Letters in The Sunday Times

February 03, 2013

Tom Gross writes:

A sizeable number of readers have asked me for more on the (London) Sunday Times’ reaction to the cartoon they published in their previous edition, last Sunday, of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Today, the paper publishes 18 letters on it – not just from readers in Britain, but from Israel, France, Sweden and America. It is very rare for any newspaper to publish 18 letters in a single issue about one subject. The letters are below, followed by an email from Martin Ivens, the Acting Editor of The Sunday Times.

I referred to Martin Ivens in the fourth item here.

The offending cartoon can be viewed here.

The Sunday Times remains one of the less biased papers in Britain. For papers such as The Guardian and The Independent, this kind of borderline anti-Semitic coverage of Israel is, unfortunately, a near daily occurrence.


* You can comment on these letters here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.


The Sunday Times
Letters’ page
February 3, 2013


MEMBERS of the Hebrew Congregation, many of whom are regular readers of The Sunday Times, were devastated by last week’s Gerald Scarfe cartoon. While we must be open to fair and objective criticism of Israeli government policy, this portrait goes beyond any reasonable definition of fair criticism.

It is always dangerous to equate anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, but Scarfe’s image is reminiscent of the blood libels so beloved of Nazi Germany and today’s Arab press; it is at best a clumsy attempt at political comment, at worst blatantly anti-semitic.

That you should see fit to publish it on Holocaust Memorial Day demonstrates a lack of judgment. The message of this commemoration is still not being received in certain quarters.

Harvey Lipsith, President, Bournemouth Hebrew Congregation


We were shocked and disgusted by Scarfe’s anti-semitic cartoon, captioned: “Israeli elections — will cementing peace continue?” It has no basis in fact.

The Israeli elections, which were fair and democratic, actually resulted in a shift to the centre, and not to greater extremism. As loyal readers of your paper for more than 50 years we feel badly let down.

David and Judy Frankel, Stanmore, London


Israel’s security wall — most of which is a wire fence, and not even built by Binyamin Netanyahu — has saved untold lives by preventing terrorist suicide bombings. It has done more for peace than any military intervention, without spilling blood.

Jonathan Sacerdoti, Director, Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy


I am very disappointed by, and concerned about, the ever-increasing anti-semitic feeling and rhetoric in the media. I find it strange that Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East that permits freedom of religion, speech and the press, is so strongly condemned. It would be more fitting if the media concentrated on censuring those countries that seek to suppress these freedoms.

Michele Colwell, Carrickfergus, Co Antrim


I would like to to express my dismay at your portrayal of Israel’s prime minister as a vicious murderer, building houses on the screaming bodies of innocent civilians. You might find it surprising to know that I, along with many other Israelis, do not agree with our government’s policy of expanding building projects in disputed territories but we show our resentment by voting for other parties, organising demonstrations and conducting debates.

You may say that criticising Israel is not the same as criticising the Jewish people, and you are right, but doing it in the form of the Scarfe cartoon was irresponsible.

Atalya Nir, Israel


While Netanyahu may not be to everyone’s taste (including many Israelis, whose support for him has been substantially reduced during the election), he is the elected democratic leader of a country that has not known one day’s peace from its Arab neighbours since its creation.

Israel’s peace overtures to the Palestinians have been rejected. The wall has brought the horror of suicide bombings to an end but has resulted in undeniable hardship for the Palestinians. To conflate that misery with the images depicted in the cartoon on Holocaust Memorial Day is out of all proportion and fails to recognise the Palestinians’ responsibility for their own fate.

Keith and Tania Black, Manchester


I would like to state my displeasure that The Sunday Times — a publication I have bought for 40 years, and which I have always found to be fair and unbiased — made a huge error of judgment in choosing to publish this cartoon, particularly on such a significant day of Jewish remembrance.

However, all of us in the media occasionally make mistakes and I’ve always considered the best way of dealing with them is to own up, apologise and move on.

Lloyd Beiny, Chief Executive Officer, World Entertainment News Network, London N7


To depict the Israeli elections in this way is offensive and inflammatory. The voting showed clearly that the people of Israel have moved in great numbers to the centre left, which is a very positive thing.

The wall is a consequence of Israelis being terrorised for years by suicide bombers, and the world should be grateful that Israel chose only to build a wall, given what happens in other countries in similar circumstances. Many Jews and Israelis would rather not have such a barrier in place but acknowledge that it has put a stop to the numerous suicide bombings.

