The Four Sons, Forward Style

The Forward published this cartoon of the four sons, just before Passover.  It’s by Eli Valley, who blogs at EV Comics and has been described as “satiriz[ing] the Jewish world’s taboos.” An iconoclast by avocation.

As far as I can make out, most of these are lame efforts to slip in sly questions in the mouths of the first three and smear (to use a favorite word of the “progressive” Jewish crowd when they get criticized), the pro-Israel crowd. What interests me most in this set is the matching pair: Wicked Son/Son Who Does not Know How to Ask. Apparently (probably without reading it) the author has echoed David Mamet’s The Wicked Son, whom Mamet identifies (with significantly more humor and intellectual wattage than Eli Valley), with the Jew who finds reasons why others hate Jews.

The Wicked son’s question is particularly lame.

In one of his “biting” satires, Eli does a piece on mild mannered Jew Bruce Banner who, at the “slightest criticism” of Israel turns into the raging Hulk. Richard Silverstein would feel at home here, I think.

It’s pretty clear that the crowd Eli hangs with is enamored with the promise of an “Arab Spring” and they’re all enthused at the prospect of democracy breaking out all over the Arab world, especially in Egypt.  The idea that that kind of paper-thin excitement, like Dante’s famous “hoar frost” which vanishes with brief exposure to the morning sun (or in this case, will with exposure to reality) has inspired world Jewry more than anything in the last 30 years (which includes, among other things, the liberation of the Ethiopian and Russian Jews), just illustrates the kind of bubble that some “progressive Jews” live in… legends in their own mind, where their juvenile fantasies define what Jews really think.

It’s the “son who does not know how to ask,” who’s the most interesting from by contrast point of view. In what I think is a brilliant essay (as far as I know, still not published), Elihu Stone identified Goldstone not as the Wicked Son, but the One who doesn’t know how to ask…, for example, to ask Hamas if it was hiding under Shiffa Hospital during OCL.

Here, Eli Valley, in what can only be described as a cheap shot, has the Stand with Us as an ignoramus repeating his mantra. And yet… what’s the mantra? “Israel’s the only democracy in the Middle East.” Is this an ignorant thing to say? Or is it a truism. Would Dr. Valley like to offer another “democracy” in this area as a disconfirmation of the assertion? Turkey? Lebanon? maybe Gaza?

Actually, the fact that Israel is the only democracy, and the only one under terrible conditions (look how long French democracy survived when surrounded by monarchies) is one of the great anomalies upon which everyone who wants to understand the Middle East should meditate at length.

Is Valley mocking it because the Stand with Us crowd repeats it like a mantra and that gets, to quote Sherlock or House, “boring”?

Is he mocking it because it gets in the way of heaping criticism on Israel without having to take into account the neighbors she has?

Is he mocking it because thinking about how Israel can pull this off for over sixty years when surrounded by hostile neighbors, would force him and his friends to acknowledge how exceptional is Israel’s commitment to progressive values?

Whatever his motivation, it undermines his claim that the Jewish Hulk is hyper-ventilating at the “slightest criticism” of Israel. On the contrary, what he reveals here is his impatience either with the notion that Israel is a democracy – which strikes me as a pretty harsh criticism – or with the notion that the other countries in the Middle East (Turkey, Lebanon, Gaza) are not democracies – which strikes me as a total lack of criticism. Indeed, it bespeaks the tendencies of self-degrading Jews to fall prey to the Human Rights Complex.

In either case, it shows our iconoclastic critic to have precisely as little substance as he has an abundance of scorn: his bite is much worse than his bark. Hardly an admirable trait for someone who, presumably, wants to provoke people to think. Little surprise that this kind of “criticism” of Israel, by “free-thinking,” iconoclastic Jews has contributed mightily to making our chattering classes so foolish and shallow.

And thanks to the Forward for bringing us these gems.

38 Responses to The Four Sons, Forward Style

  1. oao says:

    Actually, the fact that Israel is the only democracy, and the only one under terrible conditions (look how long French democracy survived when surrounded by monarchies) is one of the great anomalies upon which everyone who wants to understand the Middle East should meditate at length.

    Actually it explains quite well the anti-Israel hatred–that “shitty little country” is much better than they are and this must be eating at them. This is particularly by the left, because it defies their dogma and demolishes it.

    As to Valley, here’s Jacobson on jews and anti-semitism:

    Howard Jacobson: Ludicrous, brainwashed prejudice

  2. Cynic says:

    Another Juicy débauché of those he portrayed as Apes in a previous cartoon published in Gawker. Aah those Israeli Juice so stupid and violent always picking fights with their neighbours.
    This is the puerile mind of the MpTyVision generation whose incapacity to understand and appreciate even the modern analogy of a few thousand Dafurians who made it through the desert, targeted as they were by rifle firing Egyptians, to freedom in Israel, is displayed in the shallowness of the text.

