Sunday Times in Damage Control Over Offensive Cartoon

Holocaust Memorial DayThe Sunday Times is catching a lot of flack for cartoonist Gerald Scarfe’s take on the Israeli elections. As HonestReporting explained yesterday, the imagery’s odious enough; publishing it on Holocaust Memorial Day was even more offensive.

The paper’s damage control didn’t start off on the right foot. A Sunday Times spokesman in contact with Algemeiner said:

This is a typically robust cartoon by Gerald Scarfe,” said a spokesperson for The Sunday Times, adding, “The Sunday Times firmly believes that it is not anti-Semitic. It is aimed squarely at Mr Netanyahu and his policies, not at Israel, let alone at Jewish people.”

The spokesperson said that appearance of the offending cartoon on Holocaust Memorial Day which is commemorated Sunday was coincidental, “It appears today because Mr Netanyahu won the Israeli election last week,” said the statement . . .

“The Sunday Times condemns anti-Semitism,” The Sunday Times added, pointing to another article that was published by the paper which focused on Holocaust denial, saying, it is “clear in the excellent article in today’s Magazine which exposes the Holocaust-denying tours of concentration camps organised by David Irving.”

In that article, Will Storr tagged along with Irving as the Holocaust denier gave a guided a tour of the Majdanek concentration camp. It was well-thought out and written; an excellent angle for Holocaust Memorial Day reading.

But it didn’t assuage anybody’s anger for several reasons.

  1. Nobody characterized the Sunday Times as an anti-Semitic newspaper. People criticized the cartoon.
  2. The statement didn’t acknowledge the painful timing — even though it was inadvertent.
  3. Even if the Majdanek dispatch mitigated Scarfe’s painful cartoon, the vivid image of Palestinians being bricked up in a blood-stained wall spread way further on social media than any lesser-seen article in a paywalled magazine section could ever imagine.

Later on, Scarfe told the Jewish Chronicle he regretted the timing, not being aware that Sunday was also Holocaust Memorial Day.

The paper, realizing it had to do something sent out a statement also recognizing the nerve it touched. Martin Ivens, the acting editor of the Sunday Times sent an email to the media saying:

“The last thing I or anyone connected with the Sunday Times would countenance would be insulting the memory of the Shoah or invoking the blood libel. The paper has long written strongly in defence of Israel and its security concerns, as have I as a columnist. We are however reminded of the sensitivities in this area by the reaction to the cartoon and I will of course bear them very carefully in mind in future.”

That’s a very modest recognition of the cartoon’s offensiveness.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that the Board of  Deputies of British Jews filed a complaint with the UK Press Complaints Commission. And Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Daniel Taub, also slammed the Times.

HonestReporting decided to fight the imagery with imagery. Share the Flickr link to let the Times know it crossed the line. And see the story behind the graphic above.

Is the chapter closed on this? Stay tuned . . .