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Gerald Scarfe cartoon called anti-Semitic

Gerald Scarfe cartoon

A Gerald Scarfe cartoon that ran in the Sunday Times is being called anti-Semitic by Jewish groups. Even Rupert Murdoch, the paper’s owner, tweeted, “Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe a major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”

The cartoon depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall with mortar made up of blood and Palestinians. Adding fuel to the fire, the cartoon ran on Holocaust Memorial Day. Gerald denies that was intentional and he wasn’t aware the print date and Holocaust Memorial Day would coincide.

Gerald’s statement:

First of all I am not, and never have been, anti-Semitic.

The Sunday Times has given me the freedom of speech over the last 46 years to criticise world leaders for what I see as their wrong-doings.

This drawing was a criticism of Netanyahu, and not of the Jewish people: there was no slight whatsoever intended against them.

I was, however, stupidly completely unaware that it would be printed on Holocaust Day, and I apologise for the very unfortunate timing.

Community Comments

#1 Rachel Keslensky
February/6/2013
@ 10:31 am

For those of you in the audience keeping score, let’s break this down point by point:

1) In the past, the concept of “blood libel” referred to the (fictional) practice of baking various Jewish foods and pastries with the blood of gentile children, and just about any other use of blood in religious rituals. As such, the use of blood as an ingredient in much of anything — in this case, mortar — is seen as specifically anti-Semetic. You just have to know this one, the same way you can’t make references comparing black people to monkeys.

2) Having SOME knowledge of the groups you’re remarking on — specifically, things like Holocaust Memorial Day — is paramount. It takes an already bad cartoon like this and makes it as incendiary as a cartoon of orangutang in a suit wearing an Obama button would be on MLK Day.

It’s very easy to see how Scarfe could’ve made the cartoon without any thought that he was sending an anti-Semetic message — and in this case, THAT’S THE PROBLEM. It implies the message of “I don’t care enough about your culture to even think about about silly things like how your people used to be killed over vicious rumors like blood libel and that honoring the deaths of millions of your people might be an important, solemn occasion for you.”

Racism isn’t something you are, it’s something you do, and ignorance of what is and isn’t racist is often just as much a problem as people actually trying to be racist.

#2 Terry LaBan
February/6/2013
@ 10:48 am

I’d read about this cartoon but hadn’t seen it. As a Jew who’s pretty sensitive about this stuff and also a fan of Gerald Scarfe, I have to say, I think it’s unfair but not really anti-semitic. The image is clearly meant to refer to Netanyahu and his policies and not Jewish people generally–you could easily use the same image for a cartoon about any number of other world leaders. There’s not even an Israeli flag in it. That being said, Ms. Keslensky is absolutely right–portraying Jews using blood for nefarious purposes carries way too much historical baggage to avoid unwanted associations. Similarly, you could portray George Bush as a baboon without causing the outrage you’d stir up by doing the same thing with Barak Obama.

#3 Donald Rex Jr.
February/6/2013
@ 1:01 pm

This appears aimed at a politician for a specific set of policies in his term of office.

A reader is free to add any intepretation she likes, but are these perspectives attributable to the cartoonist?

If there were no truth to this cartoon it wouldn’t sting. The first step to ending oppression is to speak of it.

#4 Carl Moore
February/6/2013
@ 9:52 pm

This cartoon looks much like cartoons that used to appear in German newspapers in the ’30s. The only thing missing is a huge hook nose on Bibi and innocent German citizens being bloodied instead of Palestinians. And the Palestinians are about as “innocent” as the Germans were.

#5 James Francis
February/7/2013
@ 12:22 am

I fail to see what makes this anti-Semitic. If it was, say, Obama or David Cameron, would this cartoon be called racist or anti-British?

I think the context of the cartoon is entirely clear: it’s an opinion about Israel’s treatment of the occupied territories. Calling it anti-Semitic is to confuse the issue.

#6 James Francis
February/7/2013
@ 12:31 am

RACHEL KESLENSKY: The cartoon never refers to blood libel. It shows a wall being built in blood. It illustrates Scarfe’s interpretation of the blood on Israel’s hands. Now how to feel about that is open to debate – the Palestinian side is also not clean of violence.

But your interpretation is highly subjective. There is nothing in this cartoon that a) talks of blood libel or b) talks about Jews. It talks about Israel and its politics. It is convenient for Zionists to not separate the two. Scarfe, though, can and has. So his cartoon is not racist.

