Gerald Scarfe cartoon

So, Rupert Murdoch has apologised for the publication of an offensive cartoon in the Sunday Times. The topic is Israel’s relations with its neighbours and the wall it is building in order to keep them out. “Good fences make good neighbours” as the poet Robert Frost wrote.

The cartoon depicts Benjamin Netanyahu building the wall himself – the mortar is red and what looks like some Palestinians have been built into the wall. I am not going to post the cartoon – readers can see it for themselves here:

The Today programme on Radio 4 this morning pitted cartoonist Steve Bell of the Guardian against Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle debating – of sorts – the issue. Quite heated in places. Listen here.

The question is, are we talking about Jews – and hence being anti-semitic – or are we talking about Israel and the Israeli government? At the very least, when a country defines itself coterminous with a race, the depiction of a key player in the story – in this case Netanyahu – can be seen as an attack on the race more generally. On Holocaust Memorial Day, particularly so.

Update: 1 February 2013 – Media Lens has now evaluated this case. The assessment is at the following address.

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