Bourdon, Jerome, and Sandrine Boudana. “Controversial Cartoons in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Cries of Outrage and Dialogue of the Deaf.” The International Journal of Press/Politics (early view; online first).
This article analyzes the controversies triggered by sixteen cartoons about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, published in nine western countries between 2001 and 2014. For this, we use E.D. Hirsch’s distinction between the meaning of a text—which refers to the author’s intentions—and its significance—which emphasizes the contexts of production and reception. Critics focused mostly on significance, defenders on meaning. Using this distinction, we first examine the rhetoric of cartoons: stereotypes linked to antisemitism (accusations of deicide and blood libel), use of the Star of David as metonym of Israel, disputed historical analogies (between Israeli policy and Nazism or Apartheid). Second, we analyze four levels of contextual interpretations that have framed the debates: the cartoon as genre, the ethotic arguments about the cartoonist and/or newspaper’s track record, the cartoons’ historical and transnational intertextuality (especially with the Arab press), and the issue of audiences’ sensitivities. We analyze the complex exchanges of arguments that led mostly to a dialogue of the deaf, but also, in some cases, to partial agreement on the offensive character of the cartoons. We conclude that this methodology can be applied to other controversies around popular political texts, which offer similar characteristics.