Redefining Jewish Authenticity: An Interview with Eli Valley

It’s the same kind of thing, just thinking that they’re the authentic ones, because implicit in that is that we are somehow deficient. I’m not here to present both sides. Diaspora Boy is a huge book, physically, so I read it hunched over, with the book spread out on my kitchen table, following the panels with my finger. And we’re talking about the Jewish world, but it’s the same thing going on with, like, the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It really is absurd. I was thinking about when I read the introduction, which includes a pretty thorough account of the history of Zionism and its influence on images of diaspora Jewishness, and then with the books you discuss in the note on sources. I’m not trying to make myself out to be some kind of a persecuted dissident at all. I was wondering if that resonates with you — that Jewish history of commentary and intertextuality — and if you see that as something that has to do with your work. And so I joke about that, because I have gotten that, people claiming that my comics are anti-Semitic caricatures, and/or measuring the noses … actually, I am a little bit self-conscious about making the noses more diminutive, to be honest, because I don’t want to give them ammunition. I thought Trump was a buffoon who wouldn’t win, but I still saw him as dangerous. Kafka is enormously important. I found MAD comics from the 1950s very informative and influential, and also obviously the independent comics from the ’60s and ’70s, which emerged partly because MAD comics had to be suppressed, as a result of Congressional hearings and the self-censorship of the comics code in 1954. Honestly, it’s crazy that that should be a radical thought. And as I was thinking about that, I suddenly started seeing that all over the book — from those commentaries, to the comics themselves (in which you often are directly quoting the Jewish figures you’re lampooning), to your introduction and Peter Beinart’s foreword, to the publisher’s use of blurbs from your conservative critics, to the note on sources at the end — you cite the influence of scholarly books. And when I say board, I mean donors as well and people who are influential in other Jewish institutions that I was mocking. As an American Jew who was raised in a liberal Reform congregation and who’s engaged to someone who wasn’t raised Jewish, I shared on a visceral level what I felt was your anger at those limited representations of Jewish authenticity. But now it exceeds it in cartoonish form. In his foreword to your book, Peter Beinart writes, “Eli Valley’s cartoons are outrageous and absurd. And there was responsibility there, and we have not accounted for it. The other thing is, you know, when I would use swastikas — there were only, like, two comics in my book where I actually made references to Nazism. Your work is very analytical, but do you see it as coming out of that emotional space as well? He talks about how if he could be anybody in the world, he’d just want to be this little Jewish boy he remembered seeing, seemingly free of worry. We’re only self-hating when we borrow the view of Judaism of the John Podhoretzes of the world. We’re in a cataclysm right now, basically. Going beyond the Jewish world, Trump is a caricature made flesh. NOVEMBER 11, 2017

FOR THE PAST DECADE, Eli Valley has been drawing comics unlike any other. But on that note, in the book I talk about a comment on my “Photo Stroll” comic that was one of my favorite comments, because it actually questioned me, and it questioned my romanticization of earlier periods of Jewish history. So, that’s one way to approach it. And in his diaries, he writes about them. How do you see your work fitting into that response to the crisis? To me that’s not Judaism, and for the press and even the Jewish community to implicitly assume that these extremes are our norms — that is what is self-loathing, that is when we become self-hating. The other thing that’s interesting is that I wrote the introduction and put everything together during the election cycle but before the actual election. The things they’re doing — they’re spearheading this McCarthyite campaign, and the things they’re saying about one of the preeminent scholars of Jewish history in the United States today, they’re so unhinged. I don’t want to deflate my point because they’re able to say it’s [Nazi newspaper] Der Stürmer. Bombastic, frenzied, and often grotesque, Valley’s work unrestrainedly critiques American and Israeli institutional Jewish leaders and narratives. That’s the thing. So it’s hard to say. The majority of the comics in Diaspora Boy were published in The Forward, but a good number of those that were not were ones that you tried to publish in The Forward, but for various reasons that you