Political cartoonists are rarely as good as they think they are. The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words typically works the other way: what would be too plain, crude, or outright stupid to put in text, cartoonists get published in drawings.
When MIFF called out Tomas Drefvelin’s blood libel in the nearly-defunct tabloid rag Dagbladet, Drefvelin wrote (in text, not pictures) to clarify. (Our translation)
The article asks: “Is this blood libel against Jews?”
The answer is an unequivocal: NO
The strip is not intended as a criticism against a specific religion or people.
The strip is intended as a general criticism against religions’ (all of them) possibility to get away from what I consider abuse of children (and also repression of women, etc., if you get the point of the strip) by referring to faith and tradition.
I gave the people in the picture hats, and the man a beard, because this gives them a more religious impression. (Many religions like hats and beards, it appears)
This is a classic example that more has been interpreted in the drawing than what it actually says. I have deliberately not named a sacred scripture, and fork that you perceive as a devil’s fork (first time I heard about this was in the MIFF article), is actually only a fork.
Jew-hatred is deplorable. It would never occur to me to draw a strip that would generate hatred against a people, or an individual. Let me repeat: my criticism is against religions generally, nothing else.
In other words: this cartoon strip, depicting a child chained to a table, being mutilated with pliers and a pitch fork, with clearly “religious” people (depicted the way Drefvelin thinks they probably look), is not meant to stir any emotion. Nobody has reason to feel offended, and nobody should harbor bad feelings toward those who presumably do these kinds of things.
We should all feel reassured that Drefvelin didn’t admit to harboring any animosity toward Jews, quite the contrary. Because, after all, there is no specific indication that he is depicting Jews. The book, the beard, the head coverings, the whole circumcision thing – all perfectly innocuous.
In fact, if anyone has reason to feel offended, it’s him. Because all he is doing is protesting against something he has no specific reason to believe even occurs with anyone in particular. He’s simply protesting the hypothetical situation that someone might do the things he’s depicting.
And that’s all it takes in Norway: you can say and draw anything you want about Jews, as long as you omit certain markers. No stars of David, no Hebrew lettering, keep the noses small, and you’re as pure as snow, immunized against complaints, justified in being obstinately indignant if anyone complains.