Martin Ivens, acting editor of the Sunday Times, has apologised "unreservedly" for the publication of Gerald Scarfe's cartoon of Benjamin Netanyahu this weekend.
Speaking to a rapidly convened meeting of Anglo-Jewish leaders, Mr Ivens, accompanied by other News International senior staff, said: "You will know that the Sunday Times abhors antisemitism and would never set out to cause offence to the Jewish people - or any other ethnic or religious group. That was not the intention last Sunday.
"Everyone knows that Gerald Scarfe is consistently brutal and bloody in his depictions, but last weekend - by his own admission - he crossed a line. The timing - on Holocaust Memorial Day - was inexcusable. The associations on this occasion were grotesque and on behalf of the paper I would like to apologise unreservedly for the offence we clearly caused. This was a terrible mistake."
Jewish community organisations present at the meeting told Mr Ivens that Jews and others in the UK had reacted to the cartoon with a "visceral disgust that is unprecedented in recent years." He was told about the history of the blood libel. "The use of blood, including on occasion the actual blood libel, persists in extreme Arab and Iranian propaganda. It is a profoundly disturbing example of the adaption of antisemitism for modern day usage."
Mick Davis, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, welcomed the "genuine apology" from the Sunday Times. He said he appreciated the urgency and respect with which the paper had treated Jewish communal concerns.