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Rupert Murdoch issues apology for ‘grotesque, offensive’ Holocaust Day cartoon

It’s by Gerald Scarfe in the Sunday Times, and it shows Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall with a trowel dripping blood. Murdoch has just tweeted: Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.


UPDATE: Chief Rabbi criticises Sunday Times.

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  1. Martin Locher says:

    Everybody who heard the ‘Dissonance & Harmony: A Conversation’ talk at Brown University a couple of days ago can not find this cartoon offensive.

    It’s available here and worth 2 hours of your time:

    • another orchestra musician says:

      Seconded. The Brown University talk is excellent, and enlightening.

      • Catarina Lindström says:

        I can not for My life understand what there is to apologise for. This is exactly how it is.

  2. Abigail Clifford says:

    I fail to see what is offensive in the cartoon. Everyone knows that Israel’s wall in itself is grotesque. Israel is responsible for creating an Apartheid situation in the area it controls. Much blood has been spilt as a result of Nettanyahu’s action.
    Why. don’t you for once attack Israel ‘ s policies instead of always finding fault in everything German does?

    • For Abigail Clifford:

      • Even Muslim supporters of Israel can be mistaken. There is a very large literature on Israeli governments’ oppressive policies towards the Palestinians. From rejecting UN resolutions, illegal settlements & no right of return to refugees from 1948.

    • The “apartheid” canard fails the logic test when one realizes that there are 1 million Arab citizens of Israel, with full voting rights.

      For some reason, western liberals behave — when the topis is Israel — the way that western conservatives behave on most other topics. They accept that which they’re sure *must* be true, mindlessly repeat that which “everybody knows”, and never, ever bother to actually read the history.

      Israel has been under near-constant attack since 1948, yet Israel is the only nation which, seemingly, is expected not to protect its citizens.

    • stanley cohen says:

      Perhaps Norman should have shown the entire cartoon instead of the top half. It resonates with the ‘Blood libel.’ A fact that could not have been unknown to Mr Scarfe nor that its publication was on Holocaust Day, a fact not unknown to the Sunday Times editorial staff – for whose insensitivity their proprietor has felt the need to apologise.
      For an elegant and authoritative summary I recommend the following link by Melanie Phillips.

    • …And as far as the wall’s being “grotesque”…in the places where it’s complete, there are few crossborder terrorist attacks.

      Instead of condemning the wall, you should condemn the terrorists for making it necessary.

  3. For all the ‘bien pensants’ who have nothing against the above cartoon: put down your cafe latte for a couple of minutes, take off your Birkenstocks, put your feet up and watch the following video -

    Now be quiet.
    Thank you.

    • No reason to be quiet!
      So, some 1000 rockets against Israel in 8 years? That’s what you get for occupying and suppressing the Palestinians decade after decade.
      During the same 8 years Israel has sent a million missiles towards Gaza and Lebanon, killed thousands of people, and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. Please stop whining about rockets!

      • Over 10,000 rockets, not 1,000, and they’re aimed not at military targets and not at the settlements, but at Israeli towns. …And they’re coming from Gaza, which has not been occupied for several years now.

        The West Bank and Gaza were occupied because they were being used as bases for horrific terrorist attacks on Israel…much worse than any we’re seeing now.

        Where is your strident call for the Palestinians to stop murdering Israelis? As I said earlier, only Israel seems to be expected not to defend itself.

        • Right, Mr Salzberg, I expect the Palestinians to defend themselves – and that is just what they are doing, just like the Norwegians and Danish were defending themselves when the Germans occupied their cities. Israelis are the occupantns and attackers, so they are technically not defending themselves.
          If Israel were to leave their illegal settlements on the West Bank (i.e. all of them), and cease their blockade of Gaza that doesn’t even let humanitarian aid ships reach Gaza – then there would be a possibility to work towards peace.

          • The Norwegians and Danes attacked German military targets The Hamas rockets are aimed at Israeli cities, not the settlements,and they’re based in an area that is not occupied and has not been for several years.

            Throughout the history of this conflict, their has not been a moment in which the Palestinians’ chances of getting their second state would not have been greater if they ad accepted Israel’s right to exist, and there has not been a moment in which their chances were not better than they’d been the moment before.

            If they want the West Bank occupation lifted, they should stop attacking Israelis. That’s what led to the occupation.

            Again, only in the case of Israel would people seriously claim that they should just allow their citizens to be killed without acting to protect them.

