Murdoch apologises over 'grotesque' Sunday Times cartoon

 Rupert Murdoch yesterday used Twitter to offer a "major apology" for a "grotesque" cartoon in the Sunday Times that has sparked claims of anti-semitism.

The Gerald Scarfe image appears to show Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu paving a wall with the blood and limbs of Palestinians.

Murdoch said in his tweet: "Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of the Sunday Times.

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

The political cartoon, which was published on Holocaust Memorial Day, shows Netanyahu holding a trowel and carries the lines: "Israeli elections. Will cementing peace continue?"

Jewish community leaders said they were disturbed by parallels they saw between the red-tinged drawing and historical anti-Semitic propaganda.

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".

In a statement, the paper's acting editor Martin Ivens said 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 Sunday Times.

The independent directors of Times Newspapers have so far refused to approve permanent job changes.

Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff said on Twitter last night that he only knew of three other occasions when Murdoch had publicly apologised: over phone-hacking, The Sun's coverage of Hillsborough and a cartoon in the New York Post which portrayed Barack Obama as a chimp.

The cartoon has not been withdrawn from the Sunday Times digital edition.

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