Jerusalem Post defends decision to fire political cartoonist

Avi Katz’s cartoon in the Jerusalem Report depicted Israeli lawmakers as pigs, under a quote from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” (Twitter)

JTA

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Jerusalem Post defended its decision to stop using the work of cartoonist Avi Katz after he depicted a group of Israeli lawmakers as pigs.

An editorial Tuesday said Katz had “blatantly crossed” the Post’s ethical and editorial standards by using an image “reminiscent of antisemitic memes used against Jews throughout history.”

The  cartoon  in the Post-owned Jerusalem Report magazine was based on a photograph of Israeli lawmakers celebrating the passage last week of the controversial nation-state law. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the lawmakers are depicted as pigs, under a quote from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”: “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.”

The pigs are the ruling class in Orwell’s allegory.

The law passed last week enshrines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, saying that: “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it.”

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The Post editorial notes that the newspaper has “sharply criticized” the legislation as well as Netanyahu “for his own personal failure to uphold the principles of a Jewish and democratic state by allowing a law that discriminates against minorities to pass.”

It says, however, that Katz’s illustration crossed a line.

“This was not an easy decision to make,” the editorial says. “On the one hand, we believe firmly in freedom of speech – and especially the right of our opinion writers and cartoonists to express themselves without pressure or intimidation from external forces. On the other hand, all freedoms, including that of expression, have their limits.”

The editorial notes that the Jerusalem Post “recognized after publication that this specific cartoon should not have been published.” It does not say which of the publication’s editors approved the cartoon or accepted it for publication.

One Jerusalem Report conributor, Haim Watzman, resigned in protest of the decision. A crowdfunding page launched a week ago in support of Katz is at 98 percent of its 100,000 shekel, or $27,000, goal.

Katz, an American immigrant to Israel, has been contributing illustrations to the magazine since 1990.