    … it shows our iconoclastic critic to have precisely as little substance as he has an abundance of scorn
    But of course the scorn is born out of the frustrating inability to be noticed and “lauded”; as a means to watering his parched ego lost in his intellectual desert.

    • oao says:

      It is also fashionable these days, you can’t go wrong with scorn of jews, and that’s another way to be popular.

  3. Sérgio says:


    I´s like to call your attention to the book “The Servile Mind”, by Kenneth Minogue, which touches on many issues related to human rights syndrome and the general “politico-moral” project that has taken hold of western ” intelligentsia”. Very insightful reading.


  4. EV says:

    Please fix your facts:

    “It’s by Eli Valley, whose blog EV Comics announces with pride that he ‘satirizes the Jewish world’s taboos.’”

    Nowhere does my website announce that. Perhaps you’re thinking of the Flavorwire piece, which was not written by me and whose text is not quoted by me on my site.

    Otherwise, I’m glad you enjoyed the cartoon.

    • Richard Landes says:

      i’ve fixed the entry according to your correction.
      i’m glad you read me so carefully.
      try minogue. he’s good.

  5. Joanne says:

    I thought the comic was unfunny. I read it and said, “Huh?”

    The statement that Egypt has created more inspiration in 18 days than Israel in 30 years is particularly fatuous. Overthrowing a dictator is an inspiring act. In a democracy such as Israel, there aren’t many opportunities to do that. The best you can do is vote someone out of office. As for any inspiring breakthroughs in the peace process, I don’t believe that Israel’s settlements are helping the issue, but Israel will need the Palestinians to generate any breakthrough, and that help isn’t coming.

    • oao says:

      Overthrowing a dictator is an inspiring act.

      Not to mention the circumstances that surrounded the overthrow, and its short- and long-term consequences.

      “[In Israel] The best you can do is vote someone out of office. ”

      Of course, but Israel’s system has some built-in mechanisms that frustrate that and insulate bad politicians from the vote.

    • Cynic says:

      What was inspiring for the World’s Jews in those 18 Egyptian Days?
      What was displayed with the molestation of that American reporter in Tahrir Square or just in Valley’s imagination?
      Which World’s Jews, Goldstone’s?
      It is hard to comprehend, given that nothing of substance has materialized except the Army’s continued control of Egypt .
      I suppose that for Valley the changing of the guard, for the next on watch, as he breathlessly awaits to record the purple finger one man, one vote, one time on his Israeli inspired technological advances of micro chip, chat messaging, video relaying cell phone is too much to contemplate and must be suppressed with scorn.
      For the Valleys of this world Israel does not have dictators but Right Wing Extremist Evangelicals; to rid the state of them one must obliterate the state.

      • oao says:

        It is hard to comprehend, given that nothing of substance has materialized except the Army’s continued control of Egypt .

        Oh, more than that has materialized. In the old regime Mubarak and his security system had the contract to protect the economic interests of the army. For that he took the brunt of the hatred, while the army remained “the most trusted agency”. With the fall of Mubarak the army needed another political protector/facade and who else has the capacity other than the MB? The MB needs the army to rule, so what we’re watching is the emergence of a coalition army+MB. Now, THAT’s inspiring.

  6. Ben says:

    Might Valley be a “Fifth Son” whose lack of character, matched only by his self-loathing, drives him to ridicule his siblings while in the superficial embrace of those who openly proclaim their enmity for his family?
    And can we rename him Finkelstein?

    • oao says:

      It’s a mistake to call these people self-loathing. What they loath is their being jews and thus they internalize and replicate anti-semitism. They are desperate to prove to themselves that they are better than jews and to others that they’re not really jews in the hope that they will be accepted as non-jews.

      Classic behavior of many jews when anti-semitism rises.

  7. EV says:





    You both make the mistake of misinterpreting communal criticism as “currying favor with the Gentiles,” a mistake common among those who view the world through a 17th-century prism. I would recommend you read this interview, in which I elaborate on my view of pride and self-hatred:
    The short version? I’m a proud Jew, and that is precisely what upsets you so much.

    • oao says:

      No, we do not.

      I am sure that you deem what you do “communal criticism” whatever that means. Now, were you to also criticize non-communal sins, which happen to be MUCH worse, I would accept it. But because I don’t believe you do, and because what you do is in an atmosphere of “jews are at the root of the world’s problems”, I don’t accept your claim.
      I’m sure you have a very convincing (to yourself) elaboration and that you believe you’re a good jew, but it’s not persuausive to me.

    • Cynic says:

      From the interview
      and made my first comic in well over a decade – an image of a double-penised “Jew Monster” sodomizing a Christian woman and a Muslim woman simultaneously.

      So you go resorting to the antisemite’s stereotypical demonisation of the Jew and then bring MAD’s anarchy into it to smooth things over?

