For centuries, political cartoonists have been an integral part of newspapers and are expected to be controversial, since, if a picture speaks a thousand words their lampooning is intended to elicit a similarly dramatic response.
However – as with all forms of journalism – however witty, acerbic or poignant, cartoonists on mainstream publications are expected to work within the same parameters of decency and truth that apply to their colleagues, the wordsmiths.
So Gerald Scarfe’s caricature of a vengeful, malevolent Benjamin Netanyahu bricking up screaming Palestinians in blood-red mortar in yesterday’s Sunday Times (27.1.2013), as his commentary on last week’s Israeli general election, has understandably proved hotly provocative.
The cartoon’s caption: ‘Will cementing peace continue?’ was irrelevant, since the scrawl above it needed no further commentary.
(For copyright reasons, I don’t reproduce the drawing and, since the Sunday Times is a ‘paywall’ site, I suggest those curious view it on http://www.honestreporting.com, where they’ll not be surprised at the level of hostility Scarfe has drawn on himself)
As a result the cartoonist – an award-winner, famed for his spidery style and much acclaimed in the salons of the London’s Left-leaning chatterati – stands accused of being an anti-Semite.
Whether he is or not, only he truly knows. But his latest handiwork bears all the trappings of one, since this ‘comment’ goes well beyond the bounds of fairness, accuracy and, indeed, decency.
This is especially so as it was published on Holocaust Remembrance Day (itself in danger of being hijacked by Western, pro-Palestinian apologists, who swathe themselves in terrorist chic and sickeningly try to equate the defensive actions of democratic Israel with the Nazis).
If Scarfe was unaware of the importance of the day, he should be damned well ashamed of his ignorance. If he was, then it goes far in vindicating his detractors’ accusations of him reprising the old, anti-Semitic canard of the bloodthirsty Jew.
Frankly, Scarfe’s representation of Netanyahu was not far off the bile that appeared in Der Stürmer, Hitler’s pet publication – or nowadays The Guardian, a pale, waning shadow of its former liberal glory, which harbours an obsession with vilifying Israel, bordering on thinly-veiled anti-Semitism.
Naturally, those who defend Scarfe will scream blue murder at the ‘Jewish/Israel’ lobby trying to stifle free speech, forgetting that those who found the cartoon insulting and offensive also deserve a similar privilege.
But the holier-than-thou bien pensants of the illiberal Left are so right-on, they don’t tolerate counter views any more than I can comprehend why they defend Islamo-fanatics, who indulge in a death cult, enslave women, murder homosexuals, persecute Christians and want world Jewry eradicated.
Which is why they have wrapped the Israel-Palestinian imbroglio into a neat package: Palestinians ‘good’, Israelis ‘bad’. Full stop and no arguments.
It’s also why they were resolutely silent when a Danish cartoonist exercised his free speech, only to be subjected to death threats for having the temerity to depict Mohammed. And, come to think of it, I don’t recall Scarfe, at the time or since, showing a tad of solidarity with his fellow scribbler.
But let’s return to his cartoon of Netanyahu…
According to the Algemeiner online, the Sunday Times, which has hitherto enjoyed a reputation for balance, integrity and objectivity, says Scarfe is merely being ‘typically robust.’ Then again, some would contend, so was Julius Streicher, Der Stürmer’s notorious editor.
The Sunday Times adds, ‘It [the cartoon] is aimed squarely at Mr. Netanyahu’s policies, not at Israel, let alone the Jewish people.’
That’s a lame excuse to cover an abysmal lapse in editorial judgement and one that sidesteps the historical record.
Before 2000, when construction started on the ‘wall’ – and prior to Netanyahu’s first Premiership – there were 273 suicide-bomb attacks on Israel, murdering 293 people and injuring more than 1,900 others.
Yet, after 2003, when the ‘wall’ – actually it’s mostly a fence – was completed, and up to 2006, only 12 terror attacks succeeded.
So what Scarf perceives as symbolic of Israeli oppression actually does its job, much in the same way as the lock on the luminary illustrator’s front door of his home in leafy St. John’s Wood works to protect his wife, the actress and celebrated cake-maker, Jane Asher.
However, based on one, aberrant example of his pro-Palestinian sympathies, it doesn’t prove he’s an anti-Semite. What it does indicate to me is his patent ignorance of the realities of the Middle East…and that makes him a very silly man.