Steve Bell Rejects Antisemitic Label, Confused as to The Guardian’s Motives


In all email to all the paper’s journalists, Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell has attacked his editors’ refusal to run his latest cartoon, suggesting it is due to “some mysterious editorial line” about antisemitism.

In the latest submission by Mr Bell, whose cartoons have appeared in the paper since 1981, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson is depicted as an “antisemite finder general” for being critical of Jew-hate in the party.


above: Steve Bell comics published by The Guardian July 15 and July 16.

below: Steve Bell comic intended for July 17 but rejected by The Guardian.


After running the first two in a series of related Steve Bell cartoons, UK newspaper The Guardian rejected the third in the series.

Steve Bell is confused and sent a letter, cc’ed to the staff:

Dear Kira

After our bizarre telephone conversation yesterday, I feared you might not publish today’s strip, but still cannot understand why the attached should be more liable to legal challenge from Tom Watson than either of the previous two strips that you have already published. You said the ‘lawyers were concerned’, but what about? It’s not antisemitic, nor is it libellous, even though it includes a caricature of Binyamin Netanyahu. If Watson chose to object he would make himself look far sillier than he does in the cartoon.

I suspect that the real problem is that it contravenes some mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of antisemitism and the infernal subject of ‘antisemitic tropes’. In some ways this is even more worrying for me than specious charges of antisemitism. Does the Guardian no longer tolerate content that counters its editorial line?


Why on earth did the Guardian publish, then unpublish, a letter in support of Chris Williamson signed by 100 persons identifying themselves as Jewish, including Noam Chomsky? Were they the wrong kind of Jews. The paper’s contortions on this subject do not do it any credit. If there is a reasoned position on this highly contentious issue, then I would dearly love to see it laid out clearly so we all know where we stand. Or are there some subjects that we just can’t touch?

Best wishes
Steve Bell

Read the full letter via Daryl Cagle.

Mark Di Stefano, of BuzzfeedUK, broke the story on Twitter.


Naturally there are views objecting to Steve Bell’s cartoons.

From Camera’s UK Media Watch (Promoting Fair and Accurate Coverage of Israel):

Instead of using his craft to defend the victims of antisemitism, and the whistle blowers within the Labour party, here’s long-time @guardian cartoonist @BellBelltoons mocking an MP (Tom Watson) who’s consistently been critical of the party’s response to antisemitism allegations.

UK Media Watch’s article ended with

Though we’re not quite sure why editors nixed this cartoon, the real issue is Bell’s email, which demonstrates just how dismissive he is of those who’ve leveled “specious” charges of antisemitism in Labour, and how he actually seems to think that the Guardian – yes, the Guardian! – is too concerned about offending Jews.  (Note how he also references that letter the paper removed last week from its web site which, as we posted about at the time, defending Chris Williamson, which had been signed by fringe anti-Zionist Jews, and a few non-Jewish anti-Semites.)

His email provides yet more evidence that, even by Guardian standards, Bell is an extremist in his hatred of Israel and what appears to be his utter contempt for the values and concerns of British Jews.

The UK Media Watch Twitter feed has a few more Belltoons it finds distasteful.


The Jewish Chronicle also carries a short item about this issue.



Update July 22, 2019

The rest (so far) of the Tom Watson “If…” sequence from July 18 and July 22, 2019
(the July 18 strip was also apparently rejected by The Guardian):





2 thoughts on “Steve Bell Rejects Antisemitic Label, Confused as to The Guardian’s Motives

  1. Is there a reason you didn’t include the punchline for the banned cartoon where Watson refuses to do anything about antisemetism in the conservative party?

  2. Because it appeared after the news of the original rejection was posted.
    I have now added the strip you mention and today’s strip.
    Thank you for reminding us to update.

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