There is a new anti-semitic cartoon controversy, this time from The Guardian’s cartoonist Steve Bell. Buzzfeed’s media critic Mark Di Stefano first tweeted the cartoon and email that Bell sent to all of The Guardian’s staff journalists.

Bell’s cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was killed, prompting Bell’s mass email. The cartoon depicts British Labour Party deputy secretary, Tom Watson as an “antisemite finder general” calling Netanyahu an “antisemitic trope.”

The Jewish Chronicle reports:

“Last June, (Bell) emailed all journalists to say he felt “unfairly traduced and censored” after the paper would not run his cartoon of Theresa May meeting Benjamin Netanyahu while Palestinian Razan al-Najjar, who had been shot and killed by an Israeli soldier, burned in the fireplace behind.”

‘He accused Guardian editor Kath Viner of not speaking to him because she “did not really have an argument” for spiking the cartoon.”

“In November 2012, his cartoon that depicted Mr Netanyahu as a puppeteer prompted many complaints to the press regulator.”

In his mass email, Bell Writes:

“I suspect the real cause is it contravenes some mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of antisemitism and the infernal subject of antisemitic tropes.”

“In some ways this is even more worrying than the specious charges of antisemitism. Does the Guardian no longer tolerate content that runs counter to its editorial line?”

“In November 2012, (Bell’s) cartoon that depicted Mr Netanyahu as a puppeteer prompted many complaints to the press regulator.”

Here is the complete text of the letter that Bell wrote to The Guardian’s “Head of Features” Kira Cochrane, and forwarded as a mass email to all of The Guardian’s staff journalists:

Dear Kira

After our bizarre telephone conversation yesterday, I feared you might not publish today’s strip, but still cannot understand why the attached should be more liable to legal challenge from Tom Watson than either of the previous two strips that you have already published. You said the ‘lawyers were concerned’, but what about? It’s not antisemitic, nor is it libellous, even though it includes a caricature of Binyamin Netanyahu. If Watson chose to object he would make himself look far sillier than he does in the cartoon.

I suspect that the real problem is that it contravenes some mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of antisemitism and the infernal subject of ‘antisemitic tropes’. In some ways this is even more worrying for me than specious charges of antisemitism. Does the Guardian no longer tolerate content that counters its editorial line?

Why in today’s paper has the Guardian published a highly partisan and personally insulting (to the leader of the Labour Party) advert on page 20 that uses the Labour Party logo, but is clearly not a Labour Party approved advert? I would have thought that there would be far more reason to expect a legal challenge on that than on my my cartoon. Or is it that you don’t want to offend poor Tom but are quite happy to offend poor Jeremy?

Why on earth did the Guardian publish, then unpublish, a letter in support of Chris Williamson signed by 100 persons identifying themselves as Jewish, including Noam Chomsky? Were they the wrong kind of Jews. The paper’s contortions on this subject do not do it any credit. If there is a reasoned position on this highly contentious issue, then I would dearly love to see it laid out clearly so we all know where we stand. Or are there some subjects that we just can’t touch?

Best wishes
Steve Bell