Cartoon analysis is the study of a non-elite communication. Ilan Danjoux examined over 1200 Israeli and Palestinian editorial cartoons to explore whether changes in their content anticipated the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in October of 2000. Political Cartoons and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict provide readers an engaging introduction to cartoon analysis and a novel insight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Conflict researchers benefit from paying attention to popular fears because they influence the policies of career-minded politicians and autocratic leaders seeking to placate domestic dissent. The book begins by outlining the rationale for this research project, while explaining the choice of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a case study. It identifies the challenges of cartoon research and outlines the methodological approaches available to researchers. After laying the framework for this study, the book details the collapse of the Israel-Palestinian Peace Process into full-scale violence by October 2000. A description of Israeli and Palestinian media production follows. The book demonstrates the cartoon's ability to chronicle changes in conflict. Not only did both Israeli and Palestinian cartoons change their focus with the outbreak of violence, the mood of cartoons also shifted. It also shows that Israeli and Palestinian cartoons also changed the way that each portrayed the other. Changes in both Israeli and Palestinian cartoons corresponded with, but did not precede, the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book begins by outlining the rationale for the research project on political cartoons, while explaining the choice of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a case study. Cartoon analysis is the study of a non-elite communication. It is premised on the idea that audiences inadvertently shape the media they consume by rewarding producers who create content that reflects and reinforces their beliefs. The book identifies the challenges of cartoon research and outlines the methodological approaches available to researchers. It details the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process into full-scale violence by October 2000. It then follows with a description of Israeli and Palestinian media production. The book demonstrates the cartoon's ability to chronicle changes in conflict. It shows that Israeli and Palestinian cartoons also changed the way that each portrayed the other.
A cartoon study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more appropriate given the story used by French cartoonist Jean Plantureux to explain why he initiated the Cartooning for Peace conference held at the United Nations on 16 October 2006. In capturing the speculative and emotional basis for violence, political cartoons offer a unique window into the ideational foundations of conflict. Nazi era editorial cartoons clearly reflected the growing anti-Semitism among the German population that culminated in the Holocaust. International angst over cartoon depictions in foreign papers only makes sense if one believes that the public opinion they reflect affects a country's foreign policy. Designing a research project to test the predictive capacity of political cartoons requires careful consideration. By the 1930s, political cartooning had integrated itself into the political fabric of the Middle East.
A grounded approach was used for the author's research on Israeli-Palestinian cartoons. G. Damon's study of Arab stereotypes in political cartoons depends entirely on their appearance in mainstream American newspapers. The visual metaphor and tropes of political cartoons depend upon a reader's familiarity with historic events, cultural texts and current affairs. Like reading a stranger's diary, cartoons express the latent fears, unspoken beliefs and deep-seated concerns of a community. Cartoons use a combination of physical distortion, cultural references and visual juxtaposition to comment on current events. Even readers with extensive historical and literary knowledge must also be familiar with current events. The amount of effort needed to decipher cartoon content raises the obvious question of why bother to engage in such an arduous analysis when more accessible and less-challenging forms of political communication exist.
Several scholars have attempted to tackle the definitional ambiguity of political cartoons. Cartoons focused on the action of the Middle Eastern countries, leaders or populations were coded as dealing with regional issues. Far from being a single-issue conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is plagued by a multiplicity of insecurities. Israeli and Palestinian cartoons respond to diplomatic initiatives and outbursts of violence, despite dramatic differences in political freedoms, economic structures and social norms. Every Israeli and Palestinian cartoon pertaining to the conflict was coded either as expressing a positive or negative mood. The issues over which conflicts are waged are essential for understanding the nature of resolution. Acceptable borders for a future Palestinian state largely depend on the prominence of religious, security or demographic fears. Demographic fears mean that land with large population centres is least desirable.
An appearance in a political cartoon can provide leaders or interest groups welcome recognition. Actors in cartoons are identified in one of the three ways: through personification, symbolic representation or implication. As a study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, cartoons were coded along nationalist lines, using state symbolism and political leaders as identifiers. Israeli or Palestinian characters seen to be sanctioning or engaging in violence were coded as enemies. What one notices when coding Israeli and Palestinian cartoons is the sheer variety of enemy images used. Beasts, barbarians and bugs are only a few of the derogatory pictures that appeared. S. Keen devised his classification by looking at the Western propaganda produced in the first half of the twentieth century. This classification resulted in ten enemy archetypes: aggressor, faceless threat, enemy of God, barbarian, imperialist, criminal or rogue actor, sadist, rapist-infanticide, vermin-beasts and death incarnate.
Political cartoons are unique in that they are one of the few depictions of current events whose meaning is neither derived nor dependent on written text. Cartoon analysis may also prove useful for studying public opinion in countries hostile to foreign coverage or that stifle free speech. By embracing the exaggerated fears, paranoia, suspicion of a community, cartoons offer insight into the ideational and emotional foundations of conflict. Few conflicts enjoy the media and scholarly attention paid to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Changes in conflict were equally visible in the way both sides depicted each other, as negotiators quickly collapsed into enemy imagery once fighting began, degenerating towards greater immorality and irrationality as violence grew. The fact that Israeli and Palestinian cartoons shifted attention, enemy images hardened and mood improved when violence broke out, however, does not support the notion that political cartoons predict violence.
This chapter outlines the contrasting rationale for, expectations of and disappointment with the Oslo Peace Process as a necessary precursor for testing whether Israeli and Palestinian cartoons anticipated the outbreak of violence in October 2000. With no foreseeable resolution to the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians were forced to consider radical alternatives. The anticipated influx of capital provided the much-needed financial support for the peace talks. Peace also ended Israeli control, granting Palestinians their long-sought self-determination. From the Israeli perspective, Yasser Arafat's repeated rejection of Israeli concessions without providing viable counter-offers only seemed to confirm Israeli fears that Palestinians never intended to end the conflict. A major economic downturn in 1985 exacerbated the predicament of Palestinians in the territories, as hyperinflation caused Palestinian wages to collapse while unemployment quadrupled. The six years of sustained wide-scale protests against Israeli rule that ensued fundamentally altered Israeli attitudes towards the West Bank and Gaza.
The development of both the Israeli and Palestinian media explains why Palestinian cartoonists fail to enjoy the political freedom of their Israeli counterparts and why Israeli cartoonists do not benefit from the government subsidies Palestinians cartoonists enjoy. Despite intertwined histories, and shared experiences with Ottoman and British rule, distinctly different media regimes evolved in Israel and Palestine that shaped their cartoons' content. This chapter examines three Israeli papers: Ha'aretz, Yediot Achronot and Maariv. History has made Maariv fiercely competitive with Yediot Achronot, although the former is perceived to have lost the innovative edge it once enjoyed after it lagged in introducing colour and tabloid style reporting. The chapter also examines three Palestinian papers: Al-Ayyam, Al Quds, and Al-Hayat al-Jadida. Where Al-Quds is a commercially driven independent press and Al-Ayyam is a loyal self-censoring outlet, Al-Hayat al-Jadida is the ideological mouthpiece of the Palestinian Authority (PA).