updated 3/26/2009 3:41:08 PM ET 2009-03-26T19:41:08

A Jewish human rights group is denouncing a nationally syndicated political cartoon on Gaza as anti-Semitic, likening its fanged Star of David to Nazi imagery before the Holocaust.

The cartoon by Pat Oliphant published Wednesday in newspapers across the United States depicts a goose-stepping uniformed figure wheeling the Jewish symbol as it menaces a small female figure labeled "Gaza."

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish rights group with more than 400,000 members in the United States, said the cartoon is meant to denigrate and demonize Israel.

"The imagery in this cartoon mimics the venomous anti-Semitic propaganda of the Nazi and Soviet eras," the center said in a statement. "It is cartoons like this that inspired millions of people to hate in the 1930s and help set the stage for the Nazi genocide."

The center called on media outlets to remove the cartoon from their Web sites.

'Hideously anti-Semitic'
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, issued a statement calling the cartoon "hideously anti-Semitic."

"It employs Nazi imagery by portraying Israel as a jack-booted, goose-stepping headless apparition," the statement said. "The implication is of an Israeli policy without a head or a heart."

Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Oliphant's cartoons, did not return messages left after hours.

Oliphant, a native of Australia who came to the U.S. more than 40 years ago, is one of the most widely syndicated editorial cartoonists in the world, receiving a mix of praise and criticism for his work through the years. He won a prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1967.

The Gaza cartoon alludes to Israel's invasion of the Palestinian territory in December to halt rocket fire from the area and weaken its militant Hamas rulers. More than 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, were killed, according to a Palestinian human rights group.

Latest to draw backlash
Oliphant's cartoon is his latest to draw backlash.

In 2001 and 2007, the Asian American Journalists Association objected to what they called offensive racial caricatures in cartoons about trade with China and concerns about international food safety.

In 2005, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee criticized one of his cartoons as drawing on false stereotypes and reinforcing negative views of Arabs.

Oliphant came to the U.S. in 1964 to work for The Denver Post. His work has been syndicated internationally since 1965, and by Universal since 1980. His work is on permanent display at the Library of Congress.

On its Web site, Universal declares that "no one is safe from the acid brush of Pat Oliphant."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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