Letter to and from the editor

July 30, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
Read on for article

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, as did the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies,  sought an apology from the Sydney Morning Herald for publishing a cartoon portraying “an ugly stereotype  of a Jew”.

Executive Director of the ECAJ Peter Wertheim told J-Wire: “On July 26, the Sydney Morning Herald, one of Australia’s most respected newspapers, published a cartoon by Glen Le Lievre portraying a stereotype of Jew – identified with a hook nose, a kippah (religious head covering) and a Magen David (Star of David) – using a device to blow up people and buildings, presumably in Gaza.  The cartoon was accompanied by an appallingly inflammatory and un-factual article by Mike Carlton and a headline accusing Israel of violating international law and basic norms of human behaviour.  Our organisation, and our constituent organisations in the States and the ACT, received a very large volume of complaints about these items, from people both within and outside the Jewish community, but it was the cartoon which we considered to be antisemitic

The ECAJ wrote to the Herald the following day (Sunday July 27) and we received a reply from the Editor in Chief, Darren Goodsir, on July 28.   We understand that Mr Goodsir subsequently wrote to other complainants in similar vein.  In our view, the reply reveals a deep failure by the Herald to comprehend the nature of contemporary antisemitism, and the way in which antisemitism mutates over time to adapt to new circumstances.  We wrote further to Mr Goodsir on July 29.

In the interests of public debate, and promoting awareness of how ancient antisemitic themes are being adapted for use in polemical attacks against Israel, we are taking the step of publishing all 3 items of correspondence, which are attached.

The letter to the Sydney Morning Herald:

 

The Editor

Sydney Morning Herald

Email: letters@smh.com.au

Dear Sir/Madam

FOR PUBLICATION

Dear Sir

Robert Goot

Robert Goot

Peter Wertheim

Peter Wertheim

No matter how much we may disagree with Mike Carlton’s article entitled “Israel mocks laws of war and norms of civilization”, which appeared in the July 26, 2014 edition of the Weekend Herald, the publication of the clearly antisemitic  Le Lievre cartoon, which accompanied the article, was completely unacceptable.

The cartoon unambiguously portrays an ugly stereotype of a Jew.  He is identified with hook nose, kippah (religious head covering) and Magen David (Star of David), sitting in an arm chair and using a remote control device to blow up houses and people, presumably in Gaza in the context of the current fighting. The cartoon thus portrays Jews as a group as collectively guilty of acting outside the norms of civilization and the laws of war, intentionally causing civilian deaths in Gaza.

In our view this is racial vilification not only in the sense of offending, insulting, humiliating and intimidating Jews as a group but also in the sense of inciting third parties to hatred of Jews

Holocaust survivors in our community have compared the cartoon to those which they saw regularly appear in the 1930’s and 1940’s in the Nazi newspapers, ‘Der Stürmer‘ and ‘Völkischer Beobachter‘.  Whether or not one accepts that analogy, the cartoon is, on any measure, crudely antisemitic

We are extremely disappointed at this significant and gratuitous lapse in the Herald’s editorial standards. Its publication demands an unreserved apology.

Yours sincerely

Robert Goot SC AM                                     Peter Wertheim AM

President                                                       Executive Director

They received the following reply….

Letter-to-Mr-Robert-Goot-and-Mr-Peter-Wertheim-(2)

To which Goot and Wertheim responded:

 

Dear Mr Goodsir

 

We acknowledge receipt of your reply dated 28 July 2014. In our view it fails to address the substance of our complaint.

The figure in the cartoon is not simply identified as an elderly man, as you emphasise in your letter, or even as an elderly Israeli.  He is unambiguously identified as a Jew.  The symbols are unmistakeable.  He is depicted with a hook nose (which is a traditional antisemitic stereotype), and is further ‘branded’ with a kippah (religious head covering, which is not an Israeli national symbol) and Magen David (Star of David, which appears on the Israeli flag but is shown in the cartoon in its generic Jewish form).  Indeed the combination of these three symbols is almost certainly intended to ensure that the reader identifies the figure not simply as an elderly man, or even as an Israeli, but as a Jew.

As is often the case with racial stereotypes about Jews, the identification of the figure as a Jew in the cartoon is a device for conveying a message about Jews generally. The message is a deeply derogatory one.  It is no answer for you to rely on Mr Le Lievre’s direct modelling based on a number of photographs of men seated in armchairs “observing the shelling of Gaza from the hills of Sderot”.  The figure in the cartoon is not merely a passive observer of the fighting, as is the case in the photos to which you refer.  He is shown activating a remote control device which is blowing up people and buildings.

Whether the cartoonist intended it or not, or is even conscious of it, the cartoon thus attributes to Jews generally a collective blood guilt for the deaths and suffering in Gaza.   This is the calumny of Jewish people which your letter simply fails to address.

We therefore cannot accept your explanation, nor your failure to publish our letter, or to publicly apologise for what has clearly been a descent into racism in your newspaper.

In the circumstances, we feel we have no alternative but to seek redress by legal means.  You will be hearing from us or one of our constituent organisations in this regard shortly.

 

Yours sincerely

Robert Goot SC AM                                     Peter Wertheim AM

President                                                       Executive Director

Click here to view the cartoon

 

 

 

Comments

6 Responses to “Letter to and from the editor”
  1. Peter Hayes says:

    an appalling cartoon that dishonoured the SMH

  2. Liat says:

    Darren Goodsir’s response for SMH, if believed by him, shows naivety and ignorance; more likely it is the piecing together of as credible a defence as possible. The irony is choosing the place of Sderot to show a Jew looking over Gaza with ease, the very place most prone to Hamas missiles.

    Take them to court ECAJ, they might end up learning something.

  3. Ritchie says:

    Darren Goodsir’s response illustrates an appalling lack of understanding – an Editor in Chief who fails to see (or at worst, refuses to admit) the bleedingly, obvious, racist implications of his own newspaper’s caricatures ??! and then pays token lip service to fair mindedness….eeeeyuuuuu something just don’t add up and I applaud Mr Goot and Mr Wortheim for not letting the matter rest there. The article and the picture were offensive in the extreme and any newspaper that could publish such rubbish is to be conscientiously avoided by not only Jews but all fair minded Australians.

  4. Lynne Newington says:

    Dreadful example and so much unlike the SMH that I have always found play fair.
    Not like the Catholic website, capitalizing on a photograph taken from an original I have seen in Holocaust memorabilia where a young boy maybe 5 years old, a look of terror on his face hands up in surrender facing SS officers, rifles in hand, walking beside his mother marching with Jews marching to the gas chambers.
    The slogan:
    Never Again: The Next Holocaust Has Begun; Stop Christian Genocide
    Please Donate.
    Very bad taste as far as I’m concerned and I look to someone to follow it through regardless of the climate.
    Copy attatched.

  5. Kevin Herbert says:

    The SMH’s response was perfectly reasonable in the circumstances.

  6. shekoiach….the newspaper should be closed down

    i hope they get sued

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