Cornel West defends campaign art director who published virulently antisemitic cartoons

Dwayne Booth, who goes by the pen name ‘Mr. Fish,’ has been accused of promoting blood libel stereotypes

Cornel West (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

Cornel West, the prominent left-wing academic now running for president as an independent, is vocally defending an art director for his campaign whose political cartoons promoted antisemitic tropes in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.

Dwayne Booth, who goes by the pen name “Mr. Fish,” recently stirred backlash for publishing a series of incendiary political cartoons about the Israel-Hamas war, including one that depicts a cabal of Zionists drinking Gazan blood from wine glasses.

In other cartoons first reported by The Washington Free Beacon last week, the Star of David is drawn onto a Nazi flag in lieu of a swastika, while an Israeli soldier is seen placing a gun to the head of a hospitalized baby and Jews in a concentration camp are shown holding signs with such slogans as “Free Palestine” and “Stop the Holocaust in Gaza.”

West, meanwhile, unreservedly praised Booth as “one of the great artists in American culture!”

“Like the great satirists of the past — from Jonathan Swift to Ishmael Reed — he exposes the hypocrisy and cruelty in our lives and society!” West wrote in a social media statement on Saturday. “He is my dear brother and I am blessed to have him as the premier Art Director in my presidential campaign for Truth Justice Love!”

The cartoons drew criticism on Friday from Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who accused Booth, a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication, of “exploiting images of Holocaust victims and invoking blood libel stereotypes to make a point.”

On Sunday, UPenn’s interim president, J. Larry Jameson, also spoke out against the cartoons, calling them “reprehensible” and “incongruent with” the university’s “efforts to fight hate.”

Since early October, West’s campaign has paid Booth at least $10,000 for design work, recent federal filings show. A new campaign poster for a West rally this Friday at the Maryam Islamic Center in Sugar Land, Texas, was signed by Booth, and reads, “In the Face of Tyranny: Gaza Endures!”

West, a former professor at Harvard and Princeton, has long been an outspoken critic of Israeli policies and is a high-profile supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In recent remarks, he has accused Israel of genocide and called President Joe Biden a “war criminal” for backing Israel in its war to eliminate Hamas.

His third-party bid has raised concerns among Democratic operatives who fear he could be a spoiler candidate in the November election, particularly as Arab-American voters voice disapproval with Biden’s approach to Israel.

West himself has faced accusations of using antisemitic rhetoric, including in comments expressing suspicion of the pro-Israel lobby. He has also praised Louis Farrakhan, the antisemitic leader of the Nation of Islam, and more recently said he broadly agreed with a controversial letter signed by a large coalition of Harvard student groups that blamed Israel for Hamas’ attacks.

A spokesperson for West’s campaign told Jewish Insider on Tuesday that he was unavailable to elaborate on his continued support for Booth.

For his part, Booth said he was drawn to West’s campaign because they “have the same agenda: Truth, Justice and Love.”

“I respect and agree with his mission to free the democracy from the crippling constraints of the corporate duopoly currently in charge,” Booth explained in an email to JI on Monday, saying that West provides “a voice for the voiceless.”

He dismissed the allegations of antisemitism stemming from his recent political cartoons, accusing critics of “misreading” his work while engaging in “smear campaigns” to censor him.

“In the case of the international conversation about the current war in Gaza,” Booth said, “it will be impossible to have a substantive debate over the specifics and potential outcomes so long as there remains a lazy conflation that makes the State of Israel and the politics that guide its actions as a nation inseparable from Judaism, itself.”

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