The editor-in-chief of The Sunday Times will meet Jewish community leaders this
week in an effort to repair the fallout from the publication on Sunday of a
cartoon accused of using anti-Semitic tropes to attack Prime Minister Binyamin
On Sunday, which was International Holocaust Remembrance Day,
the publication published a highly controversial cartoon depicting the prime
minister building a wall with the blood and limbs of screaming
In the cartoon, drawn by Gerald Scarfe, blood can been seen
dripping off Netanyahu’s trowel and seeping through the bricks.
cartoon and the timing of its publication have caused outrage, with claims that
it invoked classical anti-Semitic tropes synonymous with blood libels
accusations against Jews.
On Monday, incoming editor Martin Ivens told
The Jerusalem Post that he would be meeting with community leaders later this
“The last thing I or anyone connected with The Sunday Times would
countenance would be insulting the memory of the Shoah or invoking the blood
libel,” he said.
“The paper has long written strongly in defense of
Israel and its security concerns, as have I as a columnist. We are, however,
reminded of the sensitivities in this area by the reaction to the cartoon, and I
will of course bear them very carefully in mind in future,” Ivens
The Board of Deputies of British Jews lodged a complaint Monday
with the Press Complaints Commission, an independent body for the UK’s printed
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the board, said: “The cartoon is
shockingly reminiscent of the blood libel imagery more usually found in parts of
the virulently anti-Semitic Arab press. Its use is all the more disgusting on
Holocaust Memorial Day, given the similar tropes leveled against Jews by the
Nazis,” he said.
“This far exceeds any fair or reasonable criticism of
Israeli policies. Last week, Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon showed [Syrian President]
Bashar Assad, the architect of the killing of over 60,000 Syrians in little over
a year, steeped in blood. If Mr. Scarfe and The Sunday Times think there
is any comparison with Israel’s leadership, then they have lost all sense of
proportion and reality,” Benjamin said.
Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub
said the cartoon had no relation at all to legitimate political
“Israelis have a longstanding commitment to free speech and a
high threshold for tolerating strong and even provocative criticism,” he said.
“This cartoon, however, bears no relation whatsoever to legitimate political
“The image of Israel’s security barrier, which is saving the
lives of both Jews and Arabs from suicide bombers, being built from Palestinian
blood and bodies is baseless and outrageous,” said Taub.
“The use of
vicious motifs echoing those used to demonize Jews in the past is particularly
shocking and hurtful on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, but the crude
and shallow hatred of this cartoon should render it totally unacceptable on any
day of the year,” Taub added.
The Community Security Trust, a charity
that monitors and works with the police to curb anti-Semitism as well as to
protect the Jewish community, said its offices had received numerous calls and
emails from members of the public upset and angry about the cartoon.
charity said the cartoon will be perceived as part of the cannon of contemporary
anti- Semitic imagery.
“The blood imagery, sometimes explicitly as blood
libel, is commonly found in obscene anti-Israel propaganda in Arabic and Iranian
media. Mr. Scarfe’s image comfortably fits within this canon of extreme
contemporary anti-Israel hatred,” CST communications director Mark Gardner said
“In response to initial complaints, The Sunday Times pointed
out the obvious – that the cartoon is typical Scarfe, that it depicts Binyamin
Netanyahu rather than all Jews and that it has been run following Netanyahu’s
Israel election victory,” he said.
Gardner said the cartoon – “regardless
of the wishes of Scarfe and The Sunday Times, regardless of it specifically
being anti-Netanyahu rather than anti-Jew” – would seriously distress many
Published on Holocaust Memorial Day, its power to offend and upset
the emotions of Jews “is greatly worsened,” he said – and will give pleasure to
“Unfortunately for Jews – and for satirists –
anti-Semites and anti-Semitism also have ‘a thing’ about blood; and especially
about the allegation that Jews murder others, children in particular, in order
to use their blood or organs for heinous purpose,” Gardner said.
actual intentions of Scarfe and The Sunday Times count for very little within
this broader context of history, and its contemporary emotional and racist
impacts,” Gardner added.
The Zionist Federation of the UK said the
cartoon has no place in any publication, let alone The Sunday Times.
print this vile cartoon on Holocaust Memorial Day, where we remember the mass
slaughter of Jews, is completely unacceptable. This is yet another example of
extreme critics of Israel revealing anti- Semitic tendencies,” said Paul
Charney, chairman of the federation.
Meanwhile, 25 Conservative MPs
signed a letter to Ivens on Monday, saying the decision to publish the cartoon
was “objectionable enough” and was made even more by its release on the
Holocaust memorial day.
Expressing their “shock,” the MPs said the paper
had shown “poor judgement” and called for a printed apology.
acknowledge the upset this has caused in the Jewish community and beyond is
further evidence of this conclusion. We hope that you will see fit to print an
apology in the next edition,” the letter said.
Labor MP Louise Ellman,
vice chair of the Labor Friends of Israel, also called on The Sunday Times
editor to issue an apology.
“This gross insensitivity demands a full
apology, not the excuse that it was somehow in reference to Israel’s elections.
At a time when civilians are being killed by their own regimes across the
region, I fail to see how Scarfe’s blood imagery, in reference to Israel’s
democratic elections, helps you to fulfill your duty of keeping your readership
accurately informed,” she told Ivens in a letter.
“Undoubtedly there are
debates to be had about the complex situation in the Middle East, but depicting
the conflict in terms of emotive and offensive imagery will not pave the way to
a solution,” she added.
Quartet envoy Tony Blair, who met with Netanyahu
on Monday, also expressed strong reservations about the cartoon and the timing
of its publication.
Rupert Murdoch, chairman and founder of News International that owns The Sunday Times, apologized for the “grotesque and offensive” cartoon.
In a Tweet on Monday night, the media mogul said: “Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of The Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this article.
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