Rupert Murdoch, Gerald Scarfe, and why – as a Jew – I'm dismayed by the Jewish lobby's outrage

This cartoon was provocative and grotesque, but an assault on my religion? No way

Share
Related Topics

It was Woody Allen, appropriately enough, who best articulated my relationship to the Jewish religion. “I'm not a real Jew,” he said, “I'm Jew-ish”.

Although I was born Jewish, my parents were not so much liberal as permissive when it came to religious observance, and I have never really regarded my faith as part of my identity. I always remember the late writer and journalist John Diamond being interviewed about his Jewishness. “What does being Jewish mean to you?” he was asked. “Well,” he responded, hesitantly, “I suppose it's about being funny and clever.”

I would never be as presumptuous as that, but do I know what, for me, being Jewish doesn't mean. It means not getting offended every time someone makes a critical remark about the policies of the Israeli government, deeming it be an attack on all Jewish people and hurling accusations of anti-semitism. My position on the politics of the Middle East is neither unusual nor contradictory: I believe that the state of Israel has a right to exist, but I think the monstrous injustice that has been visited on the Palestinian people shames the civilised world. So I'm afraid I see any attack on Israeli actions through this particular prism.

I have been accused of being self-hating Jew more times than I care to remember. (My friend, the novelist Howard Jacobson, was indignant about this. “Him?” he said. “A self-hating Jew? Certainly not. He loves himself”.) Anyway, all these issues have come to the fore in recent days as I observed the minor controversy over a cartoon by the veteran draughtsman Gerald Scarfe in the latest issue of the Sunday Times. It depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall, and squeezed between the bricks are Palestinian bodies. He is using blood to hold the wall together, and the caption on the drawing is “Will cementing the peace continue?” It is a powerful statement. Scarfe, like many who plough the same furrow, is not one to pull his punches.

The cartoon was published on Holocaust Memorial Day, which even Scarfe himself thought was insensitive, but I examined my reaction on seeing it for the first time. I was taken aback. I winced. It made me think. I imagine Scarfe would think that, in my case, he had done his job. At no stage did I think it was an assault on my religion. There were plenty, however, who thought precisely the opposite, and they swung quickly into action - I have been on the wrong side of the Jewish lobby at various times in my career, and they're a pretty formidable bunch. Rupert Murdoch, no less, was forced to tweet an apology. “Gerald Scarfe's has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times”, he wrote. “Nevertheless, we owe a major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon.”

Of course it's grotesque. Has he never seen a Scarfe cartoon before? But offensive? I can't find any impulse, emotionally or intellectually, that causes me to be offended. Does this make me a bad Jew? Maybe it does, but I do think the world would be a better place if people were able to tell the difference between a political comment and a religious insult.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

KS1 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Corporate Communications Manager - London - up to £80,000

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Corporate Marketing Communications M...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Francois Hollande at the Paris summit on Iraq with ministers from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on 15 September  

What's going to happen in Syria and Iraq? A guide to the new anti-Isis coalition's global strategy

Jonathan Russell
The colours of autumn leaves are among the many pleasures of the coming season  

In Sickness and in Health: As autumn arrives, more of us should wear high-vis clothes

Rebecca Armstrong
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week