Guardian Cartoonist Steve Bell Denies Anti-Semitism Claims After Drawing Spiked By Editor

Ned Simons
Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell has denied using "anti-Semitic tropes" after

Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell has denied using “anti-Semitic tropes” after one of his drawings was spiked by the newspaper’s editor Katharine Viner.

In two emails sent to journalists in The Guardian’s newsroom seen by HuffPost UK, Bell claimed he had been “unfairly traduced and censored”.

His cartoon featured Theresa May sitting alongside Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu in front of a fire, in which Palestinian medic Razan al-Najjar is burning. The 21-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier on June 4.

Bell said: “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.

“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 It should have been published as it stands, but if you are still obdurate that it should remain unpublished, then I feel a duty to my subject to try and salvage something from this fiasco.”

HuffPost UK understands Bell last week he had another cartoon spiked which portrayed Theresa May as a Russian journalist lying in pool of her own blood.

Email: Wednesday 7.38pm

Dear All

I wouldn’t normally do this, but I think that this cartoon, which has just been spiked, has been unfairly traduced and censored. I think it’s a shame because, so far, I can only find one mention of her on the entire website, and this would at least have been the second.

Sorry to intrude, please be as frank as you like

 Email: Thursday 10.03am

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.

The Guardian and Steve Bell have been contacted for comment.