Raina Sheaf, Leeds


While opinion on Israel is divided, you must have been aware that this insensitive imagery, which could easily have come from the pages of Der Stürmer, the former Nazi tabloid newspaper, would cause enormous distress to Holocaust refugees, their families and many in Israel.

To compound matters, it was printed on the day the world remembers the attempted annihilation of the Jews and other targets of the Nazis. You have quite rightly apologised for this crass insensitivity but not for omitting to commemorate the day itself.

Furthermore, you could have chosen to feature pieces highlighting the achievements and real progress in Holocaust education, research and commemoration, or the contribution to Britain of Nazi victims who found refuge here. It was a missed opportunity.

Andrew Kaufman, The Association of Jewish Refugees, Stanmore, London


You should be aware that the climate for the Jewish people is much harder in Europe. What goes on in Israel and the Middle East affects the everyday life of Jews, even those who might not have any links to the state of Israel.

Helena Skibinski, Gothenburg, Sweden


Though I would defend Scarfe's right to express his views on Netanyahu’s election, I would pose this question to him: if he were surrounded by neighbours whose declared intent was his elimination, would he not take action to defend himself and his family?

Dany Hearn, Sète, France


All over the Middle East, people are brutally killing and maiming one another. Not so the Israelis. Why then publish a viciously anti-Israeli cartoon by Scarfe?

Miriam Owen, London W2


At a time when people the world over are grieving for their loved ones and experiencing difficulty in trying to come to terms with the horrors of Nazi Germany, this cartoon seemed out of place. On any other day, it wouldn’t have made the most comfortable viewing — and I appreciate the fact that Scarfe’s images are not meant to — but it would at least have been more tolerable.

Crystal Johnson, Stafford


Far from being a cause for apology and regret, the timing of the publication of Scarfe’s cartoon served as a topical reminder to the Jews of their obligations to the Palestinians with whom they share their land. Continued immigration and expansion of settlements can only lead Israel into deeper conflict with its neighbours.

For our part, we in Britain should take a much stronger line in bringing both sides to the negotiating table by publicly condemning both Israeli expansionism and Palestinian violence — the medium of the press is a good place to start, and Holocaust Memorial Day a good time.

Dr Anthony Vere, Malvern, Worcestershire


Your very quick and sincere apology to the Jewish community was an answer to prayer. I am not Jewish but I care about the Jewish nation.

Jill Wells, Ramsey, Isle of Man


I want to express my appreciation and gratitude for your newspaper’s apology regarding the Scarfe cartoon. It was good of him and of you to admit that his drawing had crossed the line.

Julian Stroh, Grand Rapids, Michigan


I am sorry that your newspaper and Scarfe felt you had to apologise for the cartoon. I am Jewish and can assure you I found it no more offensive than any other Scarfe cartoon. It was certainly not anti-semitic, unless you believe that we Jews are all so pure and perfect that none of us can ever be criticised on any grounds.

You might argue that the cartoon overstated or misrepresented the issue, but to call it anti-semitic is a hysterical overreaction. Please, continue to allow Scarfe his artistic freedom.

Judith Robertson, Sheffield


I was extremely upset that you found it necessary to apologise for the cartoon, which I feel certain will have found acceptance by free-thinking people, including Jews, many of whom deplore the treatment of Palestinians and the occupation of their lands.

America makes a pretence of asking Israel to stop building on Palestinian land and could exert the necessary pressure by suggesting it would withhold its annual funding until Israel complied with UN resolutions.

GG Nicholas, Alton, Hampshire



From: Martin Ivens
Date: 31 January 2013 10:53:24 GMT
Subject: Re: Gerald Scarfe

Dear …

I am grateful to you for writing to The Sunday Times and expressing your views so clearly. I’d like to apologise at the outset for the offence caused by Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon published last Sunday.

Its publication was a terrible mistake. The timing – on Holocaust Memorial Day - was inexcusable. The associations on this occasion were grotesque. As someone who understands the history and iconography in this context, I appreciate fully why publication has caused such offence and I apologise unreservedly for my part in that.

I sought an urgent meeting with leading members of the Jewish community, and am pleased to say that we got together on Tuesday evening. It was a frank but constructive meeting. The chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, accepted my apology on behalf of the group and told the press afterwards that the community “now looks forward to constructively moving on from this affair”.

I hope you will find this reply reassuring, I thank you again for your correspondence.

Yours sincerely

Martin Ivens
Acting Editor
The Sunday Times

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.