French Jewish communities condemn Muhammad cartoons

The president of the representative body of France's Jewish communities has condemned the new publication of caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

The publication Wednesday of the caricatures in the French weekly Charlie Hebdo  “in the current context” is “irresponsible,” Dr. Richard Prasquier, the president of the Jewish umbrella body CRIF, said in a statement.

The weekly published the caricatures in a defiant move it said was meant to celebrate freedom of seech after deadly riots that broke out in Muslim countries over the recent release of an anti-Muslim film titled “the Innocence of Muslims.”

The front page cartoon of Charlie Hebdo  showed an ultra-Orthodox Jew and a Muslim saying: “No mocking.” It was titled “Untouchables 2,” a reference to a French film.

“Considering the fatalities [in riots connected with the film] we disapprove of the initiative of Charlie Hebdo,” Prasquier added. “The critics of religion must themselves heed criticism – not of their principles but of the timing of their actions.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticized the publication as a provocation and said he had ordered security beefed up at French diplomatic offices in the Muslim world.

Charlie Hebdo's Paris offices were fire bombed last November after it published a mocking caricature of Muhammad.

Over 30 people have been killed in the violent backlash over a 14-minute YouTube trailer for the film, titled “Innocence of Muslims,” believed to have been produced by a small group of extremist Christians in the United States.

In 2005, Danish cartoons of the prophet sparked a wave of violent protests across the Muslim world that killed at least 50 people.

Austrian politician probed for publishing hook-nosed banker caricature

Prosecutors in Vienna are examining the recent posting of an allegedly anti-Semitic caricature on Austrian politician Heinz-Christian Strache’s Facebook page.

The page featured a caricature depicting an obese, hook-nosed banker wearing star-shaped cufflinks. Strache leads the rightist FPO, Austrian Freedom Party

“There is no decision yet to start a criminal investigation regarding the publication, but we are looking into it and will decide whether such an investigation should be opened,” Thomas Vecsey, a spokesperson for the Vienna Prosecutor’s Office, told JTA.

If initiated, the investigation would focus on suspicions of hate speech.

Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish community of Vienna, in a news release accused Strache of disseminating anti-Semitic, 1940s-style propaganda. The release described the star-shaped cufflinks on the banker’s sleeve as Stars of David.

In response, a posting on Strache’s Facebook page said the cufflinks were diamonds and that one needed to be “fairly paranoid to see a Star of David in that shape.” Interpreting the hook-shaped nose as Jewish “is in fact anti-Semitic, and we reject this,” the post read.

The caricature shows the obese banker eating food that a waiter labeled as “the government” puts before him. An emaciated third character labeled as “the people” sits beside the banker with just a bare bone on his plate.

Strache and other FPO lawmakers have frequently faced accusations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

“The FPO and Strache are experts in deflecting accusations of anti-Semitism,” Ilja Sichrovsky, the Austria-born secretary general of the Muslim Jewish Conference, an interfaith organization, told JTA. “What is certain is that it was insensitive of Strache to place such a caricature in light of Austria’s history with the vilification of Jews in caricatures.”

Cartoonist captures comics

The deep-wrinkled smile of Mel Brooks, the sadly nervous stare of Woody Allen and the loud-mouthed plasticity of Joan Rivers — Drew Friedman doesn’t just paint these icons, he captures their wit, charm and the poignancy of their careers.

“The history of their lives is written on their faces,” said Friedman, who draws every wrinkle, scar, extra chin and drop of sweat that casually slides across a comic’s face.

Friedman’s new book, “More Old Jewish Comedians” (Fantagraphics Books, $16.99), a sequel to his 2006 “Old Jewish Comedians,” continues his humorous,

Educating the governator

Your Letters

Bush Cover Story

The front cover caricature, showing President Bush with Jewish facial features holding the State of Israel, shows its creator Steve Greenberg’s hatred of president Bush and his ill feelings toward the State of Israel (“Is Bush Good For Israel?” April 30). This is the kind of caricature I would expect to see in an Arab publication. Shame on you for going to press with this insulting message — both toward President Bush and The State of Israel — on your front cover.

Eliahu Silon, Beverly Hills

Janine Zacharia’s cover story, “Is Bush Good for Israel?” was mistitled: It should have read, “Why Leftists Don’t Like Bush’s Pro-Israel Policies” (April 30). After a perfunctory recital of some of President Bush’s most recent, highly pro-Israel moves, Zacharia goes on to recite chapter and verse the failed ideas of Martin Indyk and other dreamers. All the article did is convince me that much more that a vote for Bush is a vote for Israel’s security!

Jarrow L. Rogovin, Los Angeles

Shame on The Jewish Journal for its offensive cover this week portraying President Bush as Rhett Butler and Israel as Scarlett O’Hara. Janine Zacharia and her liberal cronies (apparently including the editorial staff of The Journal) can’t stand the fact that a conservative like President Bush is truly for Israel — not merely for Ariel Sharon. All it needed was for President Bush to be shown embracing Ariel Sharon dressed as Scarlett O’Hara to be more shocking.

The Jewish Journal should realize the Jewish vote is not monolithic. Come November 2, observant Jews will vote for President Bush, Israel’s true friend.

B. Keating, Sherman Oaks

It’s disturbing to see such pro-Bush articles in The Jewish Journal, particularly since there seems to be no counterpunch offering more than a token nod to those of us who think Bush is bad for America, bad for the world — and ultimately, yes, bad for Israel and the Jews as well (“Is Bush Good for Israel?” and “More Jews May Hop on the Bush Bandwagon,” April 30).

