Leading British Jews call for meeting with Guardian editor over cartoon

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has called for an “urgent” meeting with the editor-in-chief of The Guardian over the use of “antisemitic tropes” in a cartoon about Richard Sharp.

The newspaper removed the drawing by cartoonist Martin Rowson from the Guardian website on Saturday and apologised to the Jewish community and Mr Sharp – who announced his resignation as BBC chair earlier in the week.

A review found the former Tory donor broke the rules by failing to disclose that he played a role in getting then-PM Boris Johnson an £800,000 loan guarantee.

On Sunday, the Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote in a Twitter statement: “We have written to The Guardian requesting an urgent meeting with the editor Katharine Viner in regard to yesterday’s shocking cartoon in the paper, which contained antisemitic tropes.

“This is far from the first time that the paper has crossed the line in terms of highly questionable content connected to the Jewish community.”

The cartoon was also criticised by the Campaign Against Antisemitism’s chief executive, Gideon Falter, who said it came when people who practise Judaism “observed the Sabbath” and called it a “resignation offence” for Ms Viner.

Cartoonist Rowson also apologised on his website, saying: “The cartoon was a failure and on many levels: I offended the wrong people, Sharp wasn’t the main target of the satire.

“I rushed at something without allowing enough time to consider things with the depth and care they require, and thereby letting slip in stupid ambiguities that have ended up appearing to be something I never intended.”

Mr Sharp was depicted in the drawing with a box marked Goldman Sachs, where he used to work, that contained what appears to be a puppet of the current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, an animal that looks like a squid and a CV – while a Mr Johnson figure sits on money.

Posting on Twitter on Saturday, author David Rich, who has written books about antisemitism, explained animals with tentacles among other “tropes” are used in negative drawings about Jewish people.

He wrote: “You might argue that outsized facial features and tentacles are common to other topics too, so it’s just a cartoon thing.

“Except where something has a long and familiar antisemitic history, it takes on a different meaning when you apply it to Jews.”

Former chancellor and ex-health secretary Sajid Javid also wrote on Twitter: “Disappointed to see these tropes in today’s Guardian. Disturbing theme – or at best, lessons not learned?”

In a statement, The Guardian said: “As we said yesterday this cartoon does not meet our editorial standards, and we have decided to remove it from our website.

“The Guardian apologises to Mr Sharp, to the Jewish community and to anyone offended.”

“We have received a small number of complaints about the cartoon. The Guardian’s independent readers’ editor is considering these and will respond in due course.”