Steve Bell defends Guardian cartoon

The cartoon that offended: Netanyahu as “cynical manipulator”

The cartoon that offended: Netanyahu as “cynical manipulator”

The Press Complaints Commission has received 29 objections to a Guardian cartoon that portrayed Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu as a puppet-master, controlling tiny versions of Foreign Secretary William Hague and Tony Blair.

Cartoonist Steve Bell drew the picture after Mr Hague said Hamas bore “principal responsibility” for the Gaza fighting.

But Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust criticised Mr Bell for applying “the antisemitic trope of Jews as puppeteers, controlling the politicians of ostensibly much more powerful nations”.

Mr Bell defended the cartoon, stating that his inspiration was a press conference given by Mr Netanyahu in front of numerous Israeli flags and arguing that the images of Mr Hague and Mr Blair were “a side issue”.

He said the cartoon was about “the cynical manipulation of a situation by a specific politician” and “NOT about cynical manipulation by ‘the Jews’. I refute completely any charge of antisemitism, since I would never conflate the two.

“I also refute the charge that I am somehow deliberately repeating the antisemitic ‘trope’ of the puppet master. The wilful manipulation is Netanyahu’s not mine. I can’t be held responsible for whatever cultural precepts and misapprehensions people choose to bring to my cartoon. My intention, I think, is fairly clear.”

Barrister Jeremy Brier was among those to complain to the PCC. He said the cartoon “takes its place among a long line of… propaganda suggesting that Jews are omnipotent conspirators exerting a malevolent and disproportionate power over international leaders”.

But the cartoon was defended on the Guardian’s letters page by Edward Pearce, a former leader writer for the Guardian and the Telegraph. “The state of Israel is not attacked by Steve or any other decent person for the Jewishness of 55 per cent of its population, but for the brutal things it does. ”

The Guardian this week also issued a correction after erroneously reporting that “100 missiles were fired into Gaza over five days”. In fact, the paper acknowledged: “The missiles were fired out of Gaza and into Israel”.

Last updated: 3:45pm, November 22 2012