Steve Bell has fun with antisemitic tropes


Here’s a Steve Bell cartoon published on Feb. 4, in response to an apology by Sunday Times’ owner Rupert Murdoch over the controversial Gerald Scarfe cartoon.

bell (1)(The second frame is a reference to a comment by Murdoch in November, complaining that the “Jewish owned media” is consistently anti-Israel.  The final frame is a reference to Sooty, a popular glove bear and TV character from the 50s.)

As we noted in our post, the cartoon could arguably be interpreted as suggesting that Zionists have a significant degree of control over the media.

Today, Feb. 5, Bell revisited the trio of Murdoch, Bibi and Sooty, and published this, titled ‘On Murdoch, Netanyahu and the little bludger.


If, Bell is indeed perplexed – or, perhaps, amused – with the notion of “antisemitic tropes”, I know just the right person to help him understand its significance.

Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott – who criticized Bell’s cartoon in Nov. which depicted Netanyahu controlling Blair and Hague like puppets, and warned: “…using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery” – wrote the following in Nov. 2011, in a post titled ‘On averting accusations of antisemitism“:

[Comment is Free] moderators…are experienced in spotting the kind of language long associated with antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control, or being clannish and secretive, or the role of Jews in finance and the media.

However, regardless of whether Bell understands (or takes seriously) the lethal history of such racist tropes employed against Jews, a bit of research into his work may provide some insight into why (per his BBC Radio debate with Stephen Pollard) he was so dismissive of accusations that the Scarfe cartoon arguably evoked the antisemitic blood libel.

These cartoons are on Bell’s website: (Below each cartoon is the exact caption used by Bell to identify and date the image.)

2002, blood motif.



2001, blood motif.


1560-7-2-01 SHALOMSHARON


2001, blood motif


1561-8-2-01 WAILINGWALL

Finally, here are two Bell cartoons which evoke an entirely different trope.

1998, Jews as ‘Chosen People’. 


4291-4-5-98 GODSCHOSEN

1998, Jews as ‘Chosen People':


4293-6-5-98 GODSCHOSEN

Here’s another relevant passage from Chris Elliott’s post on antisemitism noted above:

“Two weeks ago a columnist [Deborah Orr] used the term “the chosen” in an item on the release of Gilad Shalit, which brought more than 40 complaints to the Guardian, and an apology from the columnist the following week. “Chosenness”, in Jewish theology, tends to refer to the sense in which Jews are “burdened” by religious responsibilities; it has never meant that the Jews are better than anyone else. Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read “chosen” as code for Jewish supremacism.”

The Guardian, Steve Bell, Bibi and more puppet-like control

Here’s the cartoon published by Steve Bell, Guardian on Nov. 15, titled: Tony Blair and William Hague’s role in Israel-Gaza clash.

Steve Bell 16.12.2012

As we noted in a post the day after the cartoon was published (a graphic depiction of the puppet-like control Bibi had over Blair and Hague in the context of the two British leaders’ expressions of support for Israel’s recent war in Gaza) the cartoon evoked the antisemitic canard of Jewish control over non-Jewish British politicians.  Further, Bell’s cartoon was almost indistinguishable from what is routinely published in the Arab media (in cartoons and in prose) alleging unimaginable Jewish control over world leaders.

Bell defended the cartoon, arguing thus:

“I can’t be held responsible for whatever cultural precepts and misapprehensions people choose to bring to my cartoon.”

Today, February 4th, evidently in response to an apology by Sunday Times’ owner Rupert Murdoch – over the controversial Gerald Scarfe cartoon (published on Holocaust Memorial Day), which depicted mangled, tortured bodies being buried over with bricks laid by the bloody trowel of a murderous Netanyahu – Bell published the following, titled: Steve Bell’s If … on Rupert Murdoch’s apology to Israel.

(Note: the second frame is a reference to a comment by Murdoch in November, complaining that the Jewish owned press is consistently anti-Israel.  The final frame is a reference to Sooty, a popular glove bear and TV character back in the 50s.)