      The very idiom of the early MAD comics is anarchy, so a certain kind of sensibility is repelled not just by the medium – what they perceive as the so-called gutter culture of comics – but by the free-wheeling, absurdist, upending content itself, ….

      Where did MAD resort to Der Sturmer level of incitement against a religion and its people?
      So monstrous Jews “screwing” Christians and Muslims is free-wheeling, absurdist, upending content?

    • Ben says:

      Well, I suppose you deserve credit for responding. I read the interview. I can’t say I’m persuaded. But then again, who the hell am I?
      With my insignificance as a given, let me offer the following:
      Our People have a long and rich tradition of humor, much of it devoted to poking fun at ourselves and our communities with varying degrees of sophistication and cynicism. That experience is bigger than you. It started before you. It will endure after you are gone. You would do well to better acquaint yourself with it – beyond Lenny Bruce and Jerry Seinfeld, talented as they were/are. And you would do better still to stop believing in your own significance as a player. The hubris you display in the interview of yourself which you commended to us to prove your bona fides as a proud Jew cannot be so nearly fertile for comic material as other perspectives that surely are available to you.
      Another thing. I guess I misunderstood the cartoon. As an exercise in “communal criticism” in which the community that is being criticized is the anti-Israel community, I suppose the cartoon warrants a chuckle – it sure paints Israel’s detractors as dunderheads and twits. On the other hand, if the community you were criticizing was Israel and her supporters, your cartoon wasn’t remotely funny. (And it’s not like the concept of the four sons is sacrosanct, or that it does not present opportunities for laughter.)
      You claim that “misinterpreting communal criticism as
      ‘currying favor with the Gentiles,’ [is] a mistake common among those who view the world through a 17th-century prism.” I suppose I could have used different words when I wrote of “those who openly proclaim their enmity for his family”, but I did not use the word “Gentile”. And why would I? I don’t believe that all Gentiles openly proclaim, much less feel, enmity for Jews or Israel. And, obviously, I am not convinced that only Gentiles can feel enmity for Jews and Israel.
      Changing my text and then accusing me of having a 17th century view of the world for it confirms what became apparent from your interview: you are way too self-important to credit what is said by those who disagree with you.
      So I’m puzzled. Why did you respond?

    • RichardNYC says:

      “But it seems to be a lose/lose scenario – you’re paralyzing your culture while paradoxically feeding the fires of anti-Semitism. So I really believe transparency and internal criticism are the best policies all around.”

      So if EV refrains from having Jewish yoda tell the world that Judaism cannot exist without ethnocentrism, then Jewish culture is “paralyzed”? So if EV refrains from accusing all “fundamentalist” Jews of desiring Muslim genocide, Jewish culture is “paralyzed”? Nobody has to examine EV’s personality to understand that his cartoons are, objectively, very antisemitic. David Duke is a fan. His defense of this truly repulsive garbage parallel’s the BDS strawman argument that “everyone who criticizes Israel is called an antisemite.” No, actually, usually its just the antisemitic ones who, for instance, fabricate allegations of genocide, who are accused of antisemitism. Many many (most) people criticize Israel without being called antisemites. Similarly, its possible for EV to satirize Jews without being antisemitic, and without “paralyzing” Jewish culture. EV simply choose not to because he’s an exploiter.

    • E.G. says:


      Having undertaken the task to get born to a Jewish mother can hardly be a source of pride.

      From what I see of what you actually manage to accomplish – funny it is not – I’d suggest you try harder.

  8. Ray in Seattle says:

    Eli, You curry no favor with this Gentile. I found your interview depressing – not because you have no use for Israel in this world (it actually burdens you and that may be your motivation) but because you so casually and without a trace of guilt use your genetic Jewishness to weaken it.

    As you say you are “a proud Jew”. But Eli, you are not. You are a completely different species than those Jews who believe in Israel. You could at least have the decency to recognize that; why not let them defend their tiny state without your back-stabbing Jewish-identity satire. Why not just become another American of no discernible ethnicity and let them be?

    You chose this despoiling role and flaunt your accidental genetics – just like Silverstein and Mearsheimer and Chomsky and Pappe and the rest. Like them, being an anti-Israel Jew is what makes your juices flow and it pays your bills in possibly the safest place in the world to live. You are of their tribe, not Israel’s.

    Those who’s lives you mock with your satire are the Jews who deserve the world’s admiration. They are the constant targets of lethal attacks and are surrounded by millions who have sworn to eradicate them – and yet they do what they can to defend themselves and fight for their right to live on their land in peace. I find the smugness with which you attack them from your relatively danger-free and comfortable life, made possible by my parents’ generation who sacrificed so much defending America and western values from an earlier generation of genocidal fascists, depressing.