            Instead of complaining about the Israelis’ retaliation, why not urge the Palestinians not to commit the acts which *lead* to that retaliation?

  4. Michael Hurshell says:

    Offensive, no question. I wonder how offensive people would think it would have been, if Israel had done what every other country in the world has done throughout history: keep what it conquers – in other words, kept control of the land at the end of the 6 Day War. And the Suez Canal. No matter how much territory is relinquished, it’s never enough… the pipelines supplying Hamas and the rest with smuggled weapons never run dry… hate is preached without pause in mosques from Kairo to Cologne, etc etc. This cartoon is no help.

  5. another orchestra musician says:

    It is difficult not to find a significant degree of equivalence between the ghettos Jews were confined within during the Nazi era, and the ghettos Palestinians are confined within today. Why Mr. Lebrecht would choose to provoke a discussion of them here, on an arts blog, I do not know; but certainly, if the artistic community would criticize the Nazi past of some of its prominent colleagues, it is appropriate that the artistic community also look unflinchingly at the less-than-admirable present of some of its prominent colleagues.

    • There is no equivalence. The Jews in the Nazi ghettos were there to starve to death.

    • former orchestra worker says:

      A cartoon is art. Therefore deserves a place in an art blog. Especially if the art blog covers classical music mostly which is a world dominated by constant Nazi hunting. There are even orchestras who need to hire Jewish conductors just to get money from Jewish organizations. Such racism is idiotic and should be hunted down. Not justified by accepting such money.

      • former orchestra worker says: Which orchestras are those “who need to hire Jewish conductors just to get money from Jewish organizations”? Please specify.

    • Suggest you read The Hamas Covenant and think again.

      You might also like to reflect on why the offer of statehood has been rejected by the Palestinians on more than one occasion.

  6. Robin Blonstein says:

    Abigail? Your failure to see the grotesque in this cartoon serves only to reflect your political views bound up in hatred and lies. Equating the wall with Apartheid is an anti-Israel canard. Attacking Israel’s policies by the way, is a cottage industry world wide. No shortage of that. Whereas, more folk need to speak up to people like yourself who throw out outrageous terms that are false analogies to the current Israeli situation.

  7. David Forder says:

    Norman, if you believe that Murdoch’s apology was anything other than damage limitation on behalf of his beleaguered newspapers, you are more politically naive than I imagined.

    What is this subject doing here anyway? I come here to read news and informed comment about the arts, a subject for which neither Murdoch nor Netanyahu are recognized as authorities.

    • Ken Anderson says:

      Obviously Norman, as this is your blog site you can post whatever you like on it. But like David, I am surprised to find this subject covered here. Personally, I come here for the fantastic coverage of the classical music world and not to be exposed to a tribal slanging match. Most of the replies to your post are very dispiriting to read and illustrate exactly why this tragic problem, one of the great challenges of our time, has proved intractable and will continue to be so. People on opposing sides view the same set of facts through a different prism and mostly offer only contempt and insults to those who approach the subject sincerely from a different standpoint.

      Of course, I could choose to read just some of your posts and not all … but that would be a pity :-)

      • I do not need to justify the topics selected for this site. However, any member of the performing arts community will be aware of Gerald Scarfe’s involvement in theatre and opera productions. He is therefore part of the world covered by this site.

        • I find the suggestion that the arts are, or ought to be, divorced from world issues to be…curious. If that had been the rule historically, we would have neither the 1812 Overture nor Eroica, not to mention much of Shakespeare.

  8. Of course, the countries surrounding Israel are wonderful examples themselves of toleration and human rights, aren’t they? And those who radicalise young men to act as suicide bombers are to be encouraged while Israel is condemned?

  9. Without commenting on the politics of the specific cartoon, we are not living in a vacuum and artists and musicians must be aware that their work to be meaningful will in some way reflect the world, and not only their inner conceptualization, regardless of the level of abstraction. This particular subject is however an incendiary issue that is informed by many facts and many myths, so I don’t expect any consensus, even by those who see themselves as educated. The goal however should be a peace which reflects the legitimate interests of all parties, and that means starting by putting everything on the table without preconditions. Right now there is too much belligerency and war, and propaganda to justify it. Like the old Sinatra song, ya gotta give a little to get a little. The tragedy is that if the people of the region worked together, they could accomplish much, and even enjoy each other’s company in the process. Anyone who has shared a meze in Israel or its neighbors knows the pleasure of the food and of sharing it.

