Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell has written an angry email to staff after the newspaper declined to publish his latest cartoon, allegedly over worries about “anti-Semitism” and a possible “legal challenge.”
In a leaked letter posted to Twitter by BuzzFeed journalist Mark Di Stefano, Bell refers to a “bizarre telephone conversation” he had – presumably with an editor – about his latest cartoon. Bell was told that the paper’s lawyers “were concerned” about the cartoon, which features the Labour Party’s deputy leader Tom Watson as a witchfinder on the hunt for “unholy anti-Semitic tropes,” as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
NEW: Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell emails staff about Tom Watson-Benjamin Netanyahu piece which wasn't run today, complaining about the Guardian’s “mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of antisemitism and the infernal subject of ‘antisemitic tropes’”: pic.twitter.com/tE3t8AUdv9
— Mark Di Stefano ?? (@MarkDiStef) July 17, 2019
One of the panels shows Netanyahu with two plush puppets he calls “Trumpy Wumpy” and “Bozzy Wozzy” – clearly referring to US President Donald Trump and current candidate for Tory leader and UK prime minister, Boris Johnson.
“Sorry,” says the cartoon Watson, backing down. “I thought you were members of the Labour Party.”
Steve Bell cartoon strip the Guardian refused to publish. pic.twitter.com/gICL5iP4EZ
— Paul Gormley (@paulfg42) July 17, 2019
Bell contends that the caricatures are “not anti-Semitic” or “libelous” and that if Watson objected, he would “make himself look far sillier than he does in the cartoon.”
Watson has recently criticized Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of accusations of anti-Semitism within the party. Corbyn’s defenders, however, accuse his political opponents of launching a witch hunt against him to serve a political agenda.
Bell said he “cannot understand” why the cartoon in question would be more open to a legal challenge from Watson than his two previous illustrations, which the Guardian had already published. Those cartoons labelled Watson the “anti-Semite finder general.”'
Read more: Cartoonist slams Guardian for spiking illustration over ‘anti-Semitism’ concerns