion with him on my afternoon drive show on ChaiFM.

But I couldn’t help myself.

Zapiro’s views on Israel are no secret. He is vocal and he is scathing. Nor are mine a secret. I am vocal and I am a supportive. We in fact stand so far apart on this issue that it is a wonder that we would be able to converse on this subject at all.

I am also a huge fan of his work. I believe that he has made a significant contribution to political and social discourse in South Africa. His voice is a powerful one. His talent is spectacular.  

It was after we chatted about his iconic images like the shower head that follows President Jacob Zuma wherever he goes, after we spoke about the enormous pressure that he has to have endured given the outspoken nature of his work, that I tentatively broached the subject of his well-documented Israel views.

Truthfully, I didn’t want to get into the debate itself. What interested me was his personal reaction to being a pariah of the Jewish community. Whereas the community reaction to him might well be a direct result of his own decisions, I was still mindful of how painful it must be to be in that position.

As Jews we are generally quick to claim a person as a member of the tribe, even if the links are tenuous, but we are also unforgiving, unrelenting and perhaps cruel, if we feel betrayed by one of our own.

We are a bit like the ANC this way.

“I want to know from the esteemed Zapiro what it's like to be a traitorous anti-Semitic Jew,” said one listener. Another said: “OMG this mother Teresa is making me vomit,” and another suggested (after he had left the studio) that if I asked him about Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, that he would either say it has no right or that he would obfuscate the answer.

In truth, I have no idea what he would have said. Because whereas his views are no doubt important to him, they are less so to me. I am not offended by them, because I am not threatened by them. He is fully entitled to his opinion as I am to mine. My choice is how to react to that. Mine was to have a conversation with him in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Because I still believe that we achieve so much more by inviting people to Shabbat dinner than we do by throwing stones at them.

Many, if not most, of the listeners took issue with my approach. They seemed to feel that by engaging with Zapiro that I had let them down. They intimated that I had not stood up for something that they valued, and by doing so I had in essence crossed over to the other side.

But I respectfully disagree with that. Which is essentially what it’s all about. 

 

3 Comments

  1. 3 Sue 30 Nov
    Please ignore the narrow-minded, petty, mean-spirited right-wingers in our community. Zapiro is a national treasure, and he is fully entitled to his views on Israel. It is entirely possible to support the state of Israel and be a fan of Zapiro. His views on Israel would not be out of place in any progressive discussion on Israeli politics in Israel itself.
  2. 2 Sonja Shacknofsky 30 Nov
    If Zapiro is such a Jew Hater, let him change his religion, we don't need another one, there are enough Anti-Semites already without him. Let him turn to Muslin where he will be most welcome I am sure.
  3. 1 Mark Friedman 02 Dec
    I think you handled you interview exceptionally well. Enjoyed it thoroughly.
    Mark

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