Is Bell mocking Murdoch’s complaint that media companies with Jewish owners are anti-Israel by noting that indeed the opposite is the case – that powerful Zionist Jews in fact exercise too much control over the media?

Admittedly, such graphic depictions inevitably leave a lot open to interpretation.  

However, after the row following Bell’s cartoon in November, Chris Elliott – the Guardian’s readers editor – responded to complaints, noting that the image of Jews having a disproportionate influence over the US and British governments has often been replicated by anti-Jewish cartoonists in the Middle East since the end of the second world war, and concluded thus:

“While journalists and cartoonists…should not use the language – including the visual language – of antisemitic stereotypes.”

Given Bell’s reaction to the row over the Scarfe cartoon – where he mocked the notion that the cartoon was antisemitic during a BBC debate with Stephen Pollard and refused to answer Pollard’s question as to whether he was even aware of the history of antisemitic cartoons in the Arab media – it seems clear that the Guardian cartoonist remains, at the very least, breezily unconcerned with the damage caused by “using visual language” which evokes “antisemitic stereotypes”.

CiF contributor asks: Does Israel depend on the support of right-wing antisemites?

The cognitive gymnastics necessary for a Guardian journalist or ‘Comment is Free’ contributor to claim being ‘shocked’ by antisemitism are quite impressive.

Those engaging in such faux outrage must somehow ignore the fact that ‘Comment is Free’ has arguably published more commentary by Islamist extremists with explicitly (and often violent) antisemitic ideologies than perhaps any other mainstream, widely distributed, Anglo news site.

They’d also have to reconcile their claim to championing anti-racist values with the Guardian’s continuing sanctioning of largely secular, Western extreme left commentators who advance or defend Judeophobic tropes and narratives about Jewish control, dual loyalty and even Jewish supremacy.

It was only after recently re-reading Michael Wolff’s CiF commentary from Nov. 19, Rupert Murdoch and the Jews, in which he lashed out at Murdoch’s critique of Jews in the media, that one line in particular caught my attention.


Wolff, who’s a Murdoch biographer, was commenting on a widely reported story about a Tweet by the News Corp CEO which asked: “Why is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?”.  

While the offensive nature of the Tweet itself is not in doubt – though it’s quite interesting that the theme explored by Murdoch is typically posed, inversely, in a manner complaining of the Jewish-owned media being too pro-Israel – Wolff’s contextualization of the Tweet is enlightening.

He writes:

“From the biographer’s point of view, this continues to be a curious and open-ended question: what does Murdoch really think about the Jews?

Murdoch’s inopportune phrasing also goes to the larger question of the right’s odd relationship to Israel, and its own feelings, more generally, about the Jews. Does being pro-Israel absolve you of your suspicion about Jews? Can you be an antisemite and still support Israel? (More provocatively: does Israel, in some sense, depend on the support of rightwing American antisemites?)”

Wolff’s “provocative” query – which represents a meme actually advanced previously by CiF contributor Slavoj Žižek is nearly unintelligible and certainly intellectually unserious.  

Where are these rightwing antisemitic Zionists that are Wolff is referring to? 

An understanding of the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the interplay between the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ in America would suggest that Wolff is possibly alluding to the enormous support for Israel among US evangelical Christians – a dynamic which is often cited by leftist anti-Zionists to discredit Israel’s American friends.

However, while many of these Christian Zionists may indeed be motivated by eschatology rather than ideology, the fact is that polls by ADL demonstrate that rates of antisemitism among Evangelical Christians are merely on par with the national average – which, at 15%, represents one of the lowest national rates of Judeophobia in the world. (Hispanics/Latinos and African-Americans have the highest rate of antisemitism in the U.S.)

Unsurprisingly, research indicates that there is a close correlation between anti-Israeli views and anti-Semitic views in the West.

Specifically, the study by Edward Kaplan and Charles Small linked to in the previous passage suggests that those who espouse hateful views about Jews are also dramatically more likely to hold explicitly antisemitic views.  

