Rupert Murdoch apologised on Monday for a “grotesque” cartoon carried in one of his British newspapers showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall with Palestinian bodies.
The acting editor of the Sunday Times newspaper, Martin Ivens, is due to meet with members of the Jewish community in Britain on Tuesday to apologise in person after they made a formal complaint about the image to media regulators.
“Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon,” Murdoch, who owns the Sunday Times and its daily sister paper the Times, said on Twitter.
His comments came after the image in Sunday’s newspaper sparked condemnation in Britain and Israel, particularly because of its timing, appearing on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The cartoon shows a scowling Netanyahu waving a blood-covered trowel, laying bricks in a wall in which Palestinian men, women and children are trapped. Underneath are the words, “Israeli elections – will cementing peace continue?”
“For the people of Israel, this is a cartoon which recalls the dark journalism from one of humankind’s darkest periods,” Israel’s parliamentary speaker, Reuven Rivlin, wrote in a letter to his British counterpart John Bercow.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, a representative body, lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission over what it said was an “appalling” and “disgusting” cartoon.
It said it was “shockingly reminiscent of the blood libel imagery more usually found in parts of the virulently antisemitic Arab press”.
In a statement, Sunday Times acting editor Ivens said: “The last thing I or anyone connected with the Sunday Times would countenance would be insulting the memory of the Shoah or invoking the blood libel.
“The paper has long written strongly in defence of Israel and its security concerns, as have I as a columnist.
“We are however reminded of the sensitivities in this area by the reaction to the cartoon and I will of course bear them very carefully in mind in future.”
Ivens will be meeting with members of the Board of Deputies on Tuesday where he will “apologise face-to-face for any offence caused”, a source familiar with the matter told AFP.
Gerald Scarfe has been a political cartoonist with the Sunday Times since 1967 and has also worked for The New Yorker magazine. He worked on the Disney movie “Hercules” as well as the film of Pink Floyd’s rock opera “The Wall”.