If you spend much time on the internet following Jewish or Israeli affairs, you’d be aware that the Sunday Times in London published a supposedly political cartoon by their long time political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. The Commentator was probably the first publication to drop and smash their iDevice that day and they weren’t the last. This also followed the outburst of a British MP almost calling Israelis the new Nazis.
Portraying a hook nosed Bibi Netanyahu as building a wall against peace, cemented with the blood and dying bodies of Arabs was, perhaps, mildly offensive even if you voted for the other guy or gal last week. It was so awful that even Ha’aretz was forced to defend the artist.
The fact that Sunday was also the international Holocaust Memorial Day was, as Hilary Clinton might say “almost too delicious to believe my friends“.
Personally I was so incensed I decided to take my framed original sketch and animation cell by Scarfe from the film The Wall down from my office wall (it creeps my wife out which is why it wasn’t at home). I also wrote some things on Twitter and Facebook (this is far more productive than therapy and cheaper). I even personally tweeted to Rupert Murdoch.
So after this enraging cartoon let us review what Jews didn’t do:
- The cartoonist was not forced into hiding by numerous credible and widely publicised death threats from recognised religious leaders of any Jewish communities let alone all of them.
- Anybody defending the artist or republishing his work did not scurry off to an undisclosed but taxpayer funded safe house with an armed security detail (no gun control for protecting celebrities of course).
- The UK government was not directly called upon to punish the cartoonist and newspaper, preferably with harsh sentences like death or horrible death.
- Nobody broke into the cartoonist’s home with an axe.
- The office of the publisher and the newspaper were not threatened, picketed, blown up, fire bombed or sent mail bombs.
- Angry mobs of incensed Jews and Israelis did not gather outside or storm and occupy UK embassies or burn effigies of Rupert Murdoch or Gerald Scarfe.
- No diplomats were murdered, abducted or forced to eat more Ferrero Rocher chocolates than they wished.
- Israel did not respond by summoning the UK’s ambassador to answer for the actions of an independent newspaper in the UK.
As someone tweeted to me today “if someone were to threaten them, maybe these cartoons wouldn’t be published in the first place.“. No, I’m sure no threat against the person or property of the free British Press could ever stop the freemen of Fleet Street (or is it the wobblers of Wapping now) from upholding free, if distasteful and offensive speech. No. That could never happen.
Nevertheless after a huge outpouring of non-violent protest, widely reported cancellations of subscriptions and plenty of angry social media posts, Rupert Murdoch categorically denounced his own paper’s editorial and disowned almost the entire catalog of the cartoonist’s work.
And on a personal note I was mightily impressed in how he did both those things in one short tweet! Murdoch, a man who can probably command more column inches and TV air time in more places than any other individual (except Kim Kardashian), can say all he needs to in 140 characters. Bravo.
Oh, and Gerald Scarfe now regrets not the cartoon, merely the calendar day on which it was published.
And I’m holding on to my original Scarfe sketch. I figure it will be much more valuable about 3 weeks after he draws a “political” cartoon of Syria’s leader killing 60,000 people and making him look a bit like Muhammad. Because original art is always worth more after the artist is murdered horribly with an axe right?
Brian of London made aliyah from the UK to Israel in 2009. For many years he has blogged and broadcast about Israel, technology and other subjects. Most recently he’s focused on the experience of driving an electric car every day. Brian has a scientific PhD but today owns a business in Israel.