Doorstep Postings: What’s so scary about an antisemitic vampire cartoon in a Quebec newspaper?

Serge Chapleau's cartoon depicting Benjamin Netanyahu as the star of the 1922 silent film 'Nosferatu' as published by La Presse on March 20, 2024.

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

Leaving questions unanswered serves no one. And so let me address the question: why are we so upset about a cartoon depicting Benjamin Netanyahu as a bloodthirsty vampire with claws for fingers when so many Gazans have died? 

It’s finally time we get to the bottom of this charge levelled at Jews in Canada since Oct. 7, since we now have Canadian newspapers going to the poisoned well of Jews-as-vampires tropes to make… some sort of point about the war in Gaza that hasn’t been made? Was it somehow new or necessary to remind people that the Israeli prime minister undeniably has blood on his hands? 

We won’t ever get a full accounting of the thought process that led up to La Presse cartoonist Serge Chapleau’s vile drawing being published. The apology issued by the digital newspaper included no such thing. All we got were insistences about what the cartoon hadn’t been intended to convey. And as such we will never be fully reassured that it will never happen again. 

And so, I will answer the question of why this cartoon drew outrage and was swiftly pulled, while we allegedly cannot summon the same outrage for the children of Gaza. That is—from what I can gather from the social media reaction—the only reason for a cartoon like this to have been conceived. The cartoonist was so Big Mad at Netanyahu that in a fit of rage he reached for the oldest and ugliest antisemitic trope in the book with the century-old cinematic influence of German Expressionists. But, say the online commenters, the cartoon isn’t antisemitic because it doesn’t target all Jews. Just Netanyahu. And he definitely deserves it. And if you’re offended by it, you probably deserve to be too!

To answer the question with which I started this article, I must invoke another, less-known image.

Picture if you will, three circles, drawn so that there is a small triangular overlap between them in the centre. In the middle of one of the circle the words, ‘It Didn’t Happen’ appear. In the centre of another, ‘It’s Going To Happen Again’. And in the third is written, ‘They Deserved It’. Within the overlap is the image of the GigaChad, a computer generated picture of a smiling, bearded, muscular man meant to convey unimpeachable strength. 

This image is regularly seen on white-nationalist forums. The unspoken ‘It’ is, as you might have guessed, the Holocaust, and the ‘They’ are, obviously, the Jews. And the meaning is clear: by balancing these three contradictory statements, you will inevitably hit the sweet spot of triggering the Jew. You deny the violence against them while simultaneously justifying the violence and threatening that it will happen again. But you don’t directly name the ‘It’ or the ‘They’, because that gives the game away. You want angry, defensive, threatened Jews who call their critics antisemites so you can accuse them of overreacting again and going too far. 

Now perhaps you can see the problem. You can’t trigger someone and expect empathy in response. And the “antizionists” know this. Every time they downplay Oct. 7, then imply that Israelis deserved it and it will happen again, they are employing the same triggering strategy as presented above. And because they refuse to admit this is the game they are playing, we will never get an admission of guilt. We will never be sure if the Canadian politicians condemning the La Presse cartoon really believe what they are saying. Are they rolling their eyes in secret at the Jews crying their crocodile tears again?

I’m sure the antizionists will be deeply upset by having their tactics compared to those of white nationalists, but unfortunately empathy is in very short supply. It happens when people have relentlessly tried to trigger you each day for five-and-a-half months, and counting. 

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.