Did Scarfe’s cartoon of a bloodthirsty Netanyahu go beyond the limit of legitimate comment?

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.

RETCH-A-SKETCH? Scarfe's critics label his cartoon of a bloodthirsty Netanyahu beyond fair comment

RETCH-A-SKETCH? Scarfe’s critics label his cartoon of a bloodthirsty Netanyahu beyond fair comment

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.

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EU referendum: Why Cameron’s ‘In or Out?’ is the wrong question to ask the voters…

To be or not to be, that is the question. No, I’m not from quoting Hamlet’s soliloquy, but UK Prime Minister David – ‘Call me Dave’ – Cameron on asking Britons where they fit…in or out of the European Union. Bluntly put and as simple as that.

After threatening for what seemed a small, political eternity to pull the trigger on a referendum, he finally found the balls and gall to do it, by saying last Thursday the people would have the choice of being Europeans or plain, old Brits.

Well almost, nearly, not quite, perhaps and subject to more caveats than I’ve got odd socks.

Firstly, the plebiscite won’t happen until 2017 at the earliest. It will also take place only if the Conservatives, minus meddling Europhile Lib-Dems, win an outright majority in the 2015 general election. And that’s no given.

Furthermore, making we, the public, judge and jury will depend on what renegotiated terms Dave can wring out of fellow EU leaders beforehand about reforming some of the bloc’s barmier rules and returning sovereignty, ceded under various arcane treaties, back to Britain (the European Court of Human Rights overriding the justice of Britain’s Supreme Court is a prime example).

Of course, the bait of a referendum could be just political brinksmanship to outflank the expanding appeal of UKIP and mop the fevered brows of Tory Eurosceptics, who would rather go back to minting groats than having the euro foisted upon them and dread the creeping, centralised control of Brussels’ Europrats.

For his part, Dave’s made his personal intentions transparent, insists he does not want Britain to quit the 27-nation alignment and would ‘fight with all my heart and soul’ for a ‘Yes’ vote if/when the time comes.

But he does concede the British public’s latent mistrust of the EU is growing and democratic consent is now ‘wafer thin’. Plus, it is nearly 38 years since our island nation had a say in their EU future and way back then, in 1975, it was for a free-trade Common Market, not a United States of Europe.

The fragility of the euro hasn’t contributed to confidence, even if Britain has chosen to retain the £. And many older-timers amongst the electorate harbour xenophobic inclinations, probably best summed up by a London newspaper headline of the 1930s, stating, ‘Fog in Channel – Continent cut off.’

These rather archaic views, I suspect, are not shared by a younger, cosmopolitan generation, whom Dave hopes will drive him over the ‘Yes’ vote line, if only they can be persuaded to bother turning out if/when said referendum happens.

Meanwhile, the knee-jerk reaction from our European buddies to Dave’s announcement has been predictably mixed.

QUESTIONABLE QUESTION: Asking Brits to vote 'In' or 'Out' could wreck Cameron's strategy

QUESTIONABLE QUESTION: Could Cameron have boobed by what he’s asking Brits to vote on?

The French (who else!) say they’ll put out the red carpet ushering us to the exit, though German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is more sanguine, saying she was prepared to ‘talk about British wishes’ to try and achieve a ‘fair compromise’.

But then pragmatic ‘Mutti’ (Mother) Merkel understands the benefits of having Britain on board, because her voters are wearied of paying for what they perceive are feckless Latins living on tick and anonymous paper-shufflers inventing new rules, based on a half-baked, Gallic model of a Euro superstate.

Plus, Merkel knows Brits share the Anglo-Saxon work ethic and mercantile values with her folk, as do the Swedes, who stuck to their krone and equally abhor the omnipotence of Brussels.

All three nations – along with Holland – are cognisant of the advantages of being part of a trading bloc, with 300 million potential consumers, and believe they stick more rigidly to the EU rules, however daft some are, than the laissez-faire Southerners.

