Press watchdog may probe Scarfe cartoon

Photo: James Whitworth

Photo: James Whitworth

The Press Complaints Commission has said that it will consider whether the Gerald Scarfe cartoon in the Holocaust Memorial Day issue of the Sunday Times breached its code on accuracy and discrimination. The watchdog received 270 complaints.

The cartoon depicted Benjamin Netanyahu crushing Palestinian victims between the cracks of a blood-spattered wall, prompting outrage over the association with the medieval blood libel against the Jews.

Publication of the image was condemned by the chief rabbi, 41 Conservative MPs, the European Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League and many others.

Israel’s ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, said that his country had “a high threshold for tolerating strong and even provocative criticism,” but noted that the cartoon bore “no relation whatsoever to legitimate political comment.”

Mr Scarfe apologised for being “stupidly completely unaware” of the timing of its publication on HMD but said that he was not an antisemite and that his drawing was “a criticism of Netanyahu, and not of the Jewish people”.

The Sunday Times’ owner Rupert Murdoch said that his company owed a “major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon”.

Martin Ivens, acting editor of the Sunday Times, met officials from the Jewish Leadership Council, Bicom, the Board and the Community Security Trust on Tuesday, to apologise “unreservedly” for what he called “a terrible mistake”.

Last year there was fury after the Guardian published a Steve Bell cartoon with Mr Netanyahu as a puppetmaster pulling the strings of world leaders. This week Mr Bell said: “The problem with Israel and the Zionist lobby is that they never acknowledge the crime of ethnic cleansing on which the state was founded.”

Last updated: 5:45pm, January 31 2013