detail, they wouldn’t run them. That’s, like, meta on meta, but I think it might also fit in with what you were saying about intertextuality. As far as the past, I’m mesmerized by the kinds of writings and cultural output that was being created in Central Europe in the early 20th century, and I like to think that my comics are a reflection of and a debate with that. That’s one of the reasons I love that comment on “Photo Stroll,” where she calls me out for romanticizing “an earlier breed of Jew,” as I called it in the comic. So I’m curious about the struggle to get those kinds of criticisms published in mainstream Jewish publications. But in terms of influence, there’s the horror and the grotesquery, the allegory and hyperbole, the elevation of pulpy narrative, the Jewish obsessions, the generational tensions, but also the humor. And then, my sense was, by the time I started drawing these comics 10 years ago, that Jews had already entered the mainstream, entered all echelons of American society, and I was just wondering about that satirical energy. And honestly, if there’s no other point to Diaspora Boy, it’s to say we are not deficient. John Podhoretz is our Clarence Thomas. Cartoonish almost in a negative sense of the term — it’s like a cliché cartoon. Yeah. You can see that with what’s happening with David Myers right now at the Center for Jewish History. Diaspora Boy: Comics on Crisis in America and Israel collects more than 60 of Valley’s comics into a beautiful volume, complete with extensive commentaries and a riveting introduction that covers Valley’s own history and the history of Jewish self-images since the birth of Zionism, to which his work responds. That sort of led, indirectly, to the independent comics explosion in the ’60s, which were almost all influenced in some way by the MAD comics. Partly because of the strictures of the comics code, they eventually became a magazine, and the comic in some ways got neutered. It’s just amazing to me that the vast majority of American Jews are progressively inclined, and our spokespeople and our arbiters of authenticity are on the right side of the spectrum. That’s a big question. So the reckoning I see is this fissure. For this he has earned the ire of prominent figures on the Jewish right and the discomfort of many others. How do you think about the history of representations of Jews in your work? Most of the comics in Diaspora Boy are accompanied by detailed commentaries that establish political context and explain publication histories and do other things. It seemed like there was a need to direct that satirical energy inward at a time when Jewish political culture had become the mainstream and there was very little dissent. The Forward, a left-leaning publication that printed his work for years, eventually broke with him over the severity and specificity of his satire. ¤  
NATHAN GOLDMAN: Your comics used to appear in The Forward under the title “Comics Rescued From a Burning Synagogue in Bialystok and Hidden in a Salt Mine Until After the War.” In an interview with The Comics Journal, you explained that the title came from language about a Torah rescued during the Holocaust. In your commentary on the comic “Abe Foxworthy,” which lampoons Abe Foxman, you discuss your disagreement about that comic with The Forward’s editor-in-chief, who objected: “There’s no balance in this cartoon.” You write, “This was the core of many disagreements that would follow — not so much the level of tastefulness but the inherently unbalanced nature of satirical art.” I want to hear more about what you mean by “the inherently unbalanced nature of satirical art,” and how that plays into both your conception of what you do and the difficulty you have had getting your work published in certain kinds of places. Because I’m not interested in convincing the other side, but I am interested in inspiring and giving strength to our side. But it’s possible that on some subconscious level, certain aspects owe a debt. They’re not elected — they’re just self-proclaimed leaders. This seems related to the right’s criticism that your comics are anti-Semitic. But, for example, there was a person at The Forward who mentioned going to some benefit for Abe Foxman [the former director of the Anti-Defamation League], and he was concerned with what Foxman might say about my work. But now, especially after Charlottesville, the swastika is not very hyperbolic. Philip Roth called him a “sit-down comic.” If you read The Metamorphosis, it’s insanely funny that Gregor’s just trying to figure out how to get to work when he’s in insect form. In their spin-off, called Panic, they went after Santa Claus, and that got the issue banned in Massachusetts. But there’s a parallel both in terms of the satirical impulse and the censorship that results. I’m not drawing direct