The Washington Post removed a controversial cartoon that was published on its website earlier this week following criticism from readers who said the drawing was a racist caricature of Palestinians. The cartoon, “Human Shields” (2023) by Las Vegas Review Journal‘s editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez, also appeared in the opinion pages of the Washington Post‘s Tuesday print edition.
Ramirez’s cartoon depicts a Hamas spokesperson with exaggerated facial features such as a large nose, thick furrowed eyebrows, and inflated lips with a speech bubble that reads, “How dare Israel attack civilians …” Ramirez drew four crying children and a woman wearing a hijab bound to the Hamas spokesperson by ropes — echoing Israel’s claim that Hamas civilians as “human shields.”
Following the deletion of the cartoon from the Washington Post’s website, the page has since been replaced with a note from David Shipley, the publication’s opinions editor responsible for approving the cartoon for print and digital publication, who shared that he “saw the drawing as a caricature of a specific individual, the Hamas spokesperson who celebrated the attacks on unarmed civilians in Israel.”
“However, the reaction to the image convinced me that I had missed something profound, and divisive, and I regret that,” Shipley continued, going on to say that the deleted cartoon had been replaced by a variety of selected reader responses in the interest of “a constructive exchange of ideas at all possible speed.” The Washington Post did not immediately respond to Hyperallergic‘s request for comment.
Many readers, both in the selected responses and in the page’s comments section, drew connections between Ramirez’s depiction of Arab people and racist caricatures found in Nazi propaganda during the Holocaust. Several responses also accused Ramirez’s cartoon of excusing the Israeli response to the October 7 attack by Hamas that has resulted in the killing of over 10,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
“What is happening in Gaza, in the words of Craig Mokhiber, a former high commissioner for human rights with the United Nations, is a ‘textbook case of genocide,’” said Washington Post reader Nora Eltahawy of San Jose, California. “Mr. Ramirez’s rhetoric enables it.”
“Michael Ramirez’s Nov. 8 editorial cartoon depicting Hamas hostages with the Hamas character condemning Israeli attacks on civilians was full of bias and prejudice,” Philip Farah, the Vienna-based co-founder and board member of the Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, wrote to the Washington Post.
Throughout his career, Ramirez has typically conveyed conservative viewpoints through his editorial cartooning as well as essays and authored books. His work has been featured in over 500 news and media outlets internationally, though not without controversy: In 2000, a cartoon of his published in the LA Times came under fire for showing a Jewish man and a Muslim man worshipping the word “hate” rendered into what was supposed to represent the Western Wall.
Neither Ramirez nor his personal manager immediately responded to Hyperallergic‘s request for comment, but the artist published a new cartoon lampooning censured Michigan congressperson and Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib earlier this afternoon, November 9.