Anyone – like yours truly – who has lived south of whatever notional border divides the EU geographically and politically knows how stupidly hidebound bureaucracy is in countries like Spain, France, Portugal, Italy and Greece. They realise, too, that welters of red tape can be hacked away, leaving a sleeker, fairer and more functional society, where greater transparency reigns and corruption is marginalised.

That is basically what the majority of Britons seek, most of all less European interference in the affairs of a country that has fashioned itself into a bastion of democracy, warts and all, over a millennium.

In other words the old free-trade deal.

That’s why I believe Dave’s ‘In or out’ question to the masses is the wrong one and a high-stakes gambit, which – if it turned turtle – would play into the hands of our foes across the Channel (of which there are many).

The question I think the PM should have posed is, ‘Do you prefer a Common Market or a centralised United States of Europe?’

I’d guess Brits would opt for the Market, which would placate Eurosceptics and leave him with enough wriggle room to renegotiate better terms for the UK.

It would also have armed him with a mandate that left Britain retaining a seat at the EU high table, fired a warning shot across the federalists’ bows and given our allies (we have some of those, too) confidence they could stand beside us and push against further, unwarranted integration.

However, this is not the time yet to discuss the emotional aspects of a highly emotive topic. Tempers need to cool and the pros and cons carefully weighed before such a momentous decision can be reached.

Besides, it may never happen. At least in 2017.

The EU may fragment by then, though the euros’ ills seem less critical than a half-year ago, before the European Central Bank vowed to ride, like the Seventh Cavalry, to further rescues (but remember the fate of Colonel Custer).

Still, in putting his money where his mouth and posing such a direct, ‘In/Out’ question, Dave has taken a monumental gamble on Britain’s future.

And his party could pay the ultimate price for it…the UK’s excommunication from the EU and no veto over new treaties that underpin an eventual United States of Europe.

Heaven help America – and the Middle East – with ‘cowboy’ Kerry riding point

On the diplomatic front there’s good news and bad to herald the New Year; so, in an effort to break it to you gently, I’ll relay the glad tidings first.

A Vietnam War hero is set to be anointed successor to Hillary Clinton as America’s Secretary of State (a.k.a foreign minister), as the former First Lady recovers from illness and ponders a crack at the White House in 2016, when the Obama era ends.

Tall and lean-faced, the man in question could almost be a throwback to the heyday of Western movies…a languid Jimmy Stewart reincarnate, clad in a $3,000 Marty Greenfield suit and a holster full of diplomatic weaponry.

He even hails from cowboy country (Aurora, Colorado) and has a handle that could fit well on a publicity flier for a rootin’, tootin’ John Ford epic.

What’s more, he’s a long-serving, career politico and, as chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, he knows there’s another Paris, apart from the one in Texas (besides, he mom was born in the French capital).

Related to the billionaire publishing Forbes clan, he’s also immensely rich and married to the equally-loaded widow of a member of the Heinz baked beans and flatulence dynasty; so there’s no danger he’d be swayed by the offer of a buck or two in bungs.

Sadly, for many, there endeth the good news.

Because – in the views of some who have an intimate working acquaintance of him – irrespective of his apparently glowing CV, John Kerry may not be the ideal nominee to ride point for an American President.

This, I hasten to add, is unrelated to Kerry losing the 2004 Presidential election to (of all people) George ‘Dubya’ Bush. Nor is it linked to the former Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts being aged 69 – the new 49, as folk of my generation will contend.

And you can discount the criticisms of even respected commentators, one of whom noted that ‘he’s a morally-preening, self-righteous mediocrity, unpopular even among his colleagues.’

KERRY BOLD? The US's nominee for Secretary of State is hardly that, say critics

KERRY GOLD? President Obama’s nominee for US Secretary of State is hardly that, say critics

No, it’s rather an indictment of the Democrat senator’s trail of misjudgements, waffling U-turns and – how shall I put it politely? – a propensity to go out on a limb, then chop off the branch he’s perched on.

