German cartoonist fired over Netanyahu caricature

A prominent German daily newspaper has severed ties with its longtime cartoonist following an uproar over his depiction of Benjamin Netanyahu -- which critics said used “anti-Semitic” clichés.

The controversial image, which ran in the May 15 edition of Süddeutsche Zeitung, drawn by 85-year-old Dieter Hanitzsch, showcased the Israeli prime minister dressed up as singer Netta Barzilai, who recently won the 2018 Israeli Eurovision contest. The cartoon Netanyahu held a microphone in one hand and a rocket with the Star of David in the other, with the speech bubble: “Next year in Jerusalem.”

The daily’s editor-in-chief, Wolfgang Krach, publically apologized for the cartoon's publication and the “anti-Semitic” undertones that came with it. It was printed just one day after the U.S Embassy opening in Jerusalem and related violent protests.

However, Hanitzsch himself refused to apologize and insisted that he certainly didn’t “sneak” the image into the paper.

President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, March 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, March 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The cartoonist told local media outlets that he thought Netanyahu had taken advantage of the singer’s success and the Eurovision contest in general to propel his own agenda.

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Netanyahu used the phrase, traditionally spoken annually in the Jewish festival of Passover, in a congratulatory Facebook message to Barzilai in which he stated, “You brought a lot of respect to the State of Israel,” and “Next year in Jerusalem!”

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The German Press Council has since opened an inquiry to determine whether the cartoon was anti-Semitic after readers had complained that the image “reminded them of the anti-Semitic language of Nazi times,” Reuters reported.

However, this was not the first time Hanitzsch’s work raised eyebrows. The cartoonist previously took aim at Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – in cartoons published in the same newspaper – but defended his drawings against “Islamophobia” accusers on the basis of freedom of the press and expression.