London – Rupert Murdoch, owner of British broadsheet The Times on Monday tweeted an apology following the fallout from the publication on Sunday of a cartoon accused of using anti-Semitic characteristics to attack Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Murdoch said that although the artist, Gerald Scarfe has “never reflected the opinions of The Sunday Times,” they “owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”
The Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Times will this week meet Jewish community leaders 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 Holocaust Memorial 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’s blood can been seen dripping off Netanyahu’s trowel and seeping through the bricks. The cartoon, and timing of its publication, has caused outrage with accusations that it invoked classical anti-Semitic tropes synonymous with blood libel accusations against Jews.
On Monday, the 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 on Monday with the Press Complaints Commission, an independent body for the UK’s printed press.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 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.
“This far exceeds any fair or reasonable criticism of Israeli policies. Last week’s Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon showed 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.
Israel’s 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 ambassador said it would be unacceptable to publish the cartoon on any day of the year let alone on Holocaust Memorial Day.
“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.
“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 provide protection to the Jewish community, said its offices had received numerous calls and emails from members of the public upset and angry with 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’s 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 Benjamin 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” – will seriously distress many Jews, “Published on Holocaust Memorial Day its power to offend and upset the emotions of Jews “is greatly worsened” – 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.
“It is a harsh fact that blood has long played a profoundly disturbing part in the history of anti-Semitism, and this has obvious consequences for Jews and anti-Semites today. 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 Zionist Federation.
Content is provided courtesy of the Jerusalem Post