    • oao says:

      BTW, I don’t think that he comprehends how shaky his safety is and that he has given any thought as to what would happen if Israel were eliminated and the anti-semitism he is participating in would turn against him with disregard for his help,

      • Ray in Seattle says:

        Yes. I can’t help but wonder how the current relatively low level of anti-semitism toward Jews in the West such as in the US is the result of the existence of Israel. How much fun can it be persecuting someone when, if you annoy them enough, they can just go somewhere else where they will be completely immune to your taunts?

        From my reading of Oslo Syndrome it seems that a main component of the rising anti-Semitism of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in E. Europe and Russia, was the knowledge that the Jews who were the targets were completely helpless minorities who could be beaten and shot with impunity – and with no place in the world to go to get away from it.

  9. oao says:


    Thanks for validating my guess that his interview was predictable.

    He’s the courageous, noble Jew who does not need inconvenient Israel, justifyingly hated by all, to be associated with him. That’s a classic response of sadly too many jews to anti-semitism, by internalizing and replicating it. I do believe that they don’t think of it that way, but it’s a known phenomenon.

  10. Cynic says:

    I liked you cogent reply.
    Not having read the interview and going only by his drawings I was of the opinion that he was out to get attention by acting outrageously.
    I surmised that his attention deficit ceiling was rather high for a balanced appraisal of his roots.
    Mocking his roots will, in the long run, get him nowhere just as British journalist NIck Cohen, who is not Jewish, discovered in 2005 when those he had allied himself with all the previous years turned against him because of a name.
    What is it in a belief can be so emotionally devastating?

  11. Cynic says:

    Seems that the filters got my latest comment.

  12. Joanne says:

    “It’s a mistake to call these people self-loathing. What they loath is their being jews and thus they internalize and replicate anti-semitism. ”

    I remember hearing that African-Americans had a word for that, and it was precisely “internalization.’

    What it means is that one so admires the views of another group—the majority, or at least a group that’s more prestigious and more powerful than one’s own—to the point where one internalizes that group’s views of the world, including its views of one’s own “group.” That’s why, until the 1960s, many blacks bought skin lighteners and hair straighteners.

    • oao says:

      Well, it’s a combination of admiring the dominant and hating the consequences of not being in that group.

      A very good example is Soros: he went through the Holocaust by pretending not to be in the oppressed group and he promised himself he will do ANYTHING not to ever be in that group. That explains his ruthlessness in the markets and his anti-Israel stance and aggressive activity.

    • Ray in Seattle says:

      Just to echo a bit of what oao is saying I’d suggest that at first it’s mostly fear of the dominant group and what they have shown themselves capable of doing to those whom they look down upon. When someone can not escape continuous exposure to such a situation over a long period – then psychologically their brain starts to reject their own identity and tries assume the identity of the dominant. It’s the way brains relieve chronic psychological pain.

      This certainly happened to many Jews in the Disapora, in some situations more than others, depending on the ruthlessness of their “dhimmitude”, opportunities to assimilate, acceptability of doing so within the surrounding Jewish community and their family, etc.

      It also happened to Patti Hearst and is known as the Oslo Syndrome. Eventually, after one becomes assimilated and adopts the identity of the dominant group admiration then is often a matter of admiring one’s own group identity.

      I am currently reading a pretty good book on this: “The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Seige”. I’m not far into it but the first part has a valuable history of the Diaspora. Most Gentiles like me tend to have a one-dimensional view of the Disapora – but this book shows the many different forms it took – both geographically and through time.

      I’d recommend it and most libraries would probably have it.

      • Ray in Seattle says:

        Ooops, I said, “It also happened to Patti Hearst and is known as the Oslo Syndrome. ”

        I should have said “Stockholm Syndrome”.

        • Cynic says:

          After witnessing the reactions of some of those who pushed the Oslo accords I’d say that there is also an Oslo Syndrome.
          By the way, cannot remember if the link is in one of the Gleanings, but did anyone see the picture of an Israeli activist hugging the mother of one of the Arab murderers of the Fogel family?
          Leftists Visit, Hug Mother of Fogel Murderer

      • oao says:

        Exactly right.

        And as the book attests, Stockholm and Oslo are not that far apart, both geaographically and with respect to syndroms.

      • oao says:

        All its 13 readers reviewing it on Amazon gave it 5 stars, similar to his Stockholm book. Here’s one of the reviews:

        This book is probably the most detailed and researched book ever written on the history of how liberalism has infected and destroyed the State of Israel. Through the constant appeasment of its enemies who want nothing but the death of Israel, Israel has backed itself into a corner from which even the author (I infer) feels it has little chance of recovering. I truly believe Yosi Belin (along with Simon Peres and too many others) will go down in history as the architects of the destruction of Israel. This book is a must read for anyone who cares about Israel!

        Looks like there are others who agree with my characterization of Peres as a useful idiot.

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