A Great Cartoonist Got Fired for Drawing This Cartoon

The three top editorial cartoonists in Israel tell us why this wasn’t an anti-Semitic cartoon and why Steve Bell should not have been fired. The cartoon depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu carving a map of Gaza on his belly.

Our favorite cartoonist, Steve Bell, was fired from the Guardian newspaper in Britain for drawing an anti-Semitic cartoon. The three top editorial cartoonists in Israel tell us why it wasn't an anti-Semitic cartoon and why Steve should not have been fired. The cartoon depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu carving a map of Gaza on his belly.

The Cartoonists:

Uri Fink is a very popular comic book artist and writer along with being an editorial cartoonist. He's published 22 books of his popular Zbeng! comic strip and comic book and is the editor of the Zbeng magazine which has had over a two hundred issues. Uri is the president of the Association of Israeli Cartoonists and is an old convention buddy of mine. He went to Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem.

Michel Kichka is an editorial cartoonist for various Israeli TV channels, he draws graphic novels including an impressive one about his father who was a Holocaust survivor. Michel won the cow at St Just le Martel and a ton of other awards, and he's a professor at the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem.

Moshik Gulst is an editorial cartoonist originally from Ashqelon, a city which has recently been devastated by rockets from Gaza. He currently lives in Tel Aviv area and is the head cartoonist for Israel's largest circulation newspaper Israel Hayom, as well as several other newspapers. He is the author of several national award winning comic books And works closely with international human rights organizations. He studied at the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem.

00:00 The cartoon that was blamed for getting Steve Bell fired from the Guardian
00:00 Introduction and Israel's Top Cartoonists
00:22 Discussion on Steve Bell's Netanyahu Cartoon
01:02 Reaction to Steve Bell's Firing
01:39 Israeli Cartoonists' Perspective
02:54 The Role of Newspapers and Editors
03:32 Reflections on the Impact of the Firing
05:41 The Importance of Supporting Cartoonists
06:41 The Misuse of Anti-Semitism Accusations
07:29 Closing Remarks


[00:00:00]Daryl CagleHi, I'm Daryl Cagle, and this is a little extra Caglecast that we're going to put together with our Israeli cartoonist friends, discussing Steve Bell, the cartoonist for The Guardian in London. And Steve Bell was fired from his job for drawing this cartoon of Netanyahu, and we should explain the cartoon a little bit.

[00:00:22]Daryl CagleNetanyahu is drawing with a knife, um, Gaza on his belly, He's saying residents of Gaza get out now, but he is in the position of a very famous cartoon by David Levine depicting Lyndon Johnson showing Vietnam on his belly. And this was drawn after a very famous photo of Lyndon Johnson after An operation showing his scar on his belly.

[00:00:46]Daryl CagleAnd so David Levine, the cartoonist for the New York Times book review at the time, drew, Lyndon Johnson's scar as, Vietnam. And that is the metaphor from Steve Bell that, Gaza is Israel's Vietnam. Now, Steve Bell was fired for this cartoon, because his... Editors at The Guardian said that this was an anti Semitic cartoon.

[00:01:10]Daryl CagleAnd I argue it's not, and I would like to hear from the top Israeli editorial cartoonists what you think about Steve Bell getting fired for drawing this cartoon that his editor said was anti Semitic. Steve Bell had an extra six months left on his contract with The Guardian, and The Guardian said that...

[00:01:28]Daryl CagleThey will honor the contract by paying him for that six months, but they won't print any more of his cartoons during that time. I think that's pretty outrageous.

[00:01:37]Daryl CagleSo, uh, gentlemen. Discuss

[00:01:41]Uri Finkwhat I can say as the chairman of the Israeli Cartoonist Society Association or whatever and a big Steve Bell fan that I sent out a letter, a letter from the Israeli Cartoonist Society that says that we opposed the firing of Steve Bell. And there's nothing anti Semitic about this cartoon.

[00:01:59]Uri FinkThere's nothing, I mean, I think the anti Semitism here is just an excuse. There's nothing anti Semitic about this cartoon. There's, I don't, we don't find any, anything. I mean, the, an Israeli cartoonist could have done this cartoon as, as much as anybody else. And, uh, really, it's totally ridiculous. So the anti-Semite anti-Semitism, uh, issue here is completely, uh, I mean, it's not, it's nothing.

[00:02:26]Uri FinkIt's, it's, it doesn't exist. I think it's just an excuse that they made up. I can't believe anybody was thinking about this cartoon, that it's really antisemitic. Uh mm-Hmm. , you know, it's a political cartoon and, uh, you know, I sent it to, I, I. Really, I think that's one of the first documents I sent. I sent it to everybody in the world, including you, Daryl.

