Guardian’s Steve Bell frames Labour antisemitism row as a witch hunt

A recent series of cartoons by the Guardian’s long-time cartoonist Steve Bell has mocked and belittled charges of antisemitism in the Labour Party.  As we’ve noted in earlier tweets and posts, the putative object of his scorn is the deputy leader of the party, Tom Watson, who’s been critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the crisis engulfing the party.

Here’s the first cartoon, published at the Guardian on July 15th.

Bell refers to Watson as “the antisemite finder general”, a likely a reference to “witchfinders” of 17th century England who traveled across the country identifying suspected witches, who were then tortured into confession, and ultimately hanged.  Over the course of two years, more than 250 women accused of being witches were killed. The leader of the campaign to rid