Eli Valley

American political cartoonist

Eli Valley (born in 1970) is an artist who is Jewish and lives in New York City, USA.

Quotes edit

  • My art exposed the absurdity of an Alt-Right figurehead such as [Ben] Shapiro, who has built a career attacking the vulnerable, laying exclusive claim to Jewish tradition, values, and ethics...It’s time we started calling the contempt shown by the Jewish right towards the American Jewish majority, its tacit and active alliances with white supremacists, and its repeated calls for our very erasure as Jews, what it is: anti-Semitism. And we should not tolerate it.
  • Satirizing the powerless is not good satire
  • There aren’t a lot of types of views allowed in the Jewish community and there is a large group of Jewish youth who feel they don’t have a voice...It’s support Israel or else, but without open discourse the Jewish community loses. We need to be questioning the accepted truths of the Jewish world

Interview (2018) edit

  • (What would it mean to have a leftist Jewish community that doesn’t always have to be so reactive — one that’s not always on the defense against conservative Jewish gatekeepers?) It would be as diverse as the Jewish community is today, with all the different strands, fluid identities, and multicultural expressions. Some of it would be nostalgic, reinventing nostalgia, some would explore inter-generational tensions, some would be based on new Jewish experiences and encounters.
  • What’s happening in Israel and what we’ve been ignoring and normalizing for the past ten years has now suddenly hit our own shores.
  • (Is Israel a particularly prescient example for the rise of right-wing politics across the world?) Yes, especially because of the ethno-nationalist aspect. It’s one of the reasons Israel has made these horrifying alliances with right-wing and sometimes even overtly anti-Semitic movements throughout the world. Including in America, but also in Europe. It was such a shanda when Netanyahu acquiesced to the Hungarian government’s extremist, right-wing, anti-Soros, anti-Semitic campaign — but really it just showed his true colors. Can we start calling Netanyahu an anti-Semite? Are we allowed to do that yet? Or is that going too far?... He certainly prefers Evangelicals to Jews.
  • They’ve been defining authenticity for so long, but they’re outside the sphere of mainstream political opinion. My fantasy is to flip the script. Why don’t we start admitting the obvious? That we are the authentic Jews. We embody the Jewish values of the past several hundred years of post-enlightenment Jewish history. These neo-cons are the aberration. They should stop speaking for us, but maybe it’s time to stop including them in the community. There’s so much focus in the Jewish world on Klal Yisrael, which basically means peoplehood. Under the guise of Klal Yisrael, we‘ve been conversing endlessly with each other in the spirit of inclusion, all while apartheid was being codified in the West Bank. Over how many years, decades, or centuries are we supposed to be in dialogue with people who not only refuse to acknowledge our authenticity but who are all-in in a project of ethnic-cleansing?
  • It’s outrageous that they claim the mantle of Judaism, while in my view they trespass some of the most basic post-enlightenment Jewish values. I come at it from a fierce Jewish-pugilistic perspective.
  • (On the question of authenticity there is also a leftist Jewish trend to try and go back to a time before assimilation. For example learning Yiddish and reconnecting to a culture that existed before the holocaust. Is this trend trying to uphold a romantic idealized version of Judaism that cannot exist anymore?) I don’t think learning Yiddish and whatever else they’re doing is pre-assimilation. Jews were speaking Yiddish when they were assimilated. The problem today is that the main Yiddish speakers are Hasidic, but we forget that in New York and Warsaw before the war there were tons of Yiddish speakers who were assimilated. It was more the language of cultural autonomy. The larger debate is something I grapple with too, and it goes back to your question about living off the fumes of a dead culture. But for most cultures, in order to create something new you need to be well steeped in the roots and branches of what came before. So I don’t think it’s simply nostalgia. I think they‘re learning Yiddish as a galvanizing point in order to bound forward with something new, whatever that might be.
  • Government is a sterile body and an abstract thing; whereas Jewish issues and Jewish debate gets to the kishkes.
  • I am proudly Jewish and it flies in the face of their whole theory of assimilation and that lefty Jews just don’t know what Judaism is.
  • (Diaspora Boy reminded me of the perception that Israel is the culmination of Jewish history. Does this belief need to change?) This belief needs to change in every way. Physically, in terms of male toxicity, which is inherent in this shit. Emotionally and spiritually, maybe we should stop saying “aliyah,” which means “going up” and “ascending,” for moving to Israel. No, I don’t think so. Israel should be considered one of the Diaspora communities in the world. That’s what I consider Israel to be. We’re in a constant state of Diaspora. Israel did not end anything, and it is certainly not higher than any other Diaspora community.
  • Comics, excommunication, and antifa are the trinity of our tools.
  • we have to stop accepting this kind of elevation of Israel as the highest point.
  • in general brainwashing begets brainwashing. In terms of liberal Jews who check their progressive values at the door when it comes to Israel, it’s fear and guilt: If we object to Israel’s policies, then we must hate ourselves, and we don’t want to be considered self-hating. For those with an emotional connection to Israel, they might do a cost-benefit analysis. They say, if it‘s my people or the Palestinian people, then someone’s gonna have to lose out, and it’s gonna be them. That’s even further then a lot of people ever get with this. For a lot of people it’s just an emotional level based on educational experiences they’ve had since they were children. When some people start admitting that this is not the ideal they’ve been taught, they rationalize it by saying, the Palestinians are to blame.
  • we must disabuse ourselves of the notion that an alliance with Israel absolves you of anti-Semitism.
  • The term Kapo was used inaccurately for decades against liberal Jews. Now we have conservative Jews in bed with Nazis, so if we ever had a time where the term Kapo can be used legitimately, it is now. Maybe we need to use that term a bit more.

