As Holocaust Day comes round again, Israel has taken advantage of the occasion to teach the world a lesson. Not, of course, a lesson about the Holocaust’s universal message but one that Israel can exploit to shut up its critics.
Israel and its lobbies have pounced on the cartoonist Gerald Scarfe over one of his typically acerbic cartoons in the Sunday Times. It shows Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall over the Palestinians. The caption reads: “Israeli elections: Will cementing peace continue?”
The usual suspects instantly cried “anti-Semitism” and yesterday Rupert Murdoch and the paper’s editor, Martin Ivens, both apologised in a suitably craven manner. Murdoch, who proudly declares himself a friend of Israel, wrote on Twitter: “we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”
Anyone who foolishly believes that newspapers operate independently of their proprietors should listen to Ivens’ response: “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.”
I bet he will.
Interestingly, Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz’s arbiter of all things anti-Semitic, found nothing anti-Semitic in the cartoon – even using his hyper-sensitive measurements. He points out that it is directed at the Israeli PM, not Jews; it does not use Holocaust imagery; Scarfe treats other leaders as disparagingly; and there is no blood-libel imagery.
He concludes: “Should the Sunday Times have not published the cartoon on International Holocaust Memorial Day? Only if one believes that is a day in which Israeli politicians have immunity from being caricatured. Such a belief would certainly cheapen the memory of the Shoah.”