Tuesday, 29 January 2013

In defence of Gerald Scarfe

There are many many things that Rupert Murdoch should apologise for. But Gerald Scrafe's cartoon of Netanyahu with the caption 'will cementing the peace process continue ?' is not one of them. 

Murdoch distances himself from the cartoonist - 'grotesque and offensive' - so I can only wonder of he has actually seen any of Scarfe's work before. Because the offensive and the grotesque have been Scarfe's stock in trade for something over forty years - as they have been of great cartoonists since the days of Hogarth.

Accusations of antiemtism seem to hinge on two artistically spurious arguments;

That Netanyahu is pictured with a big nose. surely this can only be said by someone who has never seen Scarfe's work before. As Nissim “Nusko” Hezkiyahu - one of Israel's leading cartoonists puts it:

“If you look at the other caricatures, Bibi came off easy.” “To say that this caricature shows Bibi with a big nose — compared to all the caricatures that are published here, I think that was the smallest nose he ever had,”

Or - that the depiction of blood oozing out of the mortar in the wall symbolising the West Bank Barrier is a reference to the 'blood libel' of medieval antisemitism. Again anyone who has seen Scarfe's work know that splashing blood  red ink about on white paper is one of his  favoured shock techniques. Artistically then perhaps we can accuse Scarfe of a lack of originality.

But what we are really left with is a lazy political argument that condemnation of the policies of an Israeli government towards the Palestinian people is antisemitic. 

Which leaves the question of the timing of the cartoon's publication  on Holocaust Memorial Day - something that does show some insensitivity and misjudgement. However it was a decision which Scarfe himself had no part in. That particular decision lies with ... Murdoch and his management.

1 comment:

Dr Llareggub said...

I have never liked Scarfe but that is a question of taste. All of his cartoons are ugly and politically lightweight. End of. Now Steve Bell's cartoons on the Israeli's appear to be motivated by the kind of hatred that the Guardian/BBC and most if the left exhibits towards Israel and Jews. (oops sorry - Zionists) Even then I would not ask for apologies or censorship; crap has a way of destroying itself.