comparisons, but my stuff does not appear in The Forward anymore. And because the comics are ordered chronologically, the reader sees your relationship with The Forward changing until the point at which they weren’t going to continue publishing your work. It’s like, “Let’s try to understand why the person in power is supporting policies that are disenfranchising entire communities. In terms of goals for the comics, I want to pillory these kinds of people so people know they have zero legitimacy to be telling the majority of Jews that they are not worthy and that they are not legitimate. He considered them to be the embodiment of authenticity. But they’re going to say it’s Der Stürmer no matter what. But back then, it was an extreme example, and you wouldn’t want to go there, because it would deflate the satire. So I’ve been thinking about those resonances. We’re living in this truly absurd, caricaturish time …  
Dystopia. But the problem with wanting to be an outside, critical source while also playing internally in the politics is that it’s a contradiction, and you’re always going to run into walls. I’m pretty young, and maybe it’s a vice of youth to overestimate the importance of one’s time, but it seems to me that, following the rise of the right and Netanyahu in Israel and Trump here, this is a major moment of reckoning for liberal Zionism in American Jewish communities. I think it’s more of an intuitive thing when I’m actually working. How do you see your work fitting into the history of Jewish texts, both sacred and profane? Reality is more horrifying now, so satire of reality will be more horrifying. I don’t know if I’m sounding too insane right now …
No, I don’t think so. And we need to account for it. Did thinking of the comics as all part of a book, rather than spread out across various issues of various publications, make you think of the body of work as a different kind of thing? Those complaints are much more reflective of the people making them than anything else, because the only people who make those complaints are people who have normalized the rise of authoritarianism in Israel. I mean, literally, journalists palling up with people in power, who are often horrifically corrupt. Speaking of that, you get a lot of shit from the Jewish right: Commentary’s John Podhoretz called you a kapo, meaning a Jew who cooperated with Nazis; The New York Times’s Bret Stephens called your work “grotesque” and “wretched.” How do you feel about those kinds of remarks? I’m curious about one more minor thread in your work, concerning Kafka. But to this day, everything we say about Kafka’s a cliché, since his writings are seen, with 20/20 hindsight, as a horrifying prediction of what was to come, both with the Holocaust and Soviet tyranny, living in a police state. And except for, like, “Dawn of the Chimpanzee,” it wasn’t really exclusively about Israel itself so much early on. He draws from the rich history of diasporic Jewish comic-making — from the comics that appeared in Yiddish socialist newspapers in the early 20th century to MAD comics — but his style and wit are all his own. I do respect the ones in academia who see my work as not necessarily equivalent to the stuff back then, but contributing to the same trajectory. At the time, I was really into Kafka. Their point is that I am anti-Likud, and to them anything that is anti-Likud comes out of Nazi propaganda. If these people are going to be saying these horrific things, I’m going to be coming at them and essentially demanding that they stop being trusted with the ability to define the rest of us. And when they do try to define us, I pillory them. Because you’re critical of Israel and Zionism and you critique Jewish figures — often harshly, and often representing them in physically grotesque ways — you’ve been accused of self-hatred and even anti-Semitism, which are charges the Jewish right likes to lob at the Jewish left. I like it. But it’s funny, because if you go too far — MAD went too far, not in my view but in the view of American culture. Valley’s work, though deadly serious, is also raucously fun, filled with everything from a zombified Theodor Herzl to a crotchety Jewish turtle accusing his Jewish owners of anti-Semitism. Todd Samuel Presner’s Muscular Judaism was one of the first works I saw that really grappled with this stuff. It sort of expresses horror that American Jewish leaders were normalizing the same kind of bigoted demagoguery in Israel that we now see in the United States today. Not mocking frivolously, but with specific points and critiques based on actual policies. So then I was stretching it to make a point. That’s why when people say, “Can you convince your opponents?” I’m like, “We’re beyond that.” We’re in a crisis right now. “Grotesque” and “wretched” is fine, actually. But even if the comics are