Wednesday 30 January 2013

Thick as a brick in the wall

Rupert Murdoch, as we know, has had to once again swallow a large piece of humble following the outcry over Gerald Scarfe's  Holocaust Memorial Day cartoon in the Sunday Times. Scarfe himself, in what I think must be for him an unprecedented step, said he was sorry. But it was a qualified apology. He did not know, he said, that the cartoon was to appear on Holocaust Memorial Day. From this we may assume that on any other day it would have been appropriate to caricature the Israeli Prime Minister as a bloodthirsty, genocidal monster using Palestinian citizens as bricks in the bloody wall of his political career. It is worth remembering that the cartoon as such was not a protest against the wall erected by the Israelis to keep suicide bombers out of Israel. Entitled, 'Israeli Elections... Will Cementing Peace Continue,' it was a claim that the the Israel Prime Minister is not serious about peace and that he is murdering Palestinians in pursuit of political power. In other words: a vote for Netanyahu is vote for fascism. If that really is the case, bring it on. Let's have more of the same, especially on Holocaust Memorial Days.

Why did the Sunday Times publish the cartoon when they did? The way the thinking goes is something like this: We all sympathise with the Jews. They have suffered so much and we sympathise with them to the point that we've now set aside a day each year on which we share in their grief and sorrow. But look at how they behave. The people who have suffered so much are now inflicting pain on their powerless neighbours. Those who endured the Holocaust over a six-year period have been perpetrating a holocaust on the Palestinians for almost 65 years. Those who were oppressed by the Nazis have themselves become Nazis.

If all that is true, Murdoch and Scarfe owe Israel no apology. If the state of Israel is an apartheid, genocidal regime run by Nazis, it deserves no sympathy. The sooner the current regime is replaced the better. And if they can't elect a government that respects basic human rights then the state deserves to be dismantled.

I loved Gerald Scarfe's anti-American, anti-South Africa, anti-Rhodesia cartoons in the sixties and seventies. Some white Americans, white South Africans and white Rhodesians were incandescent with rage over Scarfe's hyper-exaggerated depictions of Richard Nixon's nose (see above) and Ian Smith's glass eye. But whatever one's opinions about US troops in Vietnam and white minority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa back then, American bombs really were  dropping on the villages of South East Asia, and black South Africans and Rhodesians really were suffering under the apartheid regimes in those countries.

And that's the entire point. Though Scarfe's portrait of Binyamin Netanyahu is positively photographic compared to the excoriating caricatures of politicians he produced in the 1960s, the idea that the Prime Minister of Israel is massacring Palestinian civilians for his own political ends (or for any ends for that matter) is a palpable lie. And for Murdoch's newspaper to feature it on Holocaust Memorial Day compounds the injury.

I wonder what Gerald Scarfe's reaction would be if a fellow satirical cartoonist portrayed him at his drawing board, pen dripping with blood surrounded by blood-stained cheques being watched at work by the tear-stained, traumatised eyes of women and children from the bombed Israeli city of Sderot.

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