Sunday, August 03, 2014

Fairfax apologises and withdraws SMH cartoon criticised as antisemitic 

The Sydney Morning Herald has retracted and apologised for publishing a cartoon described by Jewish leaders as racist and admitted it was a serious error of judgment to publish it.

The cartoon, which accompanied a column by Mike Carlton last month, has been removed from the paper’s websites.

The editor of the Herald, Darren Goodsir, originally defended Glen Le Lievre’s drawing about the conflict in Gaza, but in Monday’s newspaper editorial said that his decision had been “too simplistic and ignored the use of religious symbols”.

On Monday, Goodsir told Guardian Australia he had reached the decision “after a long 10 days of serious thinking, and reflection”.

Last week the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies accused Fairfax Media of racial vilification and demanded an apology for the cartoon, which they said was “a grotesque stereotype of a Jew using a remote-control device to blow up houses and people in Gaza”.

Jewish community leaders and many others had written to the Herald to complain about the cartoon and the Australian Jewish News had called for its readers to boycott Fairfax Media’s publications.

“The Herald now appreciates that, in using the Star of David and the kippah in the cartoon, the newspaper invoked an inappropriate element of religion, rather than nationhood, and made a serious error of judgment,” the editorial said.

“It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form.

“We apologise unreservedly for this lapse, and the anguish and distress that has been caused.”

The Jewish community felt that the drawing of a man with a big nose constituted racial vilification and would incite third parties to hatred of Jews.

Goodsir’s explanation that there was no intention to invoke any disturbing stereotypes fell on deaf ears.

The paper said the cartoon was directly modelled on a number of photographs published on major news sites during the past week of men, seated in armchairs and lounges, observing the shelling of Gaza from the hills of Sderot.

“One of these photographs depicted an old man, sitting alone, observing the conflict – and this is what particularly influenced the drawing.

“Not only did Mr Le Lievre use an actual image as the source for his cartoon, he adopted the same distinctive style he has developed over the years in which most old people have very pronounced features, including eyes, faces and noses. He has not diverted from his overall drawing style in this instance. He usually draws old people this way.”


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