hyperbolic and insane, I have very serious intentions with them, and I do aspire to the trajectory of Jewish literary and intellectual culture. As much as I might have conceived of it as a single body of work when I was working on it, it was only when it came out in book form and I actually held it in my hands and went through it that I could note certain aspects that I might not have seen otherwise, in terms of evolution, or just changing … I don’t know, ideology? And now it’s all over my work. Veep writers have complained about that, that there’s no way to be any more hyperbolic or satirical than reality is now. And it reminded me a lot of my experience reading the Torah for my Bar Mitzvah. It’s like that quote from Abe Foxman in the comic “It Happened on Halloween,” saying, “I don’t represent. It’s just the way I draw. I have to be careful with over-self-aggrandizement, but I worship the brush — brush and ink. And that’s one of the reasons that, for some people, discourse might be important now. Their point is not that my images are anti-Semitic. And then there was the aftermath, and the continuing shock and outrage that Netanyahu has been normalized by American Jewish leaders for his entire history in office. Obviously there’s acrimony in the Talmud, too, but hopefully nothing quite as nuts as the comments underneath my comics. In that interview with The Comics Journal, you mention that at one point you were thinking of going into a PhD program. There’s a lot of such intertextual stuff going on. They would say that’s Der Stürmer. Two of the comics in Diaspora Boy, “Metamorphosis” and “The Trial,” reference Kafka stories, and one of them has a reference, also, to “Before the Law.” And on your Instagram, you pointed out that Diaspora Boy’s cover is modeled on Kafka cover art by Ottomar Starke. And I feel like my book captures and reflects what led up to this in terms of the Jewish community. ¤
Nathan Goldman (nathangoldman.com) is a writer whose work has appeared in   Literary Hub, the   Kenyon Review Online,   The Millions, and other publications. But are there people you’re interested in persuading? The whole idea of “self-hatred” is that you know what my self is, and already you’re defining my self as Zionist and, ultimately, Orthodox. Actually, in the book I joke that the comics, along with the comments underneath them online, are like a page of the Talmud if the Talmud were written by lunatics. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in terms of the purpose of a comic — you just have to go in a slightly different direction with it. What do you think is going on in our American Jewish culture that this kind of internal criticism is so often silenced? But I did realize, once the book was out, that it was coming out at this precarious moment in American and Jewish history. We are authentic. There was certainly not harsh satire. Because the other voices brought us to this horrifying point. “Kapo” is inexcusable — although I’ve been using it lately. But to me it’s a much, much larger and broader reckoning. There are people on their board who loved my work, and I’m sure there are people on their board who hated my work. And again, it’s like: What the hell was going on? But for me, it’s horrifying that people who helped pave the way toward where we are are still in leadership positions. It also gets to the whole idea of punching the downtrodden, you know? There are all these articles that keep coming, saying that Bernie Sanders isn’t talking about his Judaism enough, or contrasting him with Joe Lieberman as the American Jewish icon, because — because why? Or people like Mort Klein [the president of the Zionist Organization of America], who is an unhinged bigot, who is accepted as a standing member of mainstream Jewish communal institutions. I’m not saying it’s deliberate, but the packed panels and the intense black-and-white art reflect that emotional and visceral approach, as well as the shtetl environment that I’m trying to capture, in terms of the multiplicity of voices and the cascading bodies and forms. And so, it is difficult. This is a huge rupture, basically. From human and animal rights abuses at a kosher slaughterhouse, to endless sociological surveys lamenting the sins of secularism and intermarriage, to widespread disregard for Palestinian lives, Valley attacks the Jewish community’s ethical failures from the inside. It was horrifying before Trump was in office, but now it’s … you lose your speech trying to comprehend how this is possible. Right. It’s like, if Clarence Thomas — it’s a faulty analogy, but just for the sake of an unrepresentative person — if Clarence Thomas was considered, you know, the “lead” African American, the embodiment of what it means to be African American. I totally get the idea of not being interested in dialoguing with the