British paper sorry for 'grotesque' Israel cartoon

The acting editor of Britain's Sunday Times newspaper apologised for a "grotesque" cartoon that sparked accusations of anti-Semitism when it was printed on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Martin Ivens met with representatives of the Jewish community to say sorry for last Sunday's image by veteran cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, which showed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall with Palestinian bodies.

"The Sunday Times abhors anti-Semitism and would never set out to cause offence to the Jewish people -- or any other ethnic or religious group," Ivens said.

"That was not the intention last Sunday. Everyone knows that Gerald Scarfe is consistently brutal and bloody in his depictions, but last weekend by his own admission he crossed a line."

The newspaper's owner, media baron Rupert Murdoch, had apologised yesterday, tweeting: "Gerald Scarfe has never reflected the opinions of The Sunday Times. Nevertheless, we owe major apology for grotesque, offensive cartoon."

The cartoon showed a scowling Netanyahu waving a blood-covered trowel, laying bricks in a wall in which Palestinian men, women and children were trapped. Underneath were the words, "Israeli elections will cementing peace continue?"

It sparked condemnation in Britain and Israel, particularly as it appeared on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews lodged a formal complaint to Britain's media regulators, calling the cartoon "shockingly reminiscent of the blood libel imagery more usually found in parts of the virulently anti-Semitic Arab press".

Ivens said the timing of the publication was "inexcusable".

"The associations on this occasion were grotesque and on behalf of the paper I'd like to apologise unreservedly for the offence we clearly caused," he added.

Scarfe has been a political cartoonist with The Sunday Times since 1967 and has also worked for The New Yorker magazine. He worked on the Disney film "Hercules" as well as the movie of Pink Floyd's rock opera "The Wall".

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