The cartoonist explains that he withdrew his work from display so as not to “provoke wars.”


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On Tuesday, the Israeli Community of Lisbon (CIL) reacted  to a cartoon by Onofre Varela that was exhibited in the International Biennial of Art of Gaia. The cartoon has since been removed by the artist in an effort to avoid further controversy.

In dispute is a cartoon depicting Adolf Hitler with the Star of David (the Jewish symbol) on his chest, with the caption “Israel treats the Palestinians with the same disrespect with which Hitler treated the Jews.”

“Because I am a man of peace, I do not wish to incite conflict anywhere. The cartoon worked as intended, for which I am appreciative to the Jewish community. My objectives have been accomplished, but waging war for blood is not my thing,” the cartoonist tells to Portugal Pulse, adding that he has received insults on his personal Facebook page.

“There is a peaceful citizen who is a cartoonist, and there are citizens who are not at all peaceful who support Israel’s intervention, which occupies Palestine and mistreats Palestinians. And who insulted my honor and the honor of my mother on Tuesday?” the cartoonist inquires.

In a letter sent to the mayor of Gaia, Eduardo Vtor Rodrigues, and published on its official Facebook page on Tuesday, CIL argues that “the Star of David superimposed on the heart of a drawn image of Hitler is a grave and indecorous offense” and requests that the City Council “solidarize” with the position of the Israeli Community.

“We are against censorship, but the right to free speech should and can be curtailed when it incites hatred and intolerance,” the letter reads, with the Israelis emphasizing that “the image in question is offensive and trivializes the horror and tragedy of the Holocaust.” Hitler did not treat the Jews with ‘disrespect’ as depicted in the cartoon, he treated them with mass genocide and unfathomable cruelty.”

The cartoonist explains that he withdrew his work from display so as not to "provoke wars."

Onofre Varela states that he was made aware of the situation during a Tuesday meeting at the Gaia City Hall, so he decided to withdraw the cartoon from the exhibition. The artist explains that there were no restrictions on the cartoons that could be displayed in the Biennial, stating, “I didn’t feel pressured, but I realized that the Jewish community was exerting some kind of pressure on me, and I didn’t want this indisposition to go any further than it had already gone.”

In a statement, the Gaia City Council, which supports the artistic initiative taking place until July 8 at Quinta da Fiaco in Lever, expresses “total satisfaction” with the artist’s decision to withdraw the caricature in question, demonstrating his sensitivity to the issue. The Municipality also clarifies that “it supports all institutions and initiatives of municipal relevance without interfering in their management or organization” and that “it never calls the freedom of expression into question.”

“The Municipality of Gaia applauds this stance and conveys complete solidarity with the Jewish community in the region and the nation. This stance exemplifies the tolerance and dialogue that have always guided this municipality, according to the statement.


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