people you’re critiquing. ELI VALLEY: Wow, that’s quite the question. That’s because we’re living at an outrageous and absurd moment in American Jewish life.” That seems truer by the day. We’ve been trying to have dialogue for a decade now, and in that decade, look where we’ve come: the people in power continue to have power, and they continue to disenfranchise — I mean literally — voices in the community. That’s what I would aspire to. And so I think one of the things that just pisses them off, and it’s why they have to grab at all of their ad hominems, is because I refuse to let them define me. My visual style is my visual style, and anyone who has seen my drawings of Trump knows that it’s not directed, visually, at Jews more than at anyone else. The book is not only a towering artistic achievement and a disturbing chronicle of American Jewry’s relationship to Israel over the last 10 years, but also a battle cry for a resurgent American Jewish left in a harrowing time of far-right power in the United States and Israel — a time in which reality has surpassed satire in its ridiculousness. But also, I see MAD comics as one of the pinnacles of diaspora Jewish culture — not just because they were throwing in Yiddish words everywhere, but because they were, in many ways, anti-establishment at a time when Jews had not yet been accepted by the mainstream in terms of culture and politics. I think they’re despicable, but they’re entitled to their views. In that particular commentary I mention that the editor once suggested getting a quote from the other side. I have such a high estimation of that, so when I’m being more self-aggrandizing, I jokingly compare it to the Torah, creating scrolls. I think of Gershom Scholem’s On Jews and Judaism in Crisis. Let’s try and see their point of view — for our satire.” No, actually, we don’t need to do that for our satire. I don’t even like saying that, though, because it sounds like I’m being defensive, and I don’t think I should have to be defensive about this at all. Then I was reading all of his Letters to Felice, I was nuts, literally, when I was living in Prague. That’s literally why Podhoretz called me a kapo. Yeah, absolutely. And the book kind of ends with that. That doesn’t help my point, because he’s not Jewish. But that’s the way it is in the Jewish world. If I say that authentic Judaism is secular, early 20th-century socialism, then John Podhoretz and Abe Foxman are self-loathing. I don’t want dialogue with these people. But that’s the only reason. Does it seem that way to you? Because Lieberman wears a yarmulke? Not because it’s hyperbolic, but because it’s literal. And that definitely stuck with me, because I’ve done similar things. It’s a cliché, I know. How could we get them at the table to discuss these issues? So MAD is, a lot of the time, mocking consumerism and red-baiting and conformity in 1950s America, and it was largely the product of these outsider Jewish kids in New York, who were the children of immigrants. If you fly too close to the sun or whatever, if you keep mocking these institutions — I mean, it’s necessary, but the institutions will find ways to limit it. And I know a lot of people became activists during that period. One of my comics is kittens as the IDF. It’s not a conscious thing on my part, because that would probably become self-conscious. Also, the image of the teuton machine, from the introduction, I found in a book by John Efron on the history of German Jews and medicine. He idealized them as true Jews, essentially. But especially with the Gaza War in 2014 — those were all about Israel. And I’m not even talking about Palestine right now, but Jewish voices of dissent. It used to be that it was mildly like satire. This is not the time to all sit down and try to hear each other’s voices. There’s a lot of ways to approach it. But, you know, I am inspired by grotesque art. This whole “both sides” needs of journalists, it’s so outside the parameters, or even the metaphysics, of satire. But still. There are people, I’m sure, in academia, who are in love with these Jewish cultural journals from Prague in the 1920s, but who would look at my work, and it would be a total cuneiform foreign language to them. In his review of Diaspora Boy in Haaretz, Josh Lambert writes, “For more than a decade, Valley has self-consciously drawn on the history of caricature to portray specific Jews as repulsive grotesques.” I think that’s astute, and I’d add that you also seem interested in caricaturing caricatures, as in the titular Diaspora Boy, who’s based on Zionist ideas about Jews in the Diaspora as physically, spiritually, and culturally deficient. I want to talk about that, because I think that’s an interesting thread in the book. So I’m wondering about Kafka’s importance to you personally and as an artist. So I’m really