Kerry launched his career on the coat-tails of a laudable service record. As a much-decorated Navy officer he came home from Vietnam to campaign vigorously against the conflict, in 1971 declaring the entire US chain of military command to be ‘war criminals.’

Testifying before the a Senate committee, Kerry claimed he’d met GIs who ‘had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians and razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan’

The trouble was he could never prove his grisly claims.

Then, as a rookie senator in 1985, Kerry helped convince Congress to cease aid to the pro-US Contras battling Nicaragua’s Communist Sandinistas in return for a cease-fire that never was. What did occur, though, was the Sandinistas procured $200M in weaponry from Moscow and scotched the uprising.

A year later the increasingly-radical Kerry endorsed demonstrations against President Reagan’s rollback of Soviet and Cuban-supported forces in Central America and, despite it garnering wide Arab support, was a fierce critic of the first Gulf War to expel the invading Iraqis from Kuwait.

Yet, inexplicably, he flip-flopped over the 2003 Iraq War, proclaiming with patriotic gusto, ‘Without question we need to disarm Saddam. He is a brutal and murderous dictator.’

Only when things turned turtle did Kerry cavil that he was ‘misled’ by Dubya, who ‘rushed to war’. And, in 2007, he adamantly opposed the Iraq ‘surge’ strategy, castigating Bush for ‘stubbornness’ and ‘recklessness.’

Needless to say General David Petraeus’s tactic worked a minor miracle – at least until US forces formally exited Iraq and it descended into today’s murderous mayhem.

So, since Kerry will be ‘hot-desking’ between Washington and the calamitous Middle East in his new role, there are certain glaring question marks overhanging his expensively coiffured head about his grasp of the realities on the ground he’ll treading.

Worryingly, the senator shows a high regard for Bashar Al-Assad, as he clings onto Syria by his gory fingertips, amid a sea of 60,000 corpses.

After paying court several times to the Butcher of Damascus, Kerry advocated loosening sanctions against Syria, declaring ‘my friend’ Assad is a man of his word, insisting, ‘Syria will change as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States.’

Kerry is keen, too, to see the Israelis return the Golan Heights to Syria, having won the strategically vital buffer zone, after being attacked by Assad’s father, the equally odious Hafez, in the 1967 Six Day War.

Meanwhile, despite his past record for faux pas, Kerry believes he knows better than the Israelis what’s good for them as the Middle East’s only fully functioning democracy, not to say the West’s key ally.

And, now with the sage Clinton departing, her over-opinionated replacement is backed by a President who still demonstrates little comprehension of how to quell the region’s flames.

Few on the world stage will forget Obama’s monumental gaffe in 2008, when – in a now pilloried Cairo speech – he tried to woo the Muslim world, only to see his honeyed words translated as a sign of American naivety and weakness.

Unwittingly, it preluded the downfall of secular dictatorships or put them under notice to quit…Mubarak gone from Egypt’s helm; Gaddafi overthrown in Libya; Ben Ali deposed in Tunisia; Assad tottering in Syria; Jordan’s King Abdullah wondering how long he’ll reign; Lebanon throttled by the crazies of Hezbollah; and Iraq locked in Shiite-Sunni civil strife.

The gains, sadly, were short-term, because it spurred the extremists to pervert the ensuing Arab Spring into an Islamic Winter, delivering power to a new generation of despots, particularly the multi-tentacled, ultra-fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, for whom liberty and human rights are hardly long-term pursuits.

Moreover, the chain reaction further empowered the Palestinians to dodge meaningful, direct talks with Israel towards statehood and cloud their real intent on redrawing the local map minus a Jewish state (that reality must even be starting to dawn on the West’s purblind, useful idiots, who swallow – hook, line and stinker – every lie the Arabs spew).

