The Sydney Morning Herald has apologised for a cartoon about the war in Gaza that sparked criticism and accusations of racism.
The Herald, owned by Fairfax Media, apologised in an editorial on Monday for the July 26 cartoon by Glen Le Lievre, saying the use of religious symbols in the piece comprised “a serious error of judgement”.
The cartoon accompanied a column on the Israel-Hamas conflict by journalist Mike Carlton.
It depicted an elderly man sitting in an armchair on a hilltop overlooking Gaza, and pointing a remote control towards where an explosion had just occurred below.
The man was drawn with a large nose, was wearing a kippah – a Jewish religious skullcap – and had a Star of David on the back of his chair.
Under the headline, “We apologise: publishing cartoon in original form was wrong”, the Herald said a “strong view” had been expressed in letters to the paper and public commentary that the cartoon “resembled illustrations that had circulated in Nazi Germany”.
Acknowledging “widespread reader and community reaction”, the Herald said it deeply regretted the upset the image had caused.
However, it felt that no racial vilification had occurred.
There had been no vilification because the cartoonist lacked any intent and the cartoon had been based on various photographs showing groups watching the shelling of Gaza from the hills of the Israeli town of Sderot.
The Herald also said Mr Le Lievre had a drawing style that “routinely sees old people depicted with large noses and pronounced facial features”.
“The Herald now appreciates that, in using the Star of David and the kippah in the cartoon, the newspaper invoked an inappropriate element of religion, rather than nationhood, and made a serious error of judgement,” the Herald editorial said.
“It was wrong to publish the cartoon in its original form.”
Federal Attorney-General George Brandis criticised the cartoon.
The Australian newspaper, published by News Corp Australia, reported Senator Brandis saying the cartoon was “deplorable” and “the kind we haven’t seen since Germany in the 1930s”.
The Herald said it remained commited “to reporting in a fair and balanced way on the appalling events in Israel and Gaza”.
The Australian Press Council has received complaints about the cartoon and a council spokesman said it was looking into the matter.