By Rob Harris
On January 27th, the Sunday Times published a cartoon by Gerald Scarfe, which is widely thought to have libelled both Israel and the Jewish people, due to apparent anti-Semitic imagery. Scarfe is a well-known English cartoonist who illustrated The Wall, the self-pitying magnum opus by ex-Pink Floyd member Roger Waters. Water’s live performances of the album also stirred controversy by linking the Star of David with greed.
Whilst the Sunday Times deny that the cartoon is anti-Semitic, claiming that it merely attacks Netanyahu and Israeli policies, the illustration nonetheless displays classic anti-Semitic motifs to the extent that it has been compared with an infamous cartoon featured on the cover of a 1934 edition of the Nazi tabloid newspaper, Der Sturmer, in terms of both its depiction of Jews and thematic content.
Furthermore, the offensive cartoon was published by the Sunday Times on Holocaust Memorial Day, which if intentional would display a rather warped mindset. Scarfe has since said he regrets the date of publication, claiming that he had not been aware it was Holocaust Memorial Day!
Yet an intent for Mr. Scarfe, and/or the Sunday Times, to incite hate and/or cause distress to the paper’s Jewish readers, is a distinct probability since pro-Palestinians have made sustained attempts to hijack the Memorial Day and the Holocaust more broadly, to push propagandistic messages, e.g. comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto etc.
And yet any decline at the Sunday Times didn’t start with a cartoon. For example, a large 4th of March 2012 article (taking up two pages), concerning the use of private information in relation to phone apps carried the headline “In a flash, your details are sent to Israel”, despite the fact that Israel played a very minor part in the story!
Andrew Sullivan’s Apologia
During the same month (March 25th), the paper featured a prominent op-ed by well-known Israeli-basher Andrew Sullivan, opposite the editorial page, entitled: “The gag of loyalty destroying Israel”. The piece defended a book by another arch Israeli-basher called Peter Beinart, with such an intensity that one came away with the feeling that Sullivan felt no one was or is entitled to criticise his cherished Beinart!
The piece condensed such a remarkable miasma of primitive pro-Palestinian propaganda aimed at defaming Israel, and the pro-Israel American lobby, that one came away with the distinct feeling this American blogger, well-known for his controversial views, was wheeled in with an agenda.
The piece stands out for intensively regurgitating quite an astonishing number of lies about settlements, the inability to criticise Israel in the US, and the situation of Arab-Palestinians in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), that it would be more suited for a propaganda site like Electronic Intifada. Sullivan refers to the growth of Jewish settler numbers in the West Bank but then fails to mention the dramatic jump in the Arab-Palestinian populace.
Sullivan starts and ends the article by predicting dire consequences for Beinart as if the dark shadowy lobby will destroy this poor truth teller. He also crosses a line by referring to the dangers of “Jewish power” in relation to the Jewish lobby, and even raised the old anti-Semitic Jewish-dual-loyalty charge:
What Beinart has done is not just illustrated (sic) this crisis and challenged a blinkered view of how it came to pass; he has blamed its relentless deepening on a complacent, out-of-touch and defensive American-Jewish establishment. He believes it remains so trapped in the post-Holocaust paradigm of Jewish victimhood that it cannot see, as earlier Zionists did, the danger of Jewish power.
While Sullivan relates these ideas to Peter Beinart’s rather unoriginal thesis, Sullivan still advances and adopts the same notions himself in a stout uncritical defence of Beinart, an individual who has defamed Israel by recycling many pro-Palestinian falsehoods, whilst simultaneously pretending to be its friend!
And what of Jewish victimhood? Is it not legitimate to be concerned about anti-Semitism when Holocaust denial is such a popular sport today, and appears to be increasingly derived from the Middle East conflict itself?
Is it not legitimate to be concerned when Jews in the US suffer the greatest level of faith based violence of any group, which is especially worrying since religion is the greatest motivating factor for hate crime? In 2010, some 65.4% of hate crimes were against Jews, standing in stark contrast to 13.2% against Muslims, an oddity considering the oft-covered media nightmares concerning Islamophobia, which of course in the US ought to be taken in the context of 9/11 and its protracted terrorist concerns.
He [Beinart] has exposed how the Israel lobby in America, far from trying to support its president in restraining new settlements in the West Bank, and found every excuse to let the Israeli’s off the hook, engaged in character assassinations of people who tried to argue back, all but sided with a foreign minister over its own government in the clash between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, and is now beating the drum for war against Iran.
Need it be added that Israel has not established any official settlements since the mid to late 1990’s, during the Oslo II process, and they can be found not infrequently pulling down illegal Jewish outposts? In a prior passage, Sullivan misrepresents the areas where settlement construction typically take place, claiming they are places Israel will have to give up in a two-state solution. Rather, settlement construction in fact focuses on areas marked for retention in all prior peace talks on a two-state solution.
Does Andrew Sullivan also need to be reminded that the Israel Lobby is entitled to criticise the policy of a given US administration, if it thinks it is wrong, without actually being disloyal or treasonous to the United States? Sullivan has made very similar assertions concerning Jewish disloyalty in the past to the extent that he thought Netanyahu and the Israeli lobby would dispose of Obama in a “lethal” fashion!
Contrary to what Sullivan asserts, there is in fact prolific criticism of the Jewish State in America, and his “character assassination” claim is actually the standard response by critics of Israel whenever there is any objection to a political appointment, regardless of how well founded those criticisms are.”
Perhaps the thematic relationship between Scarfe’s cartoon, which invokes classical anti-Semitism, and Sullivan’s article dismissing it, echoes a certain stance contained within the Sunday Times editorship.
It should be pointed out that the examples above were found by a very occasional reader of the Sunday Times. There are likely to be other examples that have escaped any substantive notice, assuming such material would not have paralleled the intensity of Scarfe’s cartoon. Last year the paper published a photograph that had been known to be an Iranian propaganda fake for years, and its weekday sister publication has also published problematic pieces. However, other than infrequent reports, there’s insufficient material to judge the paper’s output.
Worryingly, the Sunday Times, has shown signs of indulging the most virulent pro-Palestinianism, à la its UK competitor the Guardian. The Guardian, and its cousin the Independent, have long displayed an animosity toward Israel that frequently crossed a line by displaying a rather naked anti-Semitism. In 2003 the Independent featured an infamous cartoon by Dan Brown of ex-PM Ariel Sharon eating an Arab-Palestinian child’s head.
Both the Guardian and the Independent have a somewhat more modest circulation in comparison to the London Times and its Sunday equivalent. They are distinctly left-leaning broadsheet papers, which have a by now traditional leftist animus toward Israel.
By contrast, the Times is a more mainstream centre-right British publication. The portents are indeed worrying when it shows signs of acting with such prejudice. It can be deemed another indicator of the declining situation for British Jews, in what was once something of a haven during times of persecution elsewhere. More is the shame since the Times is the same paper that exposed the Protocols of Ziyon as fraudulent.
Rob Harris contributes articles to several websites on contentious political issues (not to be confused with the popular English novelist (1957-) of the same name). He blogs at eirael.blogspot.com. He lives in Ireland. For all the exclusive blog entries by Rob Harris, go here.
Editor’s note: British media baron Rupert Murdoch apologized in a tweet for the publication of the controversial cartoon in the Sunday Times that led to the complaints of anti-Semitism. View the tweet here.