Cartoon award reignites row

Dave Brown’s winning cartoon depicted Ariel Sharon eating a baby

A controversial cartoon which depicted Israeli leader Ariel Sharon eating a baby has been named Political Cartoon of the Year.

The prize has reignited the controversy, and allegations of antisemitism, which erupted when the Dave Brown cartoon first appeared in The Independent in January.

The prize was awarded by the Political Cartoon Society after a vote involving the 200 people who attended its annual awards night at the offices of The Economist.

Society founder Dr Tim Benson, who is himself Jewish, said he had received more than 400 angry e-mails a day, been inundated with hate-mail and had an office window smashed since the award was announced.

He said: “I have e-mails calling me a Nazi and an extreme right-wing fascist. I think they have got it completely out of context.”

Prime Minister Sharon himself lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission when the cartoon first appeared, saying it was prejudicial and pejorative. The complaint was rejected.

Benson said: “The treatment of Sharon is no different from the treatment Dave Brown hands out to other world leaders – I can understand why people have got upset, it’s the implication that this is a link to the blood libels of centuries past that Jews drank the blood of Christian babies.

“I don’t think he meant that – it was quite clearly an attack on Sharon and the Likud Party. It was an allusion to the fact that politicians like to have photo opportunities with babies.”

The cartoon originally appeared two days before the Israeli election and included the words “after Goya” – a reference to the Goya painting entitled “Saturn Devouring One of His Children”.

In its adjudication, the PCC said it was not prepared to make a connection between the cartoon and blood libel.

It said: “It’s unreasonable to expect editors to take into account all possible interpretations of material that they intend to publish … that would be to interpret the code in a manner that would impose burdens on newspapers that would arguably interfere with their rights to freedom of expression.”

The Political Cartoon of the Year is in its third year and attracted 40 entries from the country’s leading cartoonists, who were invited to select their best cartoon of the year. Kal (Kevin Kallaugher) from The Economist came second, Matt (Matthew Pritchett) from The Daily Telegraph came third and Steve Bell from The Guardian came fourth.

By Dominic Ponsford

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