Most interestingly, Kaplan and Small conclude that negative views about Israel don’t represent a “cause” of antisemitism but, rather, “predict” pre-existing (a priori) Jew hatred.

While there may be an extremely marginal number of Zionists who are also antisemitic, one 140 character complaint by one well-known American conservative – regardless of what he actually feels about Jews – doesn’t change the fact that Wolff’s query represents the inverse of reality.

Those opposed to Zionism rely on the passion of avowed antisemites, while the Jewish state continues to depend on the overwhelmingly passionate support it receives from its unabashedly philosemitic friends.

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Shameless in London: Guardian’s 2011 Highlights include phone hacking cover story they had to retract

A thorough review of the hottest stories covered by the Guardian during 2011, by correspondent Polly Curtis, Dec 28, noted the following:

The News International phone-hacking scandal dominated headlines this year, prompting numerous resignations and the closure of News of the World, 8,260 articles (including 5,820 articles on News of the World, 3,891 articles on Rupert Murdoch, 2,381 articles on Andy Coulson, 2,365 articles on Rebekah Brooks and 1,247 articles on the Leveson Inquiry)

Curtis also included the following sensational Guardian cover story on the NotW scandal (published on July 5) to further highlight the paper’s journalistic prowess.

Curiously omitted by Curtis, however, is the fact that the most sensational details of this cover story were ultimately retracted after police testimony and additional revelations in the Leveson Inquiry contradicted the Guardian’s wildest claim: that voice-mail messages were deleted by News of the World journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance, giving Milly’s family false hope.

Here’s the Guardian’s Corrections and clarifications‘ section 8 days ago:

On 13 December the following clarification was published: “An article about the investigation into the abduction and death of Milly Dowler (News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone during police hunt, 5 July, page 1) stated that voicemail ‘messages were deleted by [News of the World] journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance in order to free up space for more messages. As a result friends and relatives of Milly concluded wrongly that she might still be alive.’ Since this story was published new evidence – as reported in the Guardian of 10 December – has led the Metropolitan police to believe that this was unlikely to have been correct and that while the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler’s phone the newspaper is unlikely to have been responsible for the deletion of a set of voicemails from the phone that caused her parents to have false hopes that she was alive, according to a Metropolitan police statement made to the Leveson inquiry on 12 December.” To make this clear we have – since that item appeared on 13 December – appended a footnote to the following 37 stories below that contain either the error or a reference to it.

Missing Milly Dowler’s voicemail was hacked by News of the World, 4 July
Milly Dowler phone hacking: Family shocked by NoW revelations, 4 July
Politics live blog, 5 July
Rebekah Brooks: ‘It’s inconceivable I knew of Milly Dowler phone hacking’, 5 July
Miliband says Brooks must consider her position over phone hacking, 5 July
Milly Dowler phone hacking pressures News of the World to come clean, 5 July
News International: Hacking away at the truth, 5 July
News of the World phone hacking: Police review all child abduction cases, 5 July
Warm glow of BSkyB deal subsides as Brooks feels chill of wind reality, 6 July
News of the World: Murdoch takes the initiative, but will it end the crisis?, 7 July
Over more than three decades, no one dared question the perversion of politics by and for Rupert Murdoch, 10 July
Milly Dowler’s family call for Rebekah Brooks to resign, 11 July
News Corp BskyB U-turn a victory for the public, says Dowler family lawyer, 13 July
Rupert Murdoch gives up BskyB takeover bid, 14 July
Phone hacking fall out: ten days that shook Britain, 15 July
Rupert Murdoch apology to Milly Dowler family was sincere, says lawyer, 15 July
News Corp must now face greater scrutiny in the US, 20 July
Murdochs in line for multimillion dollar bonuses despite phone-hacking crisis, 26 July
News of the World targeted phone of Sarah Payne’s mother, 28 July
Sunday Times bans use of subterfuge, 5 August
Milly Dowler phone hackers ‘used more than one voicemail’, 20 August
Phone hacking: Milly Dowler’s family offered £2m-plus settlement, 19 September
News International offers Milly Dowler’s family £3m settlement, 20 September
Milly Dowler’s family urges Cameron to rethink legal reforms, 22 September
Phone hacking: NI confirms £2m for Dowlers and £1m charity donation, 21 October
Leveson inquiry: Dowlers believe phone hacking intruded into ‘private grief’, 16 November
Leveson inquiry told hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone ‘despicable’, 16 November
Leveson inquiry: Hugh Grant and Dowlers to give evidence, 18 November
Phone hacking: Steve Coogan compares NI to a ‘protection racket’, 18 November
Milly Dowler’s parents to testify at Leveson inquiry, 20 November
Leveson inquiry into phone hacking: first witnesses – profiles, 21 November
Leveson inquiry: phone hacking ‘made Dowlers think Milly was alive’, 21 November
News blog: Leveson inquiry: Hugh Grant and the Dowlers give evidence, 21 November
Hugh Grant accuses Mail on Sunday of phone hacking, 21 November
Phone-hacking victims take chance to tell their own story, 22 November
The Leveson inquiry witnesses are collateral damage, 27 November
Leveson inquiry: why journalists should cry – and visit the prayer room, 28 November

