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The Guardian parts ways with Cartoonist Steve Bell over Benjamin Netanyahu cartoon

Steve Bell

London: The Guardian newspaper has severed ties with veteran political cartoonist Steve Bell, known for his 40-year association with the publication, reportedly due to a cartoon that depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The illustration featured Netanyahu wearing boxing gloves and brandishing a scalpel over a map of the Gaza Strip, accompanied by the quote, "Residents of Gaza, get out now."

The cartoon aimed to allude to Israel's call for Gaza residents to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip in anticipation of an impending ground offensive against Hamas. However, critics argued that the imagery bore a resemblance to Shylock, the controversial Jewish moneylender character from William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice," known for demanding a "pound of flesh" owed to him.

They alleged that the cartoon was "anti-semitic" and cited it as the reason for firing Bell.

Steve Bell expressed his surprise over the decision to let him go, characterising it as "a bit of a shock." He revealed that he submitted the cartoon for publication on a Monday morning, only to have senior editors reject it a mere four hours later, as reported by the Evening Standard.

In response to the decision, a spokesperson for The Guardian commented, "The decision has been made not to renew Steve Bell's contract. 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."

Steve Bell defended his work, asserting that it was an allusion to a 1960s cartoon portraying then-US President Lyndon B. Johnson, with a scar on his torso mirroring the map of Vietnam. He further contended that it was now impossible to address this subject in The Guardian without unjust accusations of employing "anti-Semitic tropes."

While respecting The Guardian's right not to publish his cartoon, Bell criticised their decision as being based on "entirely contrived and false reasons," claiming that it hinders discussion of an important and serious topic. Steve Bell will continue working with the paper until April 2024.

The illustration's context referred to events during a conflict in Gaza where Hamas militants targeted a civilian bus, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,300 individuals. Israel likened this attack to the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the United States, sparking a substantial retaliatory bombing campaign against Gaza that caused over 2,200 casualties.

Over two million Palestinians are scrambling to save their lives amid relentless bombing and other forms of attack by Israel. Water, food, and electricity supply to the Gaza Strip has also been cut off.

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TAGS:Benjamin NetanyahuGaza StripIsrael Palestine conflictSteve BellBenjamin Netanyahu cartoon
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