Guardian fires cartoonist Steve Bell over Netanyahu cartoon panned as antisemitic

The Guardian newspaper has fired longtime editorial cartoonist Steve Bell and refused to run a caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that critics say drew on antisemitic imagery.

“The decision has been made not to renew Steve Bell’s contract,” the Guardian says.

“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,” publisher Guardian News and Media says in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

Bell has contributed to The Guardian since 1983. Several of his hundreds of cartoons over the years have been accused of including anti-Jewish stereotypes. The latest cartoon, posted by Bell on social media, shows Netanyahu holding a scalpel and preparing to cut a Gaza-shaped incision in his abdomen, with the caption “Residents of Gaza, get out now.”

It is labeled “after David Levine” and recalls a Vietnam War-era cartoon depicting US President Lyndon B. Johnson pointing at a Vietnam-shaped scar. American illustrator Levine drew inspiration from a photo of Johnson showing reporters his scar from gall-bladder surgery.

Bell says he had been accused of evoking the “pound of flesh” demanded by the Jewish character Shylock in Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice.”

He told industry newspaper the Press Gazette that “The Merchant of Venice” had “nothing to do with the cartoon.”

“I don’t promote harmful antisemitic stereotypes. … Never have I done such a thing, I would not dream of doing such a thing,” the publication quoted him as saying.

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