London Diary: The Israel–Hamas war comes to town
The venerable Guardian, the self-proclaimed champion of free speech, has just sacked its veteran cartoonist Steve Bell over a cartoon it said was ‘antisemitic’
If you live in Britain, you can be forgiven for believing that the Israel–Palestine war is being fought on British soil.
The media—and one is talking about the mainstream media—is dripping with breathless stories of ‘antisemitic’ attacks on local Jews by Palestinian expats and their supporters.
The venerable Guardian, the self-proclaimed champion of free speech, has just sacked its veteran cartoonist Steve Bell over a cartoon it said was ‘antisemitic’. It featured Benjamin Netanyahu operating on his own stomach, with an outline of the Gaza Strip visible on it.
The paper claimed it echoed Shylock’s ‘pound of flesh’ line in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
Bell, who had been associated with The Guardian for more than 40 years, told the BBC that “it made no sense to me” because his sketch was inspired by David Levine’s famous 1960s cartoon of President Lyndon B. Johnson showing off his operation scar drawn in the shape of a map of Vietnam.
Writing on X, Bell said he submitted the image earlier this month and “four hours later... I received an ominous phone call from the desk with the strangely cryptic message ‘pound of flesh’...”
Bell said he responded: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” And the reply from the desk was: “Jewish bloke; pound of flesh; antisemitic trope.”
A Guardian spokesperson would only say that a “decision has been made not to renew Steve Bell’s contract”.
“Steve Bell‘s cartoons have been an important part of The Guardian over the past 40 years. We thank him and wish him all the best.”
Et tu, Guardian?
The Beeb being hounded
The BBC, the only honourable exception to the British media’s partisanship, is under growing pressure to take a harder line against Hamas. The British government has taken strong exception to its description of Hamas fighters as ‘militants’ rather than ‘terrorists’. Defence secretary Grant Shapps called the policy “disgraceful”, accusing the BBC of losing its “moral compass”.
In the rush to denounce Hamas, the much-vaunted Western liberal notions of free speech, balance and perspective have been abandoned in favour of a shrill partisan narrative that portrays any support for Palestinians as support for Hamas: “You’re either with us or with the enemy.”
Remember the post-9/11 mantra? “You’re either with us or with ’em.”
Antisemitism’ has become a catch-all term to describe any little dispute, or ill-tempered argument between a Jew and a non-Jew, especially a Muslim, as an ‘anti-semitic’ attack.
Thus, when a prominent Times columnist, Giles Coren, was mugged by a group of schoolboys who wanted his phone, his instinctive reaction was that he was targeted because he was a Jew.
“Me gwan stab ya,” one told him, reinforcing his fear of being a victim of an antisemitic attack. But the little boy was armed with nothing more than a disposable watermelon-flavoured vape and a pen.
Soon, he and his friends were on their bikes—and away!
So, we had an ‘anti-semitic’ mugging by a bunch of kids who had no way of knowing Coren was a Jew! Yet, he thought fit to write about it at length!
And, lastly, a production of The Merchant of Venice has been forced to hire extra security after the show was subjected to ‘antisemitic’ trolling on social media. Its production team called the situation a “dystopian nightmare”.