Interview (2017) edit

  • 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. 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. 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.
  • 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. 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. 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. 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.
  • This whole “both sides” needs of journalists, it’s so outside the parameters, or even the metaphysics, of satire. I’m not here to present both sides. I’m here to make an argument. It also gets to the whole idea of punching the downtrodden, you know? It’s like, “Let’s try to understand why the person in power is supporting policies that are disenfranchising entire communities. 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 think one of the things that infuriates my critics is that I refuse to let them define Judaism for me.
  • 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. 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? Because Lieberman wears a yarmulke? Because he lends his name to extremist movements, like Christians United for Israel? 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.
  • It really is absurd. 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. They’re not elected — they’re just self-proclaimed leaders. It’s like that quote from Abe Foxman in the comic “It Happened on Halloween,” saying, “I don’t represent. I lead.” That’s damn true, because none of these people represent us.
  • the Gaza War in 2014...I know a lot of people became activists during that period. That’s actually when IfNotNow emerged.
  • it’s horrifying that people who helped pave the way toward where we are are still in leadership positions. So the reckoning I see is this fissure. I think of Gershom Scholem’s On Jews and Judaism in Crisis. The subtitle of my book — Comics on Crisis in America and Israel — is a nod to his reference to crisis.
  • I am inspired by grotesque art. I like it.
  • thinking that they’re the authentic ones, because implicit in that is that we are somehow deficient. And honestly, if there’s no other point to Diaspora Boy, it’s to say we are not deficient. We are authentic. Honestly, it’s crazy that that should be a radical thought. That should be self-evident. But it needs to be said.

Interview (2017) edit

  • If you’re passionate about something, you’re able to combine a hobbyist interest with an actual rigorous exploration.
  • thirty years ago, alt-weeklies were the lifebloods of communities. Now, you can count them on one hand.
  • Basically I love over the top. I love insanity. I think that the political debates I’m satirizing are insane, so I tweak them a little bit to make it a distorted mirror of reality. The specific antecedents are the Mad Magazine comics of the 1950’s which lampooned a lot of the sacred institutions of Americana in a period of mass commercialization and consumption — things like Mickey Mouse, which they made into Mickey Rodent, or Archie, they went after all these popular cultural bulwarks, and they just eviscerated them. While they were making fun of both the comics or television shows or movies themselves, they were also using them as a way to satirize elements of a capitalist society at the time including McCarthy. So the early Mad comics were an intense inspiration from that perspective, but also the perspective of the actual method of the two stalwarts that were Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. With Will Elder, in particular, it was the way he drew, it was so beautiful and intricate but also so wild and out of this world in terms of the way he would pack every panel with so many different details and asides and illusions.
  • I call Trump Netanyahu with smaller hands in the introduction. Netanyahu shares a lot in common with Trump. Including demagoguery, bigotry, attacks on the press, attacks on institutions of democracy, attacks on human rights organizations. I don’t know if Trump has gone that far yet, but he will. It’s a similar method of autocrats. It was inconceivable to me for the past ten years that anyone in a Jewish communal organization or institution would allow Netanyahu into its doors, because he’s the kind of thing that we have feared. And yet, he’s the head of the Jewish state.

Quotes about Eli Valley edit

  • Eli Valley’s cartoons are outrageous and absurd. That’s because we’re living at an outrageous and absurd moment in American Jewish life.
    • Peter Beinart, Forward to Diaspora Boy: Comics on Crisis in America and Israel (2017, OR Books)

External links edit

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