The Washington Post published then deleted a political cartoon depicting a spokesman for Hamas after the paper received backlash. Many readers felt the cartoon, which was published on Wednesday, was racist and offensive — promting WaPo opinion editor David Shipley to issue an apology.
The cartoon by Michael Ramirez, which can still be found online, depicted a Hamas spokesman with Palestinian women and children tied to him with the speech bubble: “How dare Israel attack civilians.”
It was a direct comment on Hamas using civilians in Gaza as human shields during the Israel-Hamas War. After the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel that killed over 1,400 civilians, Israel struck back in Gaza, where thousands of civilians were killed. Hamas has decried the civilian deaths in Gaza, but has made it nearly impossible for them to evacuate after Israel provided warnings ahead of their attacks.
In his apology posted on WaPo, Shipley said:
As editor of the opinion section, I am responsible for what appears in its pages and on its screens. The section depends on my judgment. A cartoon we published by Michael Ramirez on the war in Gaza, a cartoon whose publication I approved, was seen by many readers as racist. This was not my intent. I 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. Our section is aimed at finding commonalities, understanding the bonds that hold us together, even in the darkest times.
In this spirit, we have taken down the drawing. We are also publishing a selection of responses to the caricature. And we will continue to make the section home to a range of views and perspectives, including ones that challenge readers. This is the spirit of opinion journalism, to move imperfectly toward a constructive exchange of ideas at all possible speed, listening and learning along the way.
Here are some of the reader coments published by the Post:
“The caricatures employ racial stereotypes that were offensive and disturbing. Depicting Arabs with exaggerated features and portraying women in derogatory, stereotypical roles perpetuates racism and gender bias, which is wholly unacceptable.”
“I am a scholar of religion and media; I recognize a deeply racist depiction of the ‘heathen’ and his barbarous cruelty toward women and children when I see it again in Michael Ramirez’s Nov. 8 editorial cartoon. It is in no way informative, helpful or thought-provoking to look at this conflict through the glasses of 19th-century colonialists.”
“Is the message meant to be that Israel is justified in bombing civilians? And is the Palestinian flag on one side of the cartoon meant to conflate Hamas with all Palestinians? And is the background photo — on the other side of the cartoon, of the Dome of the Rock meant to conflate Hamas ideology with Islam? Ramirez ought to have thought about these elements in the cartoon. They are offensive not only to Muslims, but to me and all of my Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers.”