Cartoon Stirs Protests on Maryland Campus

By Daniel Treiman

Published March 28, 2003, issue of March 28, 2003.
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The University of Maryland’s student newspaper is under fire for publishing a cartoon accusing an American student activist killed by an Israeli army bulldozer earlier this month of “stupidity.”

University administrators and student protesters have blasted the decision of The Diamondback to publish a cartoon March 18 ridiculing Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old activist with the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement who was run over by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza while trying to protect Palestinian homes.

The cartoon, by student Daniel J. Friedman, featured a caricature of Corrie sitting in front of a bulldozer, above a mock dictionary entry defining “stupidity” as “Sitting in front of a bulldozer to protect a gang of terrorists.”

The Israeli army has maintained that the bulldozer was trying to clear foliage to prevent terrorists from hiding explosives, and that the vehicle’s driver did not see Corrie, a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. But several of Corrie’s fellow activists who were at the scene said that she was trying to prevent the demolition of a civilian Palestinian home in an area where homes had been demolished by the army, and that she was visible to the driver.

Student protesters gathered last week outside the newspaper’s offices, demanding an apology and the publication of a news article honoring Corrie, according to the newspaper’s managing editor, Jordan Gilmore. At their peak, the protesters numbered 60 to 70, Gilmore said, and some were reportedly members of campus anti-war and Muslim student groups. The University of Maryland at College Park’s president, Dan Mote, has indicated his “disgust” at the cartoon and his chief of staff, Ann Wylie, has said that the newspaper “embarrassed the university,” according to The Diamondback.

The newspaper has refused to print an apology or a news article honoring Corrie, Gilmore said. Its editors maintain that publishing the cartoon was consistent with its policy of printing cartoons so long as they do not incite violence and are not libelous, and that to have refused the cartoon or apologize for printing it would be inconsistent with free speech. The university’s provost, William Destler, said in a letter to The Diamondback that the newspaper’s policy sets a “dangerously low standard” and that refusing the cartoon would have been an act of “editorial responsibility,” not censorship.

News of the cartoon has been widely circulated on the Internet by pro-Palestinian Web sites, and Gilmore told the Forward that the newspaper has received more than 3,000 e-mails on the matter, most of them critical of the cartoon and a “very few” threatening ones.

Local Jewish communal officials also had harsh words for the cartoon. Maryland Hillel executive director Scott Brown called it “stupid and ignorant and inflammatory and unnecessary.”

Erin Applebaum, assistant director for civil rights of the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington, D.C., regional office, said that the cartoon about Corrie was “in extremely poor taste.”

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