President of Political Cartoon Society: Sunday Times cartoon 'a storm in a teacup'

The president of the Political Cartoon Society has described the uproar surrounding a Sunday Times sketch judged to be anti-semitic as “a storm in a teacup”.

Dr Tim Benson - who is Jewis himself -said that no blame should be put on the shoulders of the artist, and instead blamed The Sunday Times for printing the image on Holocaust Memorial Day.

The cartoon, which appears to show the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu paving a wall with the blood and limbs of Palestinians, sparked complaints from the Jewish community and a “major apology” from Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch tweeted last night: "Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times.

"Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon."

This came after the Board of Deputies of British Jews said it had lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission.

The deputies said in a statement that the depiction of a Jewish leader using blood for mortar "is shockingly reminiscent of the blood libel imagery more usually found in parts of the virulently anti-Semitic Arab press".

However Benson insisted there would have been no such reaction had the cartoon appeared a couple of weeks before.

“I don’t think he [Scarfe] was responsible for it appearing on Holocaust Memorial Day and that is the problem,” he told Press Gazette.

Benson said this subject are was always "risky" and "a political minefield where it is necessary to tread carefully". But said the cartoon was typical of Scarfe's style and that the "timing" was key.

He described the fact it appeared on Holocaust Memorial Day as a “massive coincidence”, and added: “These people are so busy and have so many deadlines – on this occasion they did not put two and two together.”

In 2003 Benson was accused of being a "Nazi and an extreme right-wing fascist" when the Political Cartoon Society named a controversial Independent cartoon, showing Israeli leader Ariel Sharon eating a baby, Political Cartoon of the Year.

After the Board of Deputies of British Jews made their complaint public, The Sunday Times’ acting editor Martin Ivens said in a statement that insulting the memory of Holocaust victims or invoking blood libel was "the last thing I or anyone connected with the Sunday Times would countenance".

"The paper has long written strongly in defence of Israel and its security concerns, as have I as a columnist," he said.

"We are, however, reminded of the sensitivities in this area by the reaction to the cartoon, and I will, of course, bear them very carefully in mind in future."

Ivens was made acting editor of the paper on Friday 18 January, after Sunday Times editor John Witherow was moved over to become acting editor of The Times.

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