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War on Gaza: French newspaper Liberation criticised over cartoon mocking starving Palestinians

Social media users slam the illustration as racist and dehumanising, as experts warn that Gaza is on the brink of famine
The minimal black-and-white line drawing depicts a Palestinian woman scolding a starving man in Gaza, asking him to wait until after sunset to hunt rats
The black-and-white line drawing depicts a Palestinian woman scolding a starving man in Gaza, asking him to wait until after sunset to hunt rats (X)

The French daily newspaper Liberation has come under fire for publishing a cartoon that mocks fasting Palestinians in Gaza searching for food.

The cartoon by artist Corinne Rey depicts an emaciated Palestinian man chasing after rats and cockroaches amid rubble and destroyed buildings. A woman in the cartoon slaps his hands and admonishes him, stating: "Not before sunset." 

It was shared on X on Monday, with the caption: "Ramadan in Gaza," referring to the Muslim holy month during which worshippers abstain from all forms of food and drink during the daylight hours.

Social media users slammed the illustration as “racist”, “dehumanising” and a “nauseating” example of public expression as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians face starvation due to Israel's prevention of aid into the war-battered enclave.

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"A prime example of how western and French media dehumanise Palestinians and disregard the current process of genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip," stated one user on social media.

Another critic of the cartoon wrote that the centre-left paper satirised “the fastest, most catastrophic, deliberate starvation of a population ever… mocking 2.3 million famished Palestinians under US-UK-EU-armed Israeli bombardment, half of which are children”.

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Israel cut off all fuel, food, water, aid and electricity to Gaza on 9 October. Its relentless bombing of hospitals bakeries, supermarkets and pharmacies in the besieged strip has led to the complete collapse of the medical sector and forced people to find scraps of food in order to survive.

The UN and several aid agencies have repeatedly warned that Gaza is on the brink of famine, calling for Israel to allow in aid immediately.

At least 27 people have died from malnutrition and dehydration since the start of the war, including a 10-year-old child with cerebral palsy.

'Repugnant example' 

Rey took to X on Tuesday to defend her work, asserting that her drawing aimed to shed light on the despair experienced by Palestinians, “denounce the famine in Gaza”, and also offer a critique of religion.

Translation: Small anthology (very small eh) of bullshit, threats and antisemitic messages received following this drawing published yesterday in Libé. A drawing (which I fully take responsibilty for!) which highlights the despair of the Palestinians, denounces the famine in Gaza and also mocks the absurdity of religion.

While some users defended Rey's cartoon as freedom of expression, others expressed dissatisfaction with what they called a misplaced priority amid the ongoing war.

"A population has been massacred for 4 months and those who are still alive are starving and this bourgeoisie finds it urgent to 'criticise religion,'" said one user. 

Several users also said the illustration was merely another example of systemic discrimation against Muslims and Arabs in French society, which many Muslims say has only increased with start of the war in Gaza.

The cartoon is a “repugnant example of how anti-Palestinian racism and anti-Muslim bigotry has infested large swathes of the left in French society," one user said.

In February 2023, controversial French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo faced criticism for mocking victims of the Turkey-Syria earthquake, which claimed the lives of over 55,000 people and left tens of thousands injured.

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