German paper axes cartoonist over controversial Netanyahu drawing
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German paper axes cartoonist over controversial Netanyahu drawing

Sueddeutsche Zeitung's fires Dieter Hanitzsch for refusing to apologize; country's anti-Semitism czar says caricature recalls 'Nazi propaganda'

A cartoon published on May 15, 2018, by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring 'next year in Jerusalem' with a missile adorned with a star of David in hand after Israel won Eurovision song contest. (Screen capture: Twitter)
A cartoon published on May 15, 2018, by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring 'next year in Jerusalem' with a missile adorned with a star of David in hand after Israel won Eurovision song contest. (Screen capture: Twitter)

A leading German daily on Thursday fired a veteran cartoonist for refusing to apologize for a drawing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu panned by critics as anti-Semitic.

The cartoon by Dieter Hanitzsch, which appeared in Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday, depicted Netanyahu celebrating Israel’s Eurovision win while holding a missile adorned with a Star of David.

Despite the paper’s editor-in-chief apologizing for the cartoon, Hanitzsch refused to do the same, leading to his dismissal.

The daily cited “insuperable differences between Mr. Hanitzsch and the editorial board over what constitute anti-Semitic clichés in a cartoon,” news agency dpa reported.

The firing of Hanitzch came as Germany’s new anti-Semitism commissioner said Sueddeutsche Zeitung crossed a “red line” with the cartoon.

Felix Klein, who was appointed this year amid concerns over rising anti-Semitism in Germany, told the Bild newspaper on Thursday that the caricature recalled “the intolerable depictions of Nazi propaganda.”

Felix Klein, the German government’s first-ever special envoy to the Jewish community, at the ‘Berlin wears a kippah’ protest, April 25, 2018. (courtesy BMI)

The German cartoon depicted Netanyahu in Barzilai’s dress and in military-style boots, while holding a missile emblazoned with a Star of David and with a speech bubble saying “next year in Jerusalem.” Some people said the sleeves of Netanyahu’s dress appeared to be drenched in blood or fire, although the pattern was similar to Barzilai’s Eurovision costume.

Behind Netanyahu, another Star of David replaced the letter “v” in the word “Eurovision.”

The cartoon was published as Israel faced criticism over its handling of protests initiated a day earlier on the Gaza border by the Hamas terror group, which openly seeks to destroy Israel.

Israel’s Netta Barzilai celebrates after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Many countries, including Sweden, France and the United Kingdom, have accused Israel of using disproportionate force in the riots on the Gaza border. But the United States, Australia and other countries said Hamas was to blame for the violence and its aftermath. Israel says the terror group encouraged and led the protests, which included attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the border fence.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung, or “South German Daily,” reaches 1.1 million readers a day in Germany and also boasts a high circulation abroad.

The paper has previously faced accusations anti-Semitism over cartoons, including a 2013 depicting Israel as a hungry monster lying in bed, knife and fork in hand, being waited on by a woman.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.

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