  10. Anyone who has any familiarity with the iconography of anti-semitism recognizes right away that this cartoon is an outrage. A little historical background is enough to make one understand that this is not your run of the mill political cartoon., but a revival of Der Sturmer
    As far as the content: I am also very critical of Israel, but it is a fact that the great wall separating Israel from the West Bank has resulted in a considerable reduction in the murders in the name of the Intifada conducted by suicide bombers. Perhaps the blood-thirsty ghoul should be depicted as a Palestinian!

  11. The cartoon is a valid comment on Netanyahu and perfectly appropriate. The holocaust is not an excuse for his poor policies and behaviour.

  12. What is a good beginner’s accordion, and should I get lessons?

  13. Silly reactions to a picture of a belligerent politician building a wall. These irrational and infantile over-reactions will go away by themselves. Just give it a couple of years.
    The game changer is that the US – which is in economical and geopolitical decline – is moonwalking out of Middle East. As a result, Israel will either try to behave, i.e. leave all the occupied areas and abandon their settlement, or go under. How can it be that whenever Israel’s occupation and state terrorism is discussed, the Israelis always play the anti-semite card or, even, the holocaust card?
    The holocaust is not an excuse for Israel to behave like fascists. Being opposed to Israel’s state terrorism is not the same as being anti-Jewish.
    On the contrary, it is rather in the interest of all Jews to end Israel’s occupation and Israel’s state terrorism.

  14. Martin Locher says:

    WWII was a starting point for this desaster in the Middle East. I think the cartoon is spot on and pubished on the right day. Stop moaning about WWII and focus on what’s happening now.

  15. Martin Locher: You must consider 21 Arab states, controlling 5 million square miles (13 thousand thousand sq km), catastrophically insufficient. And the failure to have one more, reigning over all of the last few thousand sq miles or so, a “desaster,” Clearly there is no room for anybody else along that 5,000 mile stretch.

  16. Martin Locher says:

    Where did I write anything hateful?
    And why shall no person be allowed to use such a rememberance day to point out today’s problems?

    I.e. the “Roma” situation. Which also would have been an appropriate theme for such a cartoon.

  17. another orchestra musician says:

    I agree with you, Martin. The value of remembering history is that we can learn from it. When we choose instead to hide behind it, we squander resources and opportunity.

    Likely those who find your comments hateful will say that they do remember history: centuries of persecution and mistreatment of their ancestors. To which the rest of us may answer: will you not realize that shouting Liar! Israel-hater! Anti-Semite! at everyone who criticizes you or disagrees with you merely reinforces the tribalism that led to such persecution in the first place?

    If we could but all concur that no one drop of human blood is worth more than another drop of human blood.

  18. Martin Locher says:

    I agree , I could have been a bit more sensitive in the choice of words. But hatred? Come on, that’s over the top. It is too easy to use such strong words to put a person into a certain corner.

    My comment was made under the influence of anger over some things that were said on Holocaust Day. I don’t think this is the right place to discuss that, as this is an arts blog after all. If anything, I might have been grumpy, but certainly not a promoter of hatred.

    Media shouldn’t be forced to have to commemorate or as you say adress a certain day, but have the right to point to current affairs. I don’t see this as promoting hatred, I only see a connection in the timing of this cartoon and Holocaust Day. I.e. to my knowledge the state of Israel as we have it today wouldn’t exist, if Jews wouldn’t have been forced to flee.

    There are pro and contra Isreal opinions. Media should be allowed to reflect both – on any day of the year.

    btw, I see a connection in Mother’s Day and Guantanamo (where their are children are held) and after some thinking I even see a connection between Gay Pride and dolphins (homosexual behaviour in animals) Two gay dolphins in a tuna net – just like some gays in some places are not free.

    Maybe one needs to start to think deeper, than just putting people into a hatred corner.

  19. James Inverne says:

    Martin Locher – “stop moaning about WWII” and you don’t consider that you said anything hateful? Any attempted comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany (a place where they scientifically tested the limits of pain on the bodies of Jews – literally, not figuratively) is grotesque and ignorant. Israel does not even bear comparison to the human rights abuses in many other countries today, not least many of its neighbours, and indeed many Western states. But “stop moaning about WWII”?! I am very nearly speechless.

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