General Antisemitism

Steve Bell has fun with antisemitic tropes


Here’s a Steve Bell cartoon published on Feb. 4, in response to an apology by Sunday Times’ owner Rupert Murdoch over the controversial Gerald Scarfe cartoon.

bell (1)(The second frame is a reference to a comment by Murdoch in November, complaining that the “Jewish owned media” is consistently anti-Israel.  The final frame is a reference to Sooty, a popular glove bear and TV character from the 50s.)

As we noted in our post, the cartoon could arguably be interpreted as suggesting that Zionists have a significant degree of control over the media.

Today, Feb. 5, Bell revisited the trio of Murdoch, Bibi and Sooty, and published this, titled ‘On Murdoch, Netanyahu and the little bludger.


If, Bell is indeed perplexed – or, perhaps, amused – with the notion of “antisemitic tropes”, I know just the right person to help him understand its significance.

Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott – who criticized Bell’s cartoon in Nov. which depicted Netanyahu controlling Blair and Hague like puppets, and warned: “…using the image of a puppeteer when drawing a Jewish politician inevitably echoes past antisemitic usage of such imagery” – wrote the following in Nov. 2011, in a post titled ‘On averting accusations of antisemitism“:

[Comment is Free] moderators…are experienced in spotting the kind of language long associated with antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control, or being clannish and secretive, or the role of Jews in finance and the media.

However, regardless of whether Bell understands (or takes seriously) the lethal history of such racist tropes employed against Jews, a bit of research into his work may provide some insight into why (per his BBC Radio debate with Stephen Pollard) he was so dismissive of accusations that the Scarfe cartoon arguably evoked the antisemitic blood libel.

These cartoons are on Bell’s website: (Below each cartoon is the exact caption used by Bell to identify and date the image.)

2002, blood motif.



2001, blood motif.


1560-7-2-01 SHALOMSHARON


2001, blood motif


1561-8-2-01 WAILINGWALL

Finally, here are two Bell cartoons which evoke an entirely different trope.

1998, Jews as ‘Chosen People’. 


4291-4-5-98 GODSCHOSEN

1998, Jews as ‘Chosen People’:


4293-6-5-98 GODSCHOSEN

Here’s another relevant passage from Chris Elliott’s post on antisemitism noted above:

“Two weeks ago a columnist [Deborah Orr] used the term “the chosen” in an item on the release of Gilad Shalit, which brought more than 40 complaints to the Guardian, and an apology from the columnist the following week. “Chosenness”, in Jewish theology, tends to refer to the sense in which Jews are “burdened” by religious responsibilities; it has never meant that the Jews are better than anyone else. Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read “chosen” as code for Jewish supremacism.”

26 replies »

  1. Gosh, isn’t he controversial! Crazy stuff, wow, what a dude! Ignore him, he is an attention seeker and obviously has problems at home. The Sunday Times cartoon incident has been consigned to history so his latest cartoon is late on the uptake. Ignore and don’t give him the attention he so craves.

  2. Cartoons are meant to be funny and artistic with impeccable timing. This tit can’t draw, has no humour and his timing would trip him on a dance floor. His efforts say more about about him than the topic he is making a failed attempt to explore. Most sane people would have given up a long time ago if they were so talentless, but this guy is enjoying a bit of glory the BBC has given him by asking his view. Opportunist?

    • I agree, Sharon. These cartoons are not clever, not funny, not well drawn, and therefore totally ineffective as poltical satire. Even with CifWatch’s help, I am really not sure what message they are supposed to be conveying, which is a sign they have completely missed the mark.

    • Very true, Sharon Klaff. Cartoons are also supposed to possess wit if they are, as Bell would argue, satirical. His are about as satirical as cold porage.

  3. Unfunny, talentless Bell-end

    Anyone who listened to him embarrass himself on the radio against Stephen Pollard will know exactly what a bell-end he is ……….

  4. Bell made a right tit of himself on the Today programme with Stephen Pollard. He’s emotionally incontinent and self-righteous bigot, who cannot stand being contradicted or criticized.

    The Cif thread on his Feb 5th cartoon is full of deleted comments, where anything vaguely critical of Bell has been removed. He can dish it out, but he can’t take it.

    Watching him squirm is far more amusing than any of his cartoons. I hope he publishes more of this stuff, it will cement his growing reputation as a whining prat.

    • Emotional incontinence (wonderful descriptor!) is a first order symptom of the rabid hater. Bell has much invested in being right, which is why he fits into the Guardian like a hand into a glove.

      Authoritarians find even mild criticism very threatening because they are emotionally and psychologically invested in the image they project rather than who they really are. Anything which threatens to puncture that image is hyperbolically reacted to and, in the case of the Guardian and CiF, obliterated without trace where they can get away with doing it. For such people as Bell, paranoid as they are, attack is the best method of defence which is why he dishes it out. It almost beggars belief, though, that he doesn’t expect to have to defend himself.

  5. What would help?
    Maybe a model process before the bars. I suppose Henryk Broder just had it in mind in Germany when he accused Jakob Augstein of being “ein lupenreiner Antisemit”, Augstein is the heir to the Spiegel, THE weekly magazine in Germany, editor of the left extremist paper Freitag and son of THE German author, besides Günter Grass, Martin Walser, more or less inventor of the “Auschwitzkeule” much cited by defenders of the new antisemites in Germany and Austria.
    But Augstein refused to suit Broder, alas.
    He preferes to be called “lupenreiner Antisemit” by Broder. What will happen if others follow suit, we will see.

    • I have to disagree with you on the first, distastful, but that is the Israeli symbol. The other isn’t anti-semitic as such, but it is such crude anti-israeli hate you wonder if it comes from the same well

  6. Of the pictures here the first Sharon is not particularly bad (from an antisemitism point of view.) then we get Shalom Sharon- borderline, skullcap western wall Sharon- straying into dangerous territory, and finally the ‘chosen people’ ones which are clearly, beyond a doubt classic anti-semitic, using hatred of the Jewish religion even to attack non-religious Jews. I am actually surprised how bad these are, and that the guardian sees fit to let him run his frankly immature ‘puppet theme’ with this history.

  7. I used to think Bell was just a bit off-colour, but having heard his performance on Radio 4 (with Stephen Pollard) the other week, it seems he has a genuine issue with Jewish people and with the very concept of antisemitism.

    • Interesting how many people are only now beginning to see the true measure of people like Bell. So in a way we need to thank Scarfe and the ST for opening this can of worms. They have given permission to the vermin to come out “I’m a Jew hater and I’m proud” to paraphrase another well known slogan.

      • Interesting to read the comments on this set of hard-hitting and blatantly political cartoons.Apparently cartoons are meant to be “funny”? Only if you read the Beano and the Dandy. These ( the Sharon trio ) are caricatures of one MAN and one man only.
        Ariel Sharon. The idea that this man with “blood on his hands” represents Israel or Jewry or International Jewry is preposterous.He is a politician who has taken decisions causing much pain and suffering.Your readers presumably are unaware of his activities in the military prior to Sabra and Shatila,the torrent of criticism in Israel over his conduct in the Lebanon and of course events under his leadership.
        How many of your readers would quibble with portraying Assad,Mugabe.Mao or Stalin as having “blood on their hands” ? We could also chuck in Obama,Blair and why not Bush.
        Interestingly,Sharon’s conduct as a commander on active service was such that it is highly likely that he did have to wash the blood from his hands!

  8. Cold porridge of course is still good for you even if a little unpalatable. Bell’s attempts at satire are as satirical as a washing machine manual, and as inaccurate in translation.

  9. How would we deal with a sulky five year old who, having been told off for misbehaving, not only refuses to stop doing what is offensive but does it even more to goad the adult really to lose its temper?

    Steve Bell is such a one, emotionally stuck at about age five.

    CiFWatch needs a better cartoonist than he (not such a tall order – Bell’s cartoons are hideous) which takes the p*ss out of him and the Guardian. That’d send them both into a tailspin.