Skip To Content
The Schmooze

I’m Still Drawing, Charlie

Lior Zaltzman

As a cartoonist, I’ve often been scared to breach political topics in an overt way. My fear centers on the reactions I might get from family and friends, or from internet trolls — but never on any concern for my life. That reality has now changed.

This is a heart-wrenching week for the cartooning community. Two masked gunmen stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, four of which were cartoonists: Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier (47), the editor in chief, Jean “Cabu” Cabut, Georges Wolinksi (80) and Verlhac “Tignous” Bernard (58).

I’ve often looked up to cartoonists like those staffing Charlie Hebdo: it takes some real chutzpah and strength of character to make fun of the most charged and sensitive topics out there. Yet they do it with ease, regularity and ferocity. Nothing was sacred for the satirical publication: It made fun of French politicians, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims — oh, and Israel, too. Nothing was off-limits and the cartoons were often offensive and sometimes crass and arguably racist.

But the cartooning community is reeling from the repercussions. Charlie Hebdo was a satirical publication, not just a cartooning magazine. And yet the reason it got attention was because of its strong images, a lot of which were drawn by its editor in chief Charb (Stephane Charbonnier). Charb had been getting death threats for years and the publication was previously bombed in 2011. Charb’s latest cartoon, seen below, said: Caption: Still no terror attacks in France Character: “Wait! We have until the end of January to present our wishes!”

Political cartoons and satire were always at the forefront of freedom of speech. Images are more easily consumed and quicker to cause an uproar — just as they did in the 2007 Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons controversy.

Hundreds have been marching across France in solidarity, especially in Paris and in the French town of [Angouleme], the cartooning capital of the world and home to arguably the biggest and most important international comics convention FIBD – Festivale Internationale de la Bande Desinee, which is set to take place at the end of this month. Many of us in NYC will join the rally in Union Square tonight in support of Charlie Hebdo

It should be mentioned that Charb did not believe that the terrorists threatening his life were in any way representing Islam. After the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in 2011, he said those who carried it out were “stupid people who don’t know what Islam is.” The great cartoonist Scott McCloud tweeted the following in response to the attacks:

So what does it mean for cartoonists and our freedom of speech? Should we censor ourselves out of fear for retaliation? The bottom line for many in the French and international cartooning community is that we need to stay close and unified and honor the deaths of our four fallen fellow artists. We need to be even fiercer with our truths, because now people have died trying to protect it. FIBD’s website issued a statement, ending with the following:

“Because this is our vocation, thanks to the writers of comics that have shown us the way, we will continue to think, with them and by ourselves. To doubt everything before reacting, so that we always strive to react in the right way. And with one certainty: drawings are eternal and, in our hearts, the disappeared artists of Charlie Hebdo will always be the same.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.