Acting Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens met Jewish community leaders and issued an unreserved apology for the publication of a Gerald Scarfe cartoon which has since been condemned as anti-semitic.
Yesterday the cartoon was removed from the electronic edition of The Sunday Times and replaced with a blank space and the statement: "Content has been suppressed for editorial and/or legal reaasons."
In a statement News International noted yesterday that Jewish community associations made the following points at the meeting:
"Jews (and others) throughout the country reacted to this cartoon with a visceral disgust that is unprecedented in recent years. This was due to the gratuitous and offensive nature of the image, made worse by its use of blood and its being published by Britain's leading Sunday newspaper on Holocaust Memorial Day.
"Blood has a long and ugly tradition within the history of anti-semitism, premised upon the notorious medieval Blood Libel, with Jews being alleged to steal the blood of others for religious purposes. The use of blood, including on occasion the actual Blood Libel, persists in extreme Arab and Iranian anti-Israel propaganda. It is a profoundly disturbing example of the adaptation of anti-semitism for modern day usage.
"These historical and contemporary contexts have racist impacts upon victims and proponents alike. This is why so many Jews were wounded by the cartoon,regardless of the initial motivations of Gerald Scarfe and the Sunday Times."
Ivens said in a statement: "I’m grateful so many community leaders could come together at such short notice. You will know that the Sunday Times abhors anti-semitism and would never set out to cause offence to the Jewish people – or any other ethnic or religious group. That was not the intention last Sunday.
"Everyone knows that Gerald Scarfe is consistently brutal and bloody in his depictions, but last weekend – by his own admission – he crossed a line. The timing – on Holocaust Memorial Day – was inexcusable. The associations on this occasion were grotesque and on behalf of the paper I’d like to apologise unreservedly for the offence we clearly caused. This was a terrible mistake.”
Mick Davis, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, said “We have voiced our concern in response to the strength of the feeling from all sections of the Jewish Community. I welcome the genuine apology from the Sunday Times. I appreciate the urgency and respect with which the Sunday Times have treated Jewish communal concerns and now look forward to constructively moving on from this affair.”
Scarfe insisted that the cartoon was not anti-semitic, but he apologised for the timing of its publication saying he was unaware it was Holocaust Memorial Day.