The Star is a stunningly psychological poster that ignites a chain reaction of questions about organized Zionism and its impact on the United States.
The stars on the American flag are five-pointed; here, an American flag is wrapped around the six-pointed Magen David (Hebrew: Star of David), the national political emblem of modern Israel as well as the iconic symbol of Zionism. The Star is boldly set out against a white background with no accompanying text, thereby deliberately focusing the viewer’s attention on the artist’s provocative premise.
With this poster, designer ascends from the pack of politically timid American artists to challenge a taboo. Though Israeli and Jewish poster artists regularly treat the Magen David with the same high degree of political irreverence that American artists show for the Stars and Stripes, until Cook the Magen David had been treated as off-limits by American artists.
Cook fuses the U.S. flag and the Star of David to make a political declaration: that Zionism is a significant internal force in American political life, capable of morphing it into a new and alien shape. The poster challenges Americans to review the assumptions that have allowed Zionism to flourish without question or restraint.
Some view The Star as patently anti-Semitic. This is an egregiously under-informed response. This thoughtful, seminal poster has absolutely nothing in common with the paranoid, artless drivel produced by domestic lumpen anti-Semitism. It belongs to a diametrically different genre, that of the principled, historically legitimated arts of the contemporary American left, such as that which blossomed out of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of the mid-1960s and the anti-Vietnam war movement, for example.
Posters like this are subject to criticism from the hasbara (Hebrew: Israel advocacy, solidarity) movement on the grounds that it only presents one side. Yet this is political art; it takes a stand. It is not the intent or the responsibility of a political artist to provide balance within the context of a single work. Artists with opposing views are free, indeed welcome, to respond to The Star with their own publicly-shared art; balance results from interplay, not from a single poster.