How can you not cover this other side as religiously as you’re giving ink to all those Jews who are happily abandoning the Democratic Party to put Bush-Cheney in power for another four years? The newly “Republicanized” Jews may make a better story, but they certainly won’t contribute to a better America.

Ruth Stroud, Manhattan Beach

First, I have to say that your cover illustration was disgusting, about as appealing as killing a pig and eating it raw. Secondly, anyone who is Jewish and votes for Bush because of his stance on Israel is a fool at best. I am Jewish, I am proud to be a Jew, but I don’t always support Israel. Does that make me an anti-Jew? No, that makes me a Jew who questions.

I urge Jews to vote against Bush. Please no more covers of Bush pre-coital with a Jewish woman, it really is repulsive.

Jesse Daniels-Hanifan, Los Angeles

A number of American Jews believe Bush to be Israel’s best friend even though in almost four years there is still no real prospect for peace. They say they like Bush’s “strong leadership” which, in fact, is a blunt force hurdling down the wrong road, not looking left or right, or heeding caution, stop signs or red lights, without seatbelt, airbag or brakes.

Some of these Americans will vote for Bush (and may help elect him) despite mistakes Bush has made here and abroad that are monumentally tragic. They give no consideration that John Kerry will lead without the Bush baggage that trails him here, throughout the world and in the United Nations.

I suggest these people reflect on their priorities: U.S. first or Israel first.

Bert Eifer, Woodland Hills

Marc Ballon lives in Fantasyland if he believes there is a Jewish groundswell of support for George W. Bush (“More Jews May Hop on Bush Bandwagon,” April 30). To the contrary, I find the Jewish community to be generally appalled by Bush’s disastrous quagmire in Iraq and his disingenuous and self-serving approach to civil rights, taxation, the federal deficit, corporate crime, education and environmental protection.

Dan Freedland, Rolling Hills Estates

Vietnam Déja Vu

Congratulations on your running of Gordon Livingston’s article about Vietnam and Iraq (“Iraq Situation: It’s Vietnam Déja Vu,” April 30). The article is absolutely on target in its comparison of the propaganda promotions of the Vietnam war and the present disaster in Iraq, and a devastating analysis of the Bushprogram in the present war. Thank you for the courage to publish the truth.

Leo A. Goldberg, Los Angeles


Ordering information for the “Dictionary of Sephardic Surnames” in “What’s Portugese for Cohen?” (April 30) can be found at

Torah Portion

You can’t miss her. All over town, huge billboards advertise not cigarettes, automobiles or banking services but the image of a scantily clad young woman, with the caption “Angelyne.” Her image is a caricature of male fantasies. What was once confined to the back pages of so-called “men’s magazines,” now decorates the public thoroughfare. From street level, it’s virtually impossible to miss her — her gigantic voluptuousness measured not in inches but in yards.

But having grown immune to every conceivable urban aberration, I hardly notice anymore. It was my son who paid attention: “Abba, who is that lady, Angelyne, and why is she on that billboard? What is she selling?” Good question. Why is this lady all over town? What do you tell a child about this phenomenon?

Well, kids, in our culture, and especially in this city, being famous is dearly valued. Fame conveys validation, fulfilling a deep need to be recognized. Celebrity is ontology — you’re not anyone until you’re on TV. “Is that someone?” I ask my wife, pointing to a lesser-known character actor sitting across us in a restaurant.

Most of all, fame is immortality. There are people so terribly anxious that their lives will amount to nothing — people who worry that they will live and die and leave no trace of themselves in the world, their lives touching no one, accomplishing nothing, making no difference — they fear no one will ever know that they lived. Somehow, being famous relieves them of this terror of oblivion.

For most, such as star athletes, actors, authors or musicians, fame is earned through the contribution of some talent or gift. Then, there are people who become famous accidentally (see Kato Kaelin) or those who are famous for no reason at all (Oprah Winfrey and Regis Philbin come to mind). Saddest of all, there are people so desperate to be known that they will do anything, even buy up billboards, just to be famous for a few moments. They will do anything to gain fame because only in fame will they ever feel important and real.

“Maybe she’s trying to make friends,” says my young daughter. Indeed. What an image to set before a little girl — a woman who buys her place in the world with peroxide and silicone. Evidence again that, for such a sophisticated culture, our appreciation and mastery of the mysterious power of sexuality remains so crude.

Of course, it’s not just Angelyne. The equation of a woman’s worth with the measure of her bust is a common American tale. It just seems to have gotten worse lately. Consider the phenomenon of the “supermodel.” Once an anonymous mannequin for the display of clothing, now they’ve become cultural heroes. For doing what? I want my daughter to emulate Golda Meir, Margaret Mead, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but she’s constantly confronted with Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer.

For a culture that has come so far in liberating women from all that bound them for centuries, we have yet so far to go. Women today govern nations, manage major corporations, direct scientific missions to Mars. But the leading consumer product in 1990s America remains the “wonder bra.”

In this week’s haftarah, the section of the Prophets that’s read along with the weekly Torah portion, the prophet Jeremiah receives his calling. He is only 17 and looking for the mission and measure of his life. In what will he find success and fulfillment? Fame, wealth, power all beckon. But the word of God comes to him: “See, I appoint you this day over nations and kingdoms; to uproot and pull down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” He resists. The career of the prophet will make him anathema to his community and people — the anti-celebrity. But God will not be put off. What is celebrity, compared with the sacred work of speaking God’s word? In the shadow of the holy task of mending God’s world, the pursuit of fame brings only hopelessness and futility. And if you don’t believe Jeremiah, just ask Angelyne.

Ed Feinstein is rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino.