tip off

Critics fail to see the funny side of SMH and Oz Gaza cartoons

A Palestinian advocacy group slams The Australian, as The Sydney Morning Herald apologises for publishing controversial cartoons.

The Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network has slammed a cartoon published in The Australian that depicts a Palestinian militant with a hooded face bending down to pat his young child on the head, telling the boy to “go out to play and win the PR war for daddy”.

George Browning, the former Anglican bishop of Canberra and current APAN president, told Crikey he was shocked by the cartoon. “I immediately thought of my Palestinian friends. There is no one in the world who loves their children more than the Palestinians. Can you imagine how it would feel to see the cartoon after having lost a child in an Israeli airstrike?”

But Oz editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell rejects the assertion that the cartoon is of an ordinary Palestinian, telling Crikey it depicts a “Hamas terrorist, hence the black face covering and automatic weapon over his shoulder”.

The cartoon could not be clearer,” Mitchell said. As for The Australian’s broader coverage, Mitchell says the paper’s editorials “have lamented the loss of life of innocent children several times and at length over the past fortnight”, as have the paper’s news stories and features.

This morning’s edition of The Australian admits the cartoon, which first ran in July 31st edition of the paper, has “drawn some controversy”. In an un-bylined piece in its  media section, Mitchell is quoted as saying the cartoon has prompted letters from all sides of the debate, including many that were supportive. “It’s very unusual to receive so many letters in support of a cartoon,” he said.

Also in this morning’s edition is an opinion piece by Bill Leak, who drew the cartoon, where he explains his thinking around what he drew. “If you work as a cartoonist and you don’t want to become just another ideologue taking a predictable, unthinking approach to the issues … it’s necessary to make the effort to acquaint yourself with the facts before making any comment at all,” he wrote.

I tried first to imagine how I’d respond if the people in the suburb adjoining the one I lived in wanted to wipe mine off the map. And they showed the meant business by raining missiles down on the local shopping centre … I next tried to imagine how I’d feel if, after years of trying via every means possible to defend myself, hit back and get them to cut it out, they elected a terrorist outfit to run the council. I’m quite sure that if these fanatics then adopted a strategy of stashing their armaments in hospitals and schools so that when my side retaliated it became impossible to destroy their weaponry without killing their civilians and children, I’d regard that as just about the last word in barbarism”.

Leak then condemns the Australian Greens for criticising a cartoonist for “doing a drawing that revealed the sad, unspeakable truth”.

But Browning said Leak’s justification was “totally unacceptable”:

It expresses not the slightest sympathy for those whose children have been killed in Gaza but rather insists that his cartoon had ‘revealed a sad, unspeakable truth’. The ‘truth’ of which he speaks is that the Palestinians send their children out to play hoping that they will be killed by Israel. There is not a shred of evidence for this. It’s the most naked racial slander. I find it utterly incomprehensible that The Australian would continue to employ him as a cartoonist.”

The controversy comes as The Sydney Morning Herald apologised for a cartoon featuring an old man with a hooked nose reclining on a lounge chair with a Star of David on the back as he uses a remote to blow up a Palestinian area. After criticism about the cartoon first surfaced in the Australian Jewish News, as well as in the letters pages of the SMH, the paper today apologised, saying its position on the cartoon was “too simplistic and ignored the use of religious symbols”.

The paper’s editorial board explained that given the cartoon was based on photographs of the conflict, and the cartoonist in question often drew the elderly with exaggerated features, its editors had believed the cartoon was not anti-Semitic. However, the paper acknowledged that the cartoon bore a similarity to those circulated in Nazi Germany — “menacing cartoons that continue to haunt and traumatise generations of Jewish people”.

Browning told Crikey that given the SMH had apologised, The Australian should do the same.

  • 1
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    All you need is the Right Murdoch “sense of humour”?

  • 2
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Browning. The cartoon at best presents one particular (biased) view of the conflict not based on one skerrick of evidence that it actually occurs, but there is nothing particularly insightful about it. I can’t agree that the hiding of weapons in the way he describes it as “the last word in barbarism” compared with the military strikes and killing of many, many civilians to knock them out.

    On the other hand, the cartoon that was subject of criticism in The Age / SMH depicted what was actually happening - Israelis sitting on the hillside in armchairs and the like watching the attack on Gaza. I guess that one was just too accurate.

  • 3
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    It is the State of Israel that has decided to adopt the religious identifier, the Star of David, as a major part of its national emblem and flag

    Thus, the use of the Star of David, whilst in truth reminiscent of the way in which it was used against Jewish people in Nazi Germany, is also a way of representing the Israeli state - because of decisions that State itself has taken.

    I think this needs to be taken into account in assessments of the SMH cartoon

    As to the figure sitting in the chair - I think the critics have a point

  • 4
    Ross Carnsew
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Leak is neither funny nor insightful. Sure do draw perty.

  • 5
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Leak’s interpretation of the facts on the ground in Israel shows he is either a dupe OR he, like many Limited News hacks, realise that one step out of place will see his job terminated. His key points appear to be taken directly from the Israeli 2009 publication titled ‘Global Language Dictionary’ (see below link:

    Anyone who has access to the independent reporting of this latest Israeli massacre knows full well that Israel started it.. just like they did in 2009 & 2012.

    War criminal Bibi & his thugs were neutered by Hamas/PLO willingness to negotiate a peace deal in 2014, and have had to resort to yet another trumped up slaughter of Palestinians to try & shield this fact. However, the game’s up, and most of the world knows it now. Israel has never wanted a 2 State solution, and it’s now clear that they’re going to annex Gaza.

    The Israeli/US/Aussie/NATO mantra of ‘the Zionist state’s ‘right to defend itself’ is breathtaking hypocrisy & vile propaganda…similar to their ‘Saddam has WMD’s’ mantra used to justify the slaughter of more than 1 million Iraquis, and the deaths of nearly 1 million more via sanctions.

  • 6
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 4:24 pm | Permalink


    A slight correction. There is no Star of David. You can call it that if you like but the correct term is Shield of David or in Hebrew, the Magen Dawid. The original Shield of David has no connection to the two inverted triangles that make up the six pointed hexagram.

  • 7
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks I bow to your knowledge; however the fundamental point remains.

  • 8
    Sed Mayne
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    This cartoon was too simplistic and using the death of a child was foolish but there seems to be very few voices crying out against Hamas for their part in this ongoing tragedy. Most of the deaths are Palestinian but that is because Israel has better technology and is actually doing something to protect its citizens. Hamas is attacking Israel and is not doing anything to defend the people of Gaza against the expected result.

  • 9
    Kayaki Dee
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Hamas is attacking Israel and is not doing anything to defend the people of Gaza against the expected result.”

    Good point. They act more like controlled opposition than defenders of their people.

  • 10
    Shakira Hussein
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I cancelled my subscription to The Australian after seeing Bill Leak’s cartoon. The Sydney Morning Herald did the right thing by apologising for its cartoon - the Oz should follow suit.

  • 11
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Shakira - don’t hold your breath.

  • 12
    Ben Gray
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    The problem with Leak’s cartoon is that it is correct - Hamas, and the Pro-Palestine cause in general, are happy to exploit the deaths of children to win their PR war.

  • 13
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Hamas is attacking Israel and is not doing anything to defend the people of Gaza”

    An absurd accusation. How is it even possible to defend one’s people against indiscriminate large-scale attacks by a vastly superior military force when it bombs schools, hospitals and refugee centres?

  • 14
    Ben Gray
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Fractious - perhaps they could stop picking a fight with Israel, and act more like men instead of cowering behind their women and children?

  • 15
    Liz Connor
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Bill Leak, I’m ashamed of you for not checking the facts of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians since before WW II, but progressively more and more since the borders of the two new states of Israel and Palestine were declared and theoretically agreed to by both sides. Ever since then Israel has refused to accept the Palestine state’s right to exist, and been encouraging Jewish settlers onto land within Palestine’s boundaries while pretending to honour a peace process. And when they were persuaded to withdraw from the Gaza strip they proceeded to blockade it mercilessly.
    Don’t you know that Israel’s Iron Dome destroys every Hamas missile that is on its slow path towards populated areas? Don’t you know that this current conflict was triggered by the agreement by Hamas and Fatah to form a unified Palestinian government?
    If you don’t know, there is no excuse. Provenanced information on these and many other events are easy to find on the Internet.

  • 16
    Liz Connor
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I forgot to add that very many of the people providing provenances information are Jewish people living in Israel and elsewhere, e.g. Ilan Pappe and Jewish Voice for Peace.

  • 17
    old greybeard
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    THat Herald cartoon would not have drawn apology for any other culture. What crap. That is exactly what Israel is doing. A pox on the land stealing sods. Read Robert Fisk on Ariel Sharon as a war criminal.

  • 18
    Garibaldi's Lovechild
    Posted Monday, 4 August 2014 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    i thought leak was talking about israel for a second there

  • 19
    Posted Tuesday, 5 August 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    You have to wonder what sort of perceptions (relative to reality) are being inseminated, conceived, birthed and nurtured when so much of our news is strained through “Murdoch’s Undies”?
    “Editing to suit” that (“70”%?) majority of our hard-copy views of reality they control?

  • 20
    Phillip Monk
    Posted Tuesday, 5 August 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Even if you accept that the basis of Leak’s cartoon is valid, it also implies that the Israeli army is at least as bad as Hamas. After all, which is worse, putting innocent Palestinian children in harm’s way, or killing them?

    Perhaps the caption should have read “Shock! Islamo-Fascists stoop to the level of Israel”.

  • 21
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Wednesday, 6 August 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I thought that cartoonists were supposed to be insightful and/or funny or at least interesting.

    Leak is not.

    Show me an intelligent man who would seriously defend Netanyahu’s obscene comment about ‘telegenic corpses of children’, and I’ll show you a fool.

    It’s a bit easier to defend a cartoon (the SMH one) if there is a picture of pretty much exactly that the day before.

  • 22
    Daniel Charles
    Posted Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    The differences in the cartoon’s is SMH’s target are a race and OZ’s target are a political group