Murdoch apologizes for ‘grotesque’ Sunday Times cartoon
‘Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times,’ Rupert Murdoch tweeted in response to criticism by Jewish groups, who said the drawing was reminiscent of anti-Semitic blood libels.
Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. owns the Sunday Times of London through a subsidiary, said the paper should apologize for printing what he called a “grotesque” cartoon of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Murdoch, the founder and CEO of News Corp., made his remarks Monday on Twitter about the cartoon that appeared the previous day. Netanyahu is depicted as building a brick wall with the blood of Palestinians as mortar.
“Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times,” Murdoch tweeted, referring to the cartoonist. “Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”
Murdoch’s statement was made in response to criticism from leaders of the Jewish community in the U.K. who said the drawing was reminiscent of anti-Semitic blood libels.
Jon Benjamin, the head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, called the cartoon “appalling” and said it was similar to the offensive images of Jews “more usually found in parts of the virulently anti-Semitic Arab press.”
Benjamin said its appearance in the broadsheet on International Holocaust Remembrance Day added insult to injury.
Earlier on Monday, the Sunday Times defended the cartoon, saying it was “aimed squarely at Mr. Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel, let alone at Jewish people.”
The Anti-Defamation League, which earlier condemned the cartoon as blatantly anti-Semetic, welcomed Murdoch’s apology, however criticized the newspaper’s senior editors, who “vigorously defended the cartoon as a form of legitimate criticism.”
“The cartoon, which is so shocking and reminiscent of the virulently anti-Semitic cartoons we see routinely in the Arab press,” the statement said, “is clearly indefensible.”
Another report from the Associated Press can be read HERE.
See my post from yesterday dealing with this.
1. It is not directed at Jews: There is absolutely nothing in the cartoon which identifies its subject as a Jew. No Star of David or kippa, and though some commentators have claimed Netanyahu’s nose in the cartoon is over-sized, at most this is in line with Scarfe’s style (and that of cartoonists) of slightly exaggerating physical features. Jew-noses are prevalent in truly anti-Semitic cartoons that routinely appear in Arab newspapers – you can find them easily on the web. They are big, bulbous and hooked snouts, and look nothing like Netanyahu’s nose a-la-Scarfe. Furthermore, Netanyahu is an Israeli politician who was just elected by a quarter of Israeli voters, not a Jewish symbol or a global representative of the Jews.
2. It does not use Holocaust imagery: It has become generally accepted – justifiably I think – that comparing Israel’s leaders and policies to those of the Third Reich is borderline, if not full-on anti-Semitism. Not only because there is no comparable genocide in human history, but because choosing it to describe the actions of the Jewish state is a nasty slur identifying Israelis as the successors of the Holocaust’s victims turned into perpetrators of a second Holocaust. But there is nothing in Scarfe’s cartoon that can put the Holocaust in mind. Perhaps someone thinks that the wall should remind us of the ghetto, but don’t forget, Scarfe is the original designer of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Should the Sunday Times have not published the cartoon on International Holocaust Memorial Day? Only if one believes that is a day in which Israeli politicians have immunity from being caricatured. Such a belief would certainly cheapen the memory of the Shoah. The Sunday Times, as it names indicates, appears only on Sundays and this was the end of elections week in Israel – when else did you expect them to feature a cartoon of Netanyahu?
3. There was no discrimination: If Gerald Scarfe had been a benign and gentle artist, treating the subjects of his cartoons with due respect and reverence, sharpening his pencil only on Israeli and Jewish figures, there would be grounds here for assuming he was tainted by the most ancient of hatreds. Anyone who has had even a casual glance at Scarfe’s oeuvre of over half a century knows that is not the case. Netanyahu’s depiction is grossly offensive and unfair, but that is only par for the course for any politician when Scarfe is at his drawing-board. Scarfe has spent his entire career viciously lampooning the high and mighty – Netanyahu is in illustrious company.
4. This is not what a blood libel looks like: Some have claimed that the blood-red cement Netanyahu is using in the cartoon to build his wall indicates a blood libel motif. Well of course it’s blood but is anyone seriously demanding that no cartoon reference to Israeli or Jewish figures can contain a red fluid? The classic European blood libel, like many other classic European creations, had a strict set of images which must always contain a cherubic gentile child sacrificed by those perfidious Jews, his blood to be used for ritual purposes. It was a direct continuation of the Christ-killer myth. Scarfe’s cartoon has blood-cement but no blood libel components – it almost seems he was careful not to include any small children among his Palestinian figures (one of the eight is arguably an adolescent) so as not to have any sort of libel scenery. The blood libel was a terrible feature of Jewish life in Europe up until the beginning of the 20th century, and the myth still occasionally emerges from between the cracks in some East European backwaters to this day. To ascribe Scarfe’s cartoon with any of its features distorts another chapter of Jewish history.
The full report can be read HERE