'Antisemitic' Guardian Gaza cartoon shows Jews as puppeteers

By Jennifer Lipman, November 16, 2012
Steve Bell's Guardian cartoon (Credit: Steve Bell)

Steve Bell's Guardian cartoon (Credit: Steve Bell)

A Guardian cartoon that implies that Jews are "omnipotent conspirators" has sparked furious debate online.

Barrister Jeremy Brier, who has already lodged a complaint about Steve Bell's drawing with the Press Complaints Commission, labelled the image "plainly antisemitic".

The cartoon in question shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a puppet-master, controlling tiny versions of Foreign Secretary William Hague and Tony Blair.

It was published after Mr Hague said on Thursday that Hamas bore "principal responsibility" for the military operation".

In the background are Israeli flags with stars of David, explosions and a sign stating "Vote Likud" – a reference to Mr Netanyahu's party.

An 1898 cartoon by Charles Lucien Léandre showing Rothschild with the world in his hands

An 1898 cartoon by Charles Lucien Léandre showing Rothschild with the world in his hands

The image had attracted more than 100 comments on the Guardian website by 11.30am, and was being discussed at length on Twitter.

The Community Security Trust said in a blog post that the cartoon fell into the category of "subtle" antisemitism for its use of the "trope of Jews as puppeteers, controlling the politicians of ostensibly much more powerful nations".

"What is striking about Steve Bell's cartoon is that he seems to have reached for the 'puppeteer' trope to explain that fact that William Hague's statement on the conflict was presumably not critical enough of Israel for his liking, as if this is the most plausible explanation for Hague's view.

"The root of the antisemitism is that this cartoon self-consciously takes its place amongst a long line of cartoons and propaganda suggesting that Jews are omnipotent conspirators: operating behind the scenes and against the public good, exerting a malevolent and disproportionate power over international leaders," said Mr Brier.

He said the cartoon placed Mr Bell "in a long line of artists who have used their talents for antisemitic purposes?"

"Actions in this regard can only increase the hatred felt towards a tiny minority much oppressed throughout history," he added.

Both Mr Bell and the Guardian have been asked to comment on the cartoon and how it came to be featured in the paper.

Last updated: 5:49pm, November 20 2012