'Times' editor to meet Jewish leaders over cartoon

Martin Ivens tells 'Post' he will meet with community leaders to repair fallout after publication of cartoon using anti-Semitic tropes.

'Sunday Times' anti-Semitic cartoon 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
'Sunday Times' anti-Semitic cartoon 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 Netanyahu.
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 Palestinians.
In the cartoon, drawn by Gerald Scarfe, blood can been seen dripping off Netanyahu’s trowel and seeping through the bricks.
The 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 week.
“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 added.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews lodged a complaint Monday with the Press Complaints Commission, an independent body for the UK’s printed press.
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 comment.
“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 comment.”
“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.
The 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 on Monday.
“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 Jews.
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 many anti-Semites.
“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.
“The 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.
“To 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.
“Refusal to 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.