JERUSALEM – A Jerusalem-based magazine has laid off a cartoonist for rendering an image of Israel's prime minister and Likud lawmakers as pig characters from George Orwell's "Animal Farm," Israel's journalists union said Thursday.
The cartoon was meant to criticize the Israeli government's passage of a controversial law last week enshrining the state's Jewish character. Critics say the legislation, which defines Israel as a Jewish state and downgrades the Arabic language's status, marginalizes the country's Arab minority.
After the bill passed, jubilant supporters took a selfie with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A photograph of the moment was widely published.
The cartoon by Avi Katz, a freelance cartoonist for the Jerusalem Report, depicted that moment but his image shows the politicians drawn as pigs.
It's captioned with Orwell's line: "All animals are equal but some are more equal than others."
Reached by phone in New York on Thursday, Katz said he saw Olivier Fitoussi's photograph of "these fat ugly people taking a congratulatory selfie after they squeezed through this law with some very, very dirty tricks," he said.
"So they sneaked this stupid law in, and it just looked like pigs to me, and I very quickly, half-tracing, I just redid the drawing slightly with pig's faces, it seemed to me so obvious, it was almost as if i was explaining someone else's joke."
The Union of Journalists in Israel said Katz was dismissed from the Jerusalem Report on Wednesday after the cartoon ran in the magazine's edition this week.
The magazine is owned by the Jerusalem Post newspaper. Neither responded to requests for comment.
"Usually (the Jerusalem Report) has complete editorial independence, but in this case the bosses from the Jerusalem Post apparently were in touch with the editor of The Report and said to stop using my work in the future," Katz said.
Katz said that with cartoonist colleagues from around the Middle East he "had been bragging for years that, terrible as (Israeli) government policy may be, at least we're free to criticize it."