Belgian textbook features ‘misleading’ cartoon on West Bank water situation


A caricature featured in the Belgian textbook Polaris GO!3. Courtesy of Joods Actueel

(JTA) — Amnesty International distanced itself from a caricature bearing its name in a Belgian schoolbook, depicting an overweight Jewish settler sleeping in a bathtub alongside a thirsty Palestinian.

A spokesperson for the human rights group last week told the Joods Actueel monthly in Belgium that the cartoon, which appears in the 2016 geography textbook “Polaris GO!3” for Flemish-speaking high school students, that the cartoon is “misleading.”

The book is used in several high schools in Belgium’s Flemish Region, one of three autonomous entities that make up the federal kingdom. It was written as an aid for the Flemish government’s GO! Educational program, which the government says on its website “takes extreme care to fulfill its fundamental mission, which is to offer ‘neutral’ education.’”

Raymonda Verdyck, who heads the Flemish government’s GO! Pedagogical program, condemned the inclusion of the cartoon in the book, which is published by the commercial publishing house Plantyn. She called it “stereotypical and incompatible with our pedagogical values.”

The cartoon by the Brazilian artist Latuff, who often compares Israel to Nazi Germany in his works, shows a man with side locks snoring in an overflowing tub, whose excess disappears into a drain. The shower filling the bath is connected to a pipe leading to a spigot whose head is the shape of a Star of David. It also leads to a different pipe, which a woman wearing a Palestinian flag is using unsuccessfully to fill an empty bucket of water.

An English-language text inside the cartoon reads: “Amnesty International: Israel is denying Palestinians access to water… while settlers enjoy lush laws and swimming pools.” And a caption under the cartoon reads: “Water distribution according to Amnesty International.”

Joods Actueel was informed about the caricature by the father of a 15-year-old student of the Atheneum Jan Fevijn high school in Assebroek, a suburb of the city of Brugge 60 miles northwest of Brussels, the paper reported last week.

In 2016, the city of Torhout near Assebroek named Luc Descheemaeker, a catroonist who is accused of drawing numerous anti-Semitic caricatures and who won a cash prize at Iran’s Holocaust mockery festival in Tehran, as its “cultural ambassador.”