Yesterday I and many others received a press release titled "Stop Hamas - Princess Yasmine become terrorist" [sic]. Attached to the release were a boatload of jpegs depicting Prince Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Bart Simpson, and a variety of other cartoon characters as "terrorists of Hamas."
The artist, "aleXsandro Palombo," called them "A powerful series of Art Piece about the war in Gaza. A powerful series to meditate. An original awareness campaign focused on the devastating problem of terrorism that affects Israel and Palestine and on child soldiers."
While the images might appear to some to be funny in a perverse sort of way — the Jewish Daily Forward called them "more than a little racist" — they underlie shifting attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims in America, especially among Republicans.
Since 2010, Americans’ opinions of Arabs and Muslims have declined steadily, according to a poll released by the Arab American Institute on July 29:
Since we first began our polling on American attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims in 2010, there has been continued erosion in the favorable ratings given to both communities, posing a threat to the rights of Arab Americans and American Muslims. Favorable attitudes have continued to decline - from 43% in 2010 to 32% in 2014 for Arabs; and from 35% in 2010 to 27% in 2014 for Muslims.
"The fact that you have people who are African American or Latino doing immigration issues or people who are Jewish in the State Department, it’s not called into question that they are Americans and are operating as Americans," said Dr. James Zogby of Zogby Analytics, which conducted research for the poll. "But in the case of people of Arab descent, the suspicion is — actually, the allegation is made — they can't do the job, they can’t be objective," he said. "And so we wanted to see how widespread those attitudes were. And what we find is, among Republicans, it’s the majority."
Perhaps not surprisingly, the poll found that those who actually know Arabs or Muslims are much less likely to view them unfavorably.
Which brings us back to Mr. Palombo’s cartoons. I reached out to Palombo’s press person to ask if the artist personally knew any Arabs or Muslims. Her response: "Yes of course !"
When asked what Palombo thought of accusations that his cartoons are racist, she said in an email,
That's a false and stupid accusation. Jezebel has voluntarily alterate Palombo's series by publishing only 3 of the 38 artworks. They clearly wanted to alterate the meaning of the campaign, just to create a buzz on the internet. Palombo's work is against Hamas, against terrorism and terror, aleXsandro is not racist as depicted by Jezebel. He's always fighting for human rights.