Jewish Group Says 'BC' Comic Strip Slurs Jews

LOS ANGELES, USA - A leading Jewish group on Thursday said a "BC" comic strip scheduled for publication on Easter Sunday slurs Jews with its depiction of a menorah turning into a cross and urged U.S. newspapers not to run it.

Rabbi Marvin Heir, founder and director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said the strip depicted Judaism being overcome or "subsumed" by Christianity and said newspaper publishers had a responsibility to keep it out of print.

Cartoonist Johnny Hart, author of "BC," which features a comic group of cavemen, and the strip's distributor, Creators Syndicate, said the Easter Sunday panel was intended as a tribute to both Judaism and Christianity and not meant to offend anyone.

The strip that Heir objected to depicts a lit menorah below a phrase attributed in the Bible to Jesus as he was being crucified on the cross: "Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do."

Each successive panel then shows a candle on the Menorah being extinguished, accompanied by more of Jesus' last words, until the menorah is gone and a cross is left in its place.

The final panel shows the cross standing outside a cave -- presumably the empty tomb of Jesus -- above the words: "Do this in remembrance of me."

"The syndicated comic strip, BC by Johnny Hart, which is scheduled to appear in more than 1,300 newspapers on Easter Sunday, is a canard against the Jewish people and will promote hatred rather than tolerance and diversity," Heir said.

"Hart's image in the cartoon of the central symbol of the Jewish people, the Menorah, with each of its lit candles slowly being consumed until all that remains is a cross, says to the world that Judaism has no other existence except to be enveloped into Christianity," Heir added.


Hart defended the cartoon in a statement, saying that the strip was intended to honor Judaism and Christianity during a week that was considered holy for both religions.

"The true purpose of Christmas and Easter is to honor a man. The same man, Jesus," Hart said. "They are not designated holidays to honor red-suited Santas or egg-laden bunnies. Yet, whenever I try to honor this man of men ... hackles go up.

"The God of Judaism and the God of Christianity is the same and the people of Israel are his chosen people and Jesus is one of them," Hart said in the statement.

"This is a holy week for both Christians and Jews and my intent was to pay tribute to both," he said. "I sincerely apologize if I have offended any readers and I also sincerely hope that this cartoon will generate increased interest in religious awareness."

Richard Newcombe, the president of Creators Syndicate, which distributes "BC," said in a statement that the strip was "simply a calendar recognition" of Passover and Easter Sunday and called "ridiculous" the notion that it would be interpreted as anti-Semitic.

Heir called the explanations by Hart disingenuous.

"That's a pretty poor way to pay tribute to two religions, telling the story of how one symbol is extinguished and turns into another," he said. "I would hope (Hart) is more sophisticated than that. If anything I would say this is a message of intolerance."

"To me this says that Judaism will be subsumed by Christianity, that its only a matter of time," he said.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a non-profit Jewish civil rights and educational organization named in honor of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

21:49 04-12-01

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