A political cartoonist has claimed the Guardian newspaper refused to publish one of his pieces showcasing his take on the Hamas terror attack, because the image was, in its view, antisemitic.
Steve Bell's cartoon depicted Benjamin Netanyahu wearing boxing gloves and holding a scalpel over a map showing the Gaza Strip. The cartoon carried a quote reading, ‘Residents of Gaza, get out now’.
The cartoon was produced just as the Israeli Air Force stepped up bombardments of the Gaza Strip on Sunday. Hamas terrorists launched an assault on Israel in the early hours of Saturday.
Bell said he filed the cartoon on Monday morning to The Guardian. Four hours later, he claimed, it was rejected by senior editors because it was antisemitic, in their view.
Posting on X/Twitter, Bell said: “Spiked again. It is getting pretty nigh impossible to draw this subject for the Guardian now without being accused of deploying 'antisemitic tropes'".
He added: “I filed this cartoon around 11am, possibly my earliest ever.
“Four hours later, on a train to Liverpool I received an ominous phone call from the desk with the strangely cryptic message ‘pound of flesh’."
Just to explain. I filed this cartoon around 11am, possibly my earliest ever. Four hours later, on a train to Liverpool I received an ominous phone call from the desk with the strangely cryptic message "pound of flesh"... pic.twitter.com/kSfmfzlmhy— Steve Bell (@BellBelltoons) October 9, 2023
Bell went on: “'I'm sorry, I don't understand', I said and received this even more mysterious reply: ‘Jewish bloke; pound of flesh; antisemitic trope’.
“Clearly it was self-evident, anybody could see it.”
Explaining the meaning behind the cartoon, Bell later told the JC: "The cartoon is specifically about Benjamin Netanyahu’s disastrous policy failure which has led directly to the hideous recent atrocities around Gaza, and about his proposed response that he had announced, using his actual words addressing the citizens of Gaza.
"The Guardian has every right not to publish my cartoon if it so chooses, but it should not do so using entirely contrived and false reasons.
"All that does is inhibit discussion of a dreadful but important subject."
However, Dave Rich, policy director at the Community Security Trust (CST), said: “The Guardian should be applauded for refusing to publish this appalling cartoon.
"It's good to see that lessons have been learnt.”
Bell's complaint comes weeks after The Guardian cartoonist behind the “antisemitic” image of former BBC chairman Richard Sharp apologised.
Reflecting in July on the cartoon, published in April, Martin Rowson said: “This mistake – though 'car crash' comes closest in my mind to describe the jagged intermeshing of accident, chaos, loss of control, damage and huge hurt to blameless bystanders – happened within a context I’m very conscious of.”
He added: "I had drawn an antisemitic cartoon, yet I had not been aware I was doing so."
The Guardian removed the cartoon from its website and apologised to the Jewish community and Sharp.
The Guardian declined to comment.