Jun 7, 2018

    Guardian Cartoonist Steve Bell Sent The Paper's Staff An Angry Email After A Cartoon Criticising Israel Was Rejected

    Steve Bell hit back at the Guardian for claims his cartoon had Nazi overtones.

    The @Guardian is holding back publication of Steve Bell's latest 'toon. Mustn't upset Benjamin Netanyahu...

    Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell has written an angry email to the newspaper's staff after his latest piece – showing Palestinian medic Razan Al-Najjar in an oven between UK prime minister Theresa May and Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu – was not published.

    In an email Bell sent on Thursday morning, first reported by HuffPost, the cartoonist hit back at what appeared to be internal claims that his cartoon played on anti-Semitic tropes and was associated with "Nazi-related nonsense".

    "I cannot for the life of me begin to understand criticism of the cartoon that begins by dragging in ‘wood-burning stoves’, ‘ovens’, ‘holocaust’, or any other nazi-related nonsense," Bell said.

    "That was the last thing on my mind when I drew it, I had no intention of conflating the issues of the mass murder of European Jews and Gaza."

    Sean Gallup / Getty Images

    Razan Al-Najjar was shot dead by Israeli forces last weekend, with her death sparking global tributes to the 21-year-old Palestinian medic.

    Bell appeared to address concerns raised by Guardian editorial staff about what was conveyed in the cartoon.

    "The cartoon is sensitive, not tasteless, not disrespectful, and certainly contains no anti-Semitic tropes.

    "It should have been published as it stands, but if you are still obdurate that it should remain unpublished, then I feel a duty to my subject to try and salvage something from this fiasco, and will resubmit it to you later this morning in a form that may get around some of the criticisms (to my mind wholly unjustified) that were made last night."

    BuzzFeed News has contacted the Guardian for comment.

    The full email, addressed to Guardian editor Kath Viner, can be read here:

    Dear Kath

    I thought I’d write to you after I’d cooled down a bit, and in time for today’s morning conference (which I regret I won’t be able to attend). I took the liberty of sending the cartoon out on a global yesterday evening. I didn’t want to tweet it as this should still be an internal matter. However I do think that an unfortunate precedent has been set here.

    I cannot for the life of me begin to understand criticism of the cartoon that begins by dragging in ‘wood-burning stoves’, ‘ovens’, ‘holocaust’, or any other nazi-related nonsense. That was the last thing on my mind when I drew it, I had no intention of conflating the issues of the mass murder of European Jews and Gaza. It’s a fireplace, in front of which VIP visitors to Downing Street are always pictured (see page 12 of today’s Times), and the figure of Razan al-Najjar is burning in the grate. It’s a widely known photograph of her, becoming iconic across the Arab world and the burning is of course symbolic. She’s dead, she was shot and killed by the IDF while doing her job as a medic.

    I’m sorry you didn’t think it appropriate to talk to me yesterday, and I fear Katherine Butler bore the brunt of my outrage, for which I apologise to her, but forgive me for suspecting that the reason that you did not get in touch was because you did not really have an argument. The cartoon is sensitive, not tasteless, not disrespectful, and certainly contains no anti-Semitic tropes. It should have been published as it stands, but if you are still obdurate that it should remain unpublished, then I feel a duty to my subject to try and salvage something from this fiasco, and will resubmit it to you later this morning in a form that may get around some of the criticisms (to my mind wholly unjustified) that were made last night.

    I do hope you can find your way to publishing it. I don’t believe that I have any divine right to have my worked published come what may, and am always prepared to take heed of substantive criticism.

    Best wishes

    Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

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