The Portuguese cartoonist behind the New York Times cartoon that depicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog has rejected charges of anti-Semitism, calling critics part of the “Jewish propaganda machine.”
Antonio Moreira Antunes, who draws for the Expresso newspaper published in Lisbon, told CNN Wednesday that Jews were not “above criticism.”
The calls of anti-Semitism were “made through the Jewish propaganda machine, which is, anytime there’s criticism it’s because there’s someone anti-Semitic on the other side, and that’s not the case,” Antunes told CNN.
On Monday, Antunes said the cartoon was “a critique of Israeli policy, which has a criminal conduct in Palestine at the expense of the UN, and not the Jews,” Expresso reported.
“The Star of David is an aid to identify a figure [Netanyahu] that is not very well known in Portugal,” the cartoonist explained to Expresso.
He blamed right-wing figures saying: “The Jewish right doesn’t want to be criticized, and therefore, when criticized they say ‘We are a persecuted people, we suffered a lot… this is anti-Semitism.'”
Antunes claimed he was personally hurt by the Times’ statements of apology since publishing the caricature, saying the paper should have seen his work as “a political issue and not religious.”
On Tuesday, the Times published a second apology for what it acknowledged was an “appalling” political cartoon, and said its own actions were “evidence of a profound danger — not only of anti-Semitism but of numbness to its creep.”
The cartoon originally appeared in Expresso on April 19 before it was picked up by the New York Times international edition. The backlash against the cartoon’s appearance in the Times prompted Expresso to issue a clarification on its website earlier this week.
The Lisbon paper said it “has always defended freedom of expression and opinion, principles we will never renounce,” rejected assertions that the drawing was anti-Semitic and called Antunes “an internationally awarded cartoonist.”
However, the paper also apologized “to members of the Jewish community and those who may have felt offended,” saying “it was never intended to portray Israel or the Jewish religion and its believers in a less dignified manner.”