[00:02:48]Uri Finkthat, that's, that's not the issue here. And the truth is that we have a lot of, uh, I think... A lot of newspapers are using this, because the newspaper business is in such dire straits that it's not, it's not working, it's not making any profit. They're just making up excuses to fire cartoonists. Because they, it's too difficult for them to handle, they don't understand the medium.

[00:03:09]Uri FinkThey, for them it's too difficult, they can, they can edit, uh, articles and stuff like that, but cartoons is too difficult, it's too dangerous. So they just, because they don't make that much money anymore, they say, let's just leave it. And I think it's very dangerous because... The medium of cartoon is very, very important.

[00:03:24]Uri FinkI think for free speech, it's essential and it's a disgrace for, for the Guardian. I think it's really a disgrace.

[00:03:32]Daryl CagleI should mention that Steve Bell is a very well respected cartoonist in our profession.

[00:03:38]Daryl CagleWe are all, all big Steve Bell fans. And, so, among his colleagues, this hits us hard. And of course, you don't need a reason to fire a cartoonist. Cartoonists are getting laid off left and right just because newspapers are shrinking. if they wanted to lay him off, they could just lay him off.

[00:03:55]Daryl CagleThey don't need all of this anti Semitism as a reason.

[00:03:58]Michel KichkaI think that was a coward accusation, an easy accusation, and there's no connection with the reality of the cartoon. And, uh, if you look at it, if you look at it objectively, what it says in one sentence is that Israel, which is represented by Netanyahu, okay, is going to make a surgery on Gaza with boxing gloves, and it's going to be not nice.

[00:04:22]Michel KichkaThis is all what it said. No

[00:04:24]Uri Finkantisemitism, no

[00:04:26]Michel KichkaJewish symbol, and this accusation is an accusation of weak people who are afraid to take responsibility on the cartoons that they published in their own newspaper. And this is what I think we have all condemned in Israel. I mean, our association, led by Uri Fink.

[00:04:42]Michel KichkaHe wrote a wonderful letter, and we all stand behind him.

[00:04:45]Daryl CagleI should probably mention, since we hadn't discussed the, boxing gloves much, and just discussed the allegory to the David Levine cartoon, the boxing gloves imply, pugilism, and fighting. And they also imply clumsiness, which I think are both, uh, apt things to, imply here.

[00:05:04]Daryl CagleAnd of course, that's an addition to, uh, Uh, what he was doing from the David Levine cartoon, and note, of course, that he wrote after David Levine on, Netanyahu's belly there, so that there's no misunderstanding about what's going on, and that this is, uh, an allegory to Vietnam. this was a very, Well known photograph that, uh, certainly all editorial cartoonists know.

[00:05:27]Daryl CagleAnd, for guys our age, we all, all remember. and of course it's guys our age that are the readers of newspapers now. So, it's an effective metaphor for its audience.

[00:05:39]Michel KichkaMm-Hmm. . I think that firing a professional cartoonist. Who has been working for decades with a newspaper, a leading cartoonist, because of one of his cartoons is, this is a scandal. This is simply a scandal. And it reminds me what happened in New York Times with the cartoon of Antonio. Yes. And I think this is a lack of courage of the editors.

[00:06:10]Michel KichkaIf you publish a cartoon. And you know that this cartoon will be published in your newspaper, even if you get protests on social nets and everywhere else. You need to support your cartoonists. You need to take responsibility for the cartoons that you are publishing. And if this contract does not exist anymore, between a cartoonist and an editor of a newspaper, the situation is very bad.

[00:06:39]Daryl CagleMoshik, do you have any, any words on this?

[00:06:41]Moshik GulstYes, like, uh, Except the, the, the cartooning, uh, issue, uh, I think that, uh, for me and I guess for all of us, uh, for Uri and Michel, uh, for me as a Jew, it's even more outrageous because when you are saying that something is anti Semitic and it's not, then you're hurting the fight against anti Semitism because, now, it just hurts the, the, the fight against anti Semitism, you see, because now, the definition for anti Semitism is so wide that it doesn't exist according to, the Guardian, of course.

[00:07:16]Moshik GulstAnd it's double outrageous as a cartoonist and as a Jewish person that they use. , the, the anti antisemitism, issue as a, as a thing to fire. Mm-Hmm.

[00:07:29]Daryl CagleSo I thought it was, uh, a good idea, given the accusation in firing Steve Bell and, how important this is to our profession and how much we all respect Steve Bell to have the three top Israeli editorial cartoonists come in here and share their thoughts on this. And thank you, gentlemen.

[00:07:51]Daryl CagleThank you. Thank you.