indebted to academics for their archival work and analysis. That being said, it’s dangerous to compare my comics directly to Kafka, as they’re much more influenced by MAD comics than by Kafka himself. Jewish groups were in his office, and they were literally comparing the sizes of the noses in his comics, the Jewish ones versus the non-Jewish ones, to determine whether he was anti-Semitic. That’s actually when IfNotNow [an American Jewish anti-Occupation movement] emerged. Or are you more interested in provoking and inspiring? If you just look at the majority of American Jews, they are more like Bernie Sanders than Joe Lieberman, in terms of secular versus Orthodox, or non-nationalistic versus nationalistic, or moral versus corrupt. Reading Diaspora Boy, which felt like reliving the last decade of the relationship between American Jews and Israel, reinforced that feeling. I love that idea. So there’s a few comics where he just doesn’t have a nose. I really think that in crisis comes opportunity, and we have an opportunity now to set things straight, but it takes some serious work and ferocity. Could you talk a little bit about that comics history you see yourself drawing on — both that particularly Jewish history, with these early 20th-century Yiddish newspapers, and also any other comics history you see as being important to your development and your work? I was in this whirlpool of events, and they seem to have crescendoed during the Gaza War, and then my comics were largely about what was going on there. I think one of the things that infuriates my critics is that I refuse to let them define Judaism for me. Yes, but I see it more when you point it out. We’re not self-hating naturally. Your commentaries reveal how difficult it was for you to get a lot of your comics published without changing them, and one thing that came up over and over was that it was difficult to publish comics that criticized specific leaders or organizations in the Jewish community. I’m here to make an argument. I also saw any Jewish support of Trump to be a total shonda [disgrace], but I didn’t know how far it would go — that he would actually come into office, and there would be people like Mort Klein who are trying to normalize this stuff. But I also know that a lot of academics, they just don’t understand comics, and they don’t understand how they fit into the intellectual tradition. I don’t hope to convince the other side at all. Because he lends his name to extremist movements, like Christians United for Israel? The subtitle of my book — Comics on Crisis in America and Israel — is a nod to his reference to crisis. However, I think when I’ve been using it, talking about people who are normalizing Nazism in the United Staes, it has much more relevance and accuracy than calling me a kapo for doing a comic that was a cry of anguish after a Palestinian boy was burnt alive. Valley spoke with me by phone from New York City, where he was taking a break from drawing a sock puppet on Jared Kushner’s hand in what would become this comic. I think the best academics — obviously, because I’m self-centered — are the ones who can appreciate my comics. The lips just go so high, and then I have to throw in two eyes, and there’s really no room for a nose after that. That’s preposterous, in terms of voting patterns alone. What was it like to compile 10 years of work and see it all together? That also got me thinking about the history of Jewish thought as explicit interpretation and critique, from the Talmud on. Culturally, working in this period of enormous transformation for Jews and in Europe more broadly, I found Kafka a sort of guide to turning history and memory into a narrative, into art that becomes even more compelling than the tradition it replaces. As for the future, who knows what’s going to happen — especially these days — but I like to think that future grad students will be looking at this book, along with a lot of other stuff, in order to figure out what the hell was going on (to paraphrase our horrible nightmare man in charge right now). But you suggest in the introduction to Diaspora Boy that your work is, in part, a product of pride in Jewishness and what you call “Jewish confidence.” Could you speak about that tension between these accusations of self-hatred and your experience, in your life and work, of just the opposite? Since we’re in this moment of clarity, if this collection can shine a light on the past 10 years and help us see how we got here, and it can be a galvanizing force for either younger people or people who are already stunned by what is going on and want to find a way out of it, then that would be a success for me. I have a book of Doug Marlette’s cartoons from the ’80s, Shred This Book, in which he talks about how there were complaints after he did a comic about Israel and