#7 Mike Flugennock
February/7/2013
@ 8:15 am

Please, oh, PLEASE.

Somebody show me the anti-Semitism here. You can read all the “blood libel” entendres that you want into this but it looks to me as if Scarfe is depicting the situation fairly accurately. For years, the Israeli regime has expanded settlements and built its own Berlin Wall with the blood of Palestinians.

There is nothing in this cartoon insulting towards Jews or Judaism, nor any kind of references to “blood libel”, except perhaps those imagined by the Alan Dershowitz crowd. It is, though, a precisely-targeted criticism of the Israeli regime. This whole “anti-Semitism” brouhaha is a pretty clear-cut case of what’s become common in US — and UK — mass media: the immediate slandering as “anti-Semetic” anyone who openly criticizes the Israeli state or suggests that their treatment of Palestine — starvation, blockading, property seizure, murder, collective punishment — might be in any way similar to the Nazi treatment of the Warsaw Ghetto.

#8 Terry LaBan
February/7/2013
@ 3:17 pm

@ Mike Flugennock
You should take your head out of your butt and read some actual history instead of blogs by jihadis and their well-meaning leftist sympathizers. No Polish Jew ever strapped on a suicide vest and blew himself up in a German beer garden, as justified as such an action may have been. The security wall was only built in 2000 after years of Palestinians doing just that, and it’s been pretty effective in putting an end to the problem. Yes, the Israelis have blood on their hand, but so do the Arabs. And if it wasn’t for the security measures the Israelis have put in place, they’d have a whole lot more.

#9 Dave Stephens
February/7/2013
@ 8:10 pm

Blood is associated with Israel in this cartoon as blood has been associated with countless pro-Israel and anti-Israel cartoons over the decades. So the blood libel issue is wrong. That said, the timing could not have been worse…

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February/9/2013
@ 7:42 am

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#11 Brian Conradsen
February/12/2013
@ 3:14 pm

The entire subject “Jewish” is understandably inflamed and sore post the Ha-Shoah.

Touch the subject anywhere an there are those who will recoil in pain.

This obviously is due largely to the long and full account of Jewish history. A history mostly of joy in its own interaction, but in parallel a tragic history without.

Jewish is today a huge edifice built and supported largely by the effort and devotion of Jews. But it isn’t the only edifice or conceptual library – for the Jews are also defined by those who who do not consider themselves Jewish, and these who do so, have no devotion or a shared sense of precious care.

Expect from these a prosaic text.

Once this “outer edifice” was strictly Christianity as it developed, while it fractured and tore away from the core Jewish thought.and so needed to deny its roots.

Other religions now follow too.

In this millennium there is a secular casting, that too defines itself against a Jewish silhouette – revisiting this ancient belief to analyse its own new constructs & strictures of scientism, atheism & agnosticism.

Jewishness? “Don’t go there …” is a handy maxim. Unless of course, you are prepared to devote enormous goodwill, and the immense effort to fairly afford yourself the deep understanding required.

———————————————————————-

Superficially Netanyahu has been building metaphorical (and literal) walls rather than what would normally be seen as the alternative metaphor – bridges.

But nothing superficial suffices in this paddock – Godwin’s principles writ large.

time incredible Jewishness is also a huge edifice supported those who see and define themselves as Jewish, Rachel Kalensky expresses and explains this well.

#12 Brian Conradsen
February/12/2013
@ 3:22 pm

Delete [time incredible Jewishness is also a huge edifice supported those who see and define themselves as Jewish, ] It’s typo rubbish

#13 Lawrence
February/14/2013
@ 6:53 pm

My problem with this particular piece, more than even the tactless antisemitism, is that Scarfe is using a retread of his “Pink Floyd The Wall” motif to provoke a reaction.

#14 Jim Lavery
February/15/2013
@ 9:56 am

it’s OK to retread ones own cartoons

#15 bill miller
February/17/2013
@ 3:33 pm

“Will cementing peace continue?” I for one, coming from the West, think this is a very funny cartoon. Well done Mr. Gerald Scarfe. I call it an OXYMORON. Because everyone knows that peace will never come like this. If anyone should be upset it should be a Palestinian. Afterall, its their land being stole, their bricks, their blood, their bodies etc… And thy are not the ones yelling ANTI-SEMITIC. I guess its a matter of perception

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