Steve Bell’s third in a series of five strips, which The Guardian declined to publish.
The strip alludes to Tom Watson’s recent criticism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of allegations of anti-Semitism within the party. Corbyn’s supporters, however, accuse his political opponents of launching a witch-hunt against him to fulfil a political agenda.
The email was published by BuzzFeed reporter Mark Di Stefano.
The post, addressed or an editor, begins thus:
“After our strange phone conversation yesterday, I was afraid you wouldn’t publish today’s strip.”
“You said the ‘lawyers are concerned’, but why, it’s not anti-Semitic or libellous even though it includes a caricature of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bell accuses the editors of being overly sensitive to the “hellish” issue of anti-Semitism and complains about the Guardian’s “mysterious editorial line it has drawn around the issue of ‘anti-Semitic tropes'”.
The cartoonist also points out that The Guardian recently published, and then removed, a letter in support of Labour’s Chris Williamson, who was accused of anti-Semitism. The letter had been signed by 100 Jewish personalities, including the academic Noam Chomsky.
Bell does not understand why the newspaper considers the rejected strip to be more dangerous and likely to provoke a lawsuit from Tom Watson, when in the two previous strips, which The Guardian had already published, he calls Watson an ‘anti-Semite-seeking general’.
He closes his post with the big question that no media outlet usually answers frankly:
or are there certain subjects we simply can’t touch?
Perhaps he is right and the paranoia of fear of anti-Semitism accusations in the cartoons is the key. This is not the first time that The Guardian has rejected a cartoon by Bell because of accusations of anti-Semitism. Other cartoonists have been in trouble and fired for the same reason.
To understand the story it is necessary to look at the strips in order.
Bell makes a humorous reference to the “witchfinders”, the witch-hunters of 17th century England who travelled the country identifying suspected witches or demoniacs, who were then tortured into confessing and eventually hanged.
The leader of that campaign to rid the land of this ‘satanic’ evil was a man named Matthew Hopkins, who was called the “General Witchfinder”. In the first instalment of the series Bell alludes to Hopkins in the person of Tom Watson, Labour’s second-in-command, calling him the “anti-Semitic witchfinder general”
This was the first to be published in The Guardian on 15 July.
The next, published on 16 July, also in the Guardian.
The third strip, on 17 July, no longer appeared in the Guardian. The newspaper did not want to publish it and Steve Bell published it on his personal website
The fourth strip of 18 July was also published only on Bell’s website, and not in The Guardian.
And the fifth strip, which closes the series, was published on 22 July, this time in The Guardian.
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