Lebanon. One of them is: I refuse to let the Jewish figure be defined by anti-Semites. The president is a white supremacist who won’t condemn Nazis; meanwhile, major Jewish groups didn’t speak out against Steve Bannon so as not to upset donors, and Sebastian Gorka, who backed an anti-Semitic militia, is touring Israel and praying at the Western Wall. Years ago I wrote a Jewish travel guide to Prague and other cities in the region. I can draw teddy bears. So how does a satirist — and particularly a Jewish satirist — work in this environment? It’s been more extreme in the past 10 to 20 years, but it has roots in the stuff I talk about in the introduction, which is the denigration of the diaspora in place since the origin of Zionist thought. It’s hard to say, because I don’t know to what degree The Forward is emblematic of wider trends. And I know it’s a glib answer, but when people ask me who my readership is, the obvious answer is me and my friends, but the longer answer is ghosts from the past and ghosts from the future. The nature of my work tends toward the obsessive, in terms of both the art and the research, so that’s just the way it ends up. That should be self-evident. I just get really angry, even thinking about this shit. But at this point … It started in July 2016, when I drew Trump drawing a swastika on himself and saying, “Now you’re gonna misinterpret this too.” That was after he pillaged white supremacist websites for campaign materials, like the one with Hillary on top of the pile of cash. You mentioned the part of the book in which you discuss the idea of the comics, with the comments sections being the Talmud as written by lunatics. Yeah, and we haven’t really talked about the art itself, but I think it reflects that emotion. It’s academic, and it gets very specific, but it also gives you an overview, and it talks about people like Ephraim Moshe Lilien, who was, visually, one of the sources that I’m grappling with. But the larger issue is, these are the people who have been defining Jewish authenticity for the past decades in the United States, and they’ve been complicit in narrowing the boundaries of authenticity vis-à-vis non-Zionist or non-Orthodox Jews — particularly non-Zionists, or even critical Zionists, using terms like “self-hatred” and even sometimes “anti-Semitic.” And that’s been the norm. I’ve been asked how I could have dialogue with the people I’m criticizing. And not just me — I refuse to accept their definitions of American Judaism. And I noticed that a lot of my early work was intra-communally Jewish, but it started getting more and more about Israel itself. I’m not proud of that, but we’re always trying to deprogram ourselves from what we have learned as authenticity when we were young. That’s basically the subtext to the slur. So it’s interesting, that kind of evolution. The Metamorphosis cover, actually. The title page. I lead.” That’s damn true, because none of these people represent us. To me it’s a reckoning, but there are many sub-reckonings going on, and liberal Zionism would be maybe one of them. That which was once used for satirical effect is now literal. I’m wondering what your relationship is to scholarship on the topics that your work addresses. Early on in the comics, I was much more optimistic — not optimistic, but I believed more in the possibility of a workable solution to what’s happening in the Middle East. Kafka was obsessed with Galician Jewish refugees in Prague at the beginning of World War I. Yes. I mean, Kafka’s stories were also meant to be funny, which is something that is not often appreciated today. And there are specific things, like authenticity. It comes out a little in my work now, probably more subconsciously than it did then. We finally have a moment of clarity now of where we’ve been heading, and we need to take advantage of that moment to stop normalizing fascism by the most definitive measures possible. It’s a good question, and it’s difficult, because reality keeps exceeding satire. It’s horrifying, actually, at this point. That’s very arrogant, obviously, but it’s not like I mean it to be literal. And I’m like, I’m beyond dialogue. And those kind of stories, and then seeing them speak publicly with other actually really toxic figures in the Jewish community … there’s this buddy aspect. It’s just a reflection of how seriously I take this work, despite the seeming reckless glibness of the comics themselves. And obviously I don’t respect those people. Who do you hope to be speaking to, and what do you hope to be doing for them? But it needs to be said. Those are the cool academics. With these kind of comics, I don’t even think it’s within the tools of the medium, at least the way I use it. As a side point, I have noticed that I just draw Trump so ridiculously now that often I don’t have room for a nose.