Rant gave the wrong image, insists photographer Rankin

Photographer Rankin has apologised for attacking “powerful Jewish zealots” in the US and blaming “extreme Judaism” for the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

He had criticised actress Scarlett Johansson for leaving her ambassadorial role with Oxfam over a row over Israeli West Bank settlements.

He told the Independent the reason she had stood by drinks company SodaStream and its West Bank factory was “because in America, the Jewish zealots are so powerful. Especially in the entertainment industry… What they could do to her career?

“The main problem for me in all this is that kind of extreme Judaism. That extreme belief that this is their homeland and those people are worthless to them. That’s very powerful in America. They will blacklist you. It’s worse than McCarthyism.”

The CST, which monitors antisemitism in Britain, condemned his comments.

Communications director Mark Gardner said: “Rankin speaks as ‘a humanitarian’, so presumably is no antisemite. Nevertheless, he repeats antisemitic conspiracy theory.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre accused him of being “ludicrously uninformed”.

Rankin later said he regretted “responding so glibly to off-topic questions on such a difficult and sensitive subject.

“Of course this is not my official position and I apologise wholeheartedly for my use of language and any offence this may have caused.”

A spokesman for the photographer was reported as claiming that his comments had been “spun” by the newspaper and were intended to be off-the-record remarks.

But journalist Jenn Selby defended her interview, tweeting that she was Jewish and the piece was intended to be “an unbiased report”.

Rankin, whose real name is John Rankin Waddell, has photographed hundreds of leading figures, including The Queen, Tony Blair, Kate Moss — and Scarlett Johansson.

Last updated: 10:45pm, February 20 2014