Murdoch sorry for 'offensive' Scarfe cartoon
Jewish groups say depiction of Israeli PM is 'shockingly' anti-Semitic but not everyone agrees
RUPERT MURDOCH has apologised for a "grotesque, offensive cartoon" printed in the Sunday Times depicting the newly re-elected Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu using a trowel to build a wall from the blood and limbs of Palestinians. The caption reads, "Will cementing the peace continue?"
Murdoch's apology came after the Board of Deputies of British Jews complained that the cartoon by the distinguished British illustrator Gerald Scarfe was "shockingly reminiscent of the blood libel imagery more usually found in parts of the virulently anti-Semitic Arab press".
To make matters worse, it was published on Holocaust Memorial Day, although Scarfe insists he was unaware of the fact and says he "very much regrets" the timing.
The Independent says it is rare for Murdoch to make a "disparaging comment on the editorial content of one his newspapers", so his intervention means he considers the cartoon particularly egregious. Murdoch tweeted that Scarfe – who has worked for the paper since the late 1960s – has "never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times". But the media mogul said a "major apology" was still appropriate.
Not everyone has condemned the cartoon. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz republished it above an article headlined: "Four reasons why UK cartoon of Netanyahu isn't anti-Semitic in any way". The paper argues that the drawing is not directed at Jews, does not use Holocaust imagery and is representative of Scarfe's acerbic work."Netanyahu's depiction is grossly offensive and unfair, but that is only par for the course for any politician when Scarfe is at his drawing-board," says Haaretz.
The Guardian points out that the 76-year-old artist – best-known for his work with Pink Floyd on the movie version of The Wall – often depicts blood in his work. A recent cartoon of Bashar al-Assad showed the Syrian leader as a "green, wraith-like creature drinking greedily from an oversized cup labelled 'Children's Blood'".
Even so, the incident and Murdoch's rapid intervention, are both "highly embarrassing" for Martin Ivens, who was appointed acting editor of the Sunday Times only last week. Ivens spent much of yesterday trying to defend the cartoon, saying it was aimed "squarely" at the newly re-elected Israeli PM not the Jewish people.
Ivens changed his tune today and issued a lengthy apology, leading the Independent to speculate he was "clearly not expecting Mr Murdoch to enter into the argument". In a statement, Ivens said insulting the memory of Holocaust victims was "the last thing I or anyone connected with the Sunday Times would countenance". He will meet representatives of the Jewish community today to discuss the cartoon and its repercussions.