The following Press Association articles on the Guardian’s website have also been footnoted:

Milly Dowler phone hacking claim, 4 July
Dowlers ‘suing paper over hacking’, 5 July
Charity to benefit from Dowler deal, 20 September
Dowlers’ ‘euphoria’ over voicemails, 16 November
Dowlers to give evidence to inquiry, 20 November
Milly’s parents attend press probe, 21 November
Grant’s suspicions over burglary, 21 November
Milly’s parents attend press probe, 21 November
Dowlers to give evidence to inquiry, 21 November
Milly phone hack ‘gave false hope’, 21 November
Hugh Grant: Non-Murdoch tabloid hacked me in 2007, 22 November

So, if you include the Press Association reports, a total of 48 stories had to be amended to reflect the glaring Guardian error.

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to CiF Watch readers.

The phone hacking story retraction is classic Guardian.

A furious rush to judgement.

A sensational headline and narrative, to impute maximum guilt to the accused, without arduously attempting to corroborate the claim.

Seemingly remorseless even after all but being forced to revise a story or retract an allegation in light of contradictory evidence.

You don’t have to be a blog dedicated to exposing antisemitism, and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy, at the Guardian to acknowledge the institution’s shoddy and ethically irresponsible journalism.

Guardian’s ethical problems pile up: Police question senior Guardian reporter over phone hacking leaks

Now we don't have to read the book to know how they did it

A Guardian journalist, Amelia Hill, who was leading the coverage of the phone-hacking scandal for the Guardian has been placed under caution and questioned by police at Scotland Yard over alleged leaks from police.

It is thought that the questioning of Ms Hill, who has broken a string of exclusives surrounding the phone hacking probe, was linked to the arrest earlier this month of a 51-year-old detective on suspicion of leaking information to the newspaper.

It has been claimed she published information based on leaks from the detective assigned to the inquiry into the phone hacking probe centered on Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World.

Hill has indeed written several exclusive stories for the Guardian about the investigation into the phone hacking scandal at the now defunct Sunday tabloid.

In response to the police questioning of Hill, the Guardian argued that the case could have lasting repercussions for the way journalists deal with police officers. The statement added:

“On a broader point, journalists would no doubt be concerned if the police sought to criminalise conversations between off-record sources and reporters.”

However, the Guardian, whose coverage of the phone-hacking scandal regarding Rupert Murdoch and News of the World was as sanctimonious as it was zealous, still – as far as I can tell – hasn’t responded to the acknowledgement by David Leigh, the Guardian’s investigations executive editor, back in 2006, that he repeatedly engaged in phone hacking.  As we noted previously, David Leigh also happens to be Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger’s brother in law.

It was also recently reported that Leigh negligently disclosed top-secret WikiLeaks’ decryption passwords, thus enabling public access to hundreds of thousands of unredacted unpublished US diplomatic cables.