Jewish cartoonist quits Private Eye over controversial Israel criticism cover

Zoom Rockman did not receive a reply when he complained to the magazine of a death threat


A Jewish cartoonist is quitting Private Eye after six years and 137 cartoons published in the satirical news magazine.

Following Private Eye's “incendiary” cover of issue 1609, which suggested that the Israeli government’s intention is to kill ''everyone in Gaza” in revenge for the Hamas massacre of October 7, Zoom Rockman received a death threat which he made the magazine aware of yet received no response.

When Rockman voiced his disappointment in the cover on Twitter/X, one of the responses from people on the social media platform was a death threat that read: “Hope both you and your extended family get to meet Hamas in person, very soon.” 

“Obviously we know what that is,” Zoom told the JC. “It's pretty stressful.” 

Another cartoonist reported the threat to Twitter/X, but the site denied that the post had broken their “safety policies”. Zoom reported the threat to CST, who were the ones to finally get the threat removed from Twitter/X.

Rockman, 23, wrote to Private Eye on Monday 22 October, to the letters page, explaining his “problems with the cover” and saying that it had also led to him receiving death threats on Twitter/X. He told the JC that he has been waiting ever since for a reply. “Ian reads everything that gets sent to him, so I was expecting a response.” 

He said that the letter explained how, “as Jewish people, every time there's conflict in Israel it always comes right back around to us. Just because they made the distinction between the Israeli government and Jewish people doesn’t mean that ignorant people on the street are going to see that difference. There are stupid people who will always make that link and will target Jewish people, and so to say something so incendiary, that the Israeli government is killing everyone in Gaza - they’ve framed that as Israel's policy, which it clearly isn’t, and when I speak to people in the Jewish community, no one wants that, so it's just escalating tensions.”

With the lack of a direct response from the publication, he then hoped for a response to be featured in the magazine or that “they’d at least put the letter in”. However, he said, they have not, which he found of particular concern given the terror attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015, in which 11 journalists and security personnel were murdered at their Paris offices. 

“With Charlie Hebdo and everything, they should be quite on it when it comes to death threats against their cartoonists," Zoom said. "So it's not a good feeling. I just think it's time to move on.”

Rockman has had 137 cartoons published in Private Eye in the last six years starting from when he was 16 years old.

Along with his letter, he submitted a cartoon for publication in response to the magazine's 1609 cover, which remains unpublished. It read: "This cartoon may contain some criticism of Private Eye." It also changed the masthead to "An eye for an eye for an eye."

“I thought maybe if they have the balls for it, they might have published it," Rockman said. "I always thought Private Eye was a magazine with different people with different opinions inside so I thought they would be able to publish someone from another side saying something, but obviously not.”

He added that he himself has experienced the "day-to-day" rise in antisemitism on London's streets. “Because everyone's from everywhere in London, when you meet someone new, they ask ‘Where are you from?’ Now I'm realising how people react when you say you're Jewish, and you get people who are completely cold. I had it the other day. It's just really weird. It's things like the Private Eye cover that are exacerbating all of this.”

Rockman, whose work has also appeared in this paper, said he has other work in progress, including an upcoming film project which is going to take up much of his time. “I've just completely focused on my other work, or maybe do some cartoons for some other magazines, which are more aligned.”

Private Eye’s cover cartoon of issue 1609 read: “This magazine may contain some criticism of the Israeli government and may suggest that killing everyone in Gaza as revenge for Hamas atrocities may not be a good long-term solution to the problems of the region.” It also adapted its masthead so the title of this edition reads: “Private Eye for an eye”.

In a post on Twitter/X, the antisemitism expert David Collier responded to the cartoon: “1400 Israelis were slaughtered last week - in one of the worst atrocities imaginable - and this malicious anti-Israel headline is what Private Eye runs with? What a vile shitty magazine this is.”

In a statement, Private Eye said: "We are very concerned that one of our contributors should have received a death threat and contacted Zoom as soon as we found out.

"We spoke to him at length yesterday. He did not approve of the last issue’s cover and no longer wishes to contribute to the magazine. This is entirely up to him but it is a matter of regret for us."

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