And, finally, the mad mullahs of Iran were energised into running still more rings round nuclear negotiators and getting busy stirring up a hornets’ nest in the Gulf States.

So heaven only knows how America’s next Secretary of State will keep the lid on the world’s hottest cauldron of discontent, as his predecessor, Mrs. Clinton, did her best to do.

Which is why only the most starry-eyed optimists will be holding their breath in 2013, hoping Obama’s cowboy can pull the peace rabbit out of his ten-gallon hat.

Well played, Boateng and AC Milan…for striking against the bigots bringing soccer into disrepute

Hearty congratulations to the players of Italy’s AC Milan for having the courage to quit their own pitch last Thursday in a so-called ‘friendly’ against Fourth Division non-entities, Pro Patria (which means ‘For Country’, though, in this case, I’m reminded of diarist Samuel Johnson‘s definition that patriotism is ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’).

The critical moment came in 26th minute when Kevin Prince Boateng, a Ghanaian international once of Spurs, Hertha Berlin, Borussia Dortmund and Portsmouth, stopped running, picked up the ball and booted it into the gobs of a mob of baying away fans chanting racist vitriol.

As a long-time aficionado of the game, I hope this outstandingly honourable gesture resonates everywhere.

I hope it also provokes the power-greedy, money-grubbing hypocrites who somehow contrive to ‘administer’ soccer, namely UEFA and FIFA, to wallop AC Milan with the hugest fine imaginable, which is the natural, knee-jerk reaction of the ‘suits’ who’ve cornered the market in controlling the world’s premier spectator sport.

I equally hope the great Italian club will adamantly refuse to pay not a centimo of any fine and that defiance garners a crescendo of support worldwide.

I also hope that galacticos of elite clubs and national teams emulate Boateng by hot-footing it to the dressing-room the moment the ‘N’ word – or any similar expression of vicious bigotry (i.e. monkey chants, banana-throwing et al) – permeates from the terraces.

I further hope that nations, such as Serbia, are hit with crippling financial penalties and long bans from the international game for allowing racism to flourish on the pitch and in the stands.

BALLS TO BIGOTRY: Boateng lead AC Milan players off the pitch in protest against racism

BALLS TO BIGOTRY: Boateng lead AC Milan players off the pitch in protest against away fans’ racism

England Under-21s’ match last October, in Krusevac, saw just such an incident. Tottenham’s Danny Rose was sent off by an idiot referee unfit to control a Ludo game, for reaching the end of his tether, having been the butt of Serb racists from the warm-up, and – like Boateng – kicking the ball into the crowd of foul-mouthed sub-humans in righteous fury.

A UEFA website report of that match failed to mention either the racism or the brawl at the final whistle and the Serbian FA was fined a paltry $105,000 by UEFA – less than the punishment handed to a player at the Euro 2012 finals for exposing his underpants, bearing the logo of a bookmaker.

So let’s be clear: the purblind ‘suits’ in high command of football (take note, Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter) should shelve their obsession with self-aggrandisement and take up the anti-racism cudgels with real zeal and not merely pay lip service to ridding football of the disease.

They should instruct officials to stop matches immediately racism rears its ugliness, put clubs under notice to ban errant fans for their lifetimes, have mindless miscreants prosecuted and, in the event of non-compliance, order stadia closed and points deducted from teams.

It’s a waste of breath for FIFA’s arrogant boss, Blatter, to rail about ‘zero tolerance’ when racism against players – whether from the terraces or from opponents on the pitch – is not punished with maximum severity.

Only the might of the great soccer nations and elite clubs, all of whom field robust and skilful players of all hues and religions, can bring pressure to bear on stamping out this pernicious, verbal garbage forever and a day.

They can do so by emulating Kevin Prince Boateng and instructing their players to down tools and walk away from bigotry.

And if having the courage of their convictions draws sanctions from their respective FAs, UEFA or FIFA, they should tell the bureaucrats where to stick their idiotic fines.