The Guardian has come under fire over its coverage of anti-Semitism after the paper refused to publish a cartoon depicting Jeremy Corbyn’s critics and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a negative light and also for the paper’s decision to pull a letter signed by 100 prominent Jews in defense of the Labor leader.
The British daily, which has historically been identified with progressive issues on the left, came under sharp rebuke from Steve Bell, one of its most well-known political cartoonists.
NEW: Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell emails staff about Tom Watson-Benjamin Netanyahu piece which wasn’t run today, complaining about the Guardian’s “mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of antisemitism and the infernal subject of ‘antisemitic tropes’”: pic.twitter.com/tE3t8AUdv9
— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) July 17, 2019
Bell, whose cartoons have appeared in the Guardian since 1981, railed against the paper’s editors in an email following its decision not to run his latest cartoon. Bell suggested that the Guardian subscribed to “some mysterious editorial line” about anti-Semitism which blocked the publication of his sketch that portrayed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a negative light.
In the sketch, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson is depicted as an “antisemite finder general”, which is a reference to medieval witch-hunters in comics and legends. The installment depicts Watson hunting for anti-Semites and encountering Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and Conservative MP Boris Johnson. Watson calls Netanyahu an “antisemitic trope”, and says that he would be “pursued to the end of the earth and beyond.” The final sketch shows Watson ending his pursuit of Netanyahu, Trump, and Johnson and apologizing for his zeal to hunt them down as they are not members of the Labour Party.
In his email questioning the Guardian’s decision not to publish the sketch Bell said:
“After our bizarre telephone conversation yesterday, I feared you might not publish today’s strip.”
“So it was sort of heart felt but the paper stopped it and the worst thing was they wouldn’t discuss why” @guardiannews cartoonist Steve Bell on being censored in the past on Netanyahu and antisemitism as his recent cartoon is #spiked @MarkDiStef
— Jed Neill (@jedtneill) July 17, 2019
The email, which was copied into every journalist on the paper, added:
“You said the ‘lawyers are concerned’ but about what? It’s not antisemitic nor is it libelous, even though it includes a caricature of Benjamin Netanyahu. If Watson chose to object he would make himself far sillier than he does in the cartoon.”
Continuing his protest Bell said:
“I suspect the real cause [for not publishing] is it contravenes some mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of antisemitism and the infernal subject of antisemitic tropes.”
Steve Bell celebrated cartoonist at the Guardian wonders why Tom Watson and Benjamin Netanyahu’s sensibilities must be spared (editorial red lines not to be crossed) but not those of the leader of the opposition pic.twitter.com/66PyJYdZDQ
— halfhorseofapoplexySNAFU (@amateurebutter) July 17, 2019
Bell went on to describe the Guardian’s decision as being “more worrying than the specious charges of antisemitism” before rhetorically asking if “the Guardian no longer tolerate content that runs counter to its editorial line?”
He went on to attack the Guardian for publishing an advert taken out by Labour peers attacking Corbyn over anti-Semitism claims, as “personally insulting (to the leader of the Labour Party)” which used the Labour Party logo. Bell pointed out that there were more reasons to expect a legal challenge over the anti-Corbyn add than his cartoon.
— Teresa Rose Steele (@treezsteele) March 20, 2019
In his list of grievances, Bell also asked the Guardian’s editors why they unpublished a letter signed by 100 prominent Jews, including Noam Chomsky in support of Labour leadership on anti-Semitism. “Were they the wrong kind of Jews?” asked Bell. “The papers contortions on this subject do not do it any credit,” complained Bell before requesting to know “if there is a reasoned position on this highly contentious issue.”
He concludes by asking if there are “some subjects we just can’t touch,” which seems to suggest that Bell feels that the topic of Israel and anti-Semitism does not get the honest and fair coverage expected of a so-called progressive newspaper over fears of being labeled racist.
(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)
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