Washington Post has taken down the ‘Human Shields’ cartoon labelled as deeply racist Image Credit: Shutterstock

The Washington Post published and then deleted a controversial political cartoon, created by cartoonist Michael Ramirez, which depicted a Palestinian Arab, in an offensive way.

The character with a long nose and children tied to him were labelled “Human shield” in the objectionable toon.

The depiction, widely criticised as racist, illustrated an Arab with exaggerated features, four children attached to his body, and a veiled woman positioned behind him to represent Palestinian women.

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A stereotypical trope

In the cartoon, this figure, identified as “Hamas” is portrayed raising a finger and expressing in a thought bubble, “How dare Israel attack civilians …”

The drawing, released on Nov. 6, alludes to allegations by Israeli officials, reiterated by some Western politicians and sections of the Western media, regarding the use of human shields by the organisation in question.

The image, complemented by a Palestinian flag and featuring a partial view of the Dome of the Rock in occupied East Jerusalem, accompanied by an oil lamp — a stereotypical trope — stirred a public backlash, especially amid the ongoing conflict resulting in the deaths of over 10,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including 4,000 children, since the conflict began on October 7.

After two days, amid growing outrage on social media and their website, The Washington Post retracted the cartoon, acknowledging its racist overtone and dehumanising nature towards Palestinians.

Openly mocking human aspect

Readers’ responses were furious, denouncing the cartoon as grossly misrepresentative and openly mocking the human aspect of the conflict.

“This is the most vile and racist cartoon I’ve seen in a while and it’s not some fringe outlet. It’s the Washington Post,” Dr. Omar Suleiman, President of the Yaqeen Institute, wrote on X.

Author and public intellectual, Nathan Lean added, “This is a deeply racist cartoon by the Washington Post. It repeats caricatures that have targeted Muslims and Jews for many years: angry men with exaggerated physical features; subservient, veiled women who don’t know better; the whole “human shields” bit. This must be condemned.”

“Dehumanising any peoples paves a way for injustices to occur. Unfortunate to see The Washington Post fuel that racist fire. This cartoon and the fact that it was published is appalling,” a reader posted on the newspaper’s website.

Opinions editor David Shipley expressed regret and offered apologies for approving the cartoon, acknowledging the mischaracterisation of the conflict and the offence caused, emphasising the paper’s aim to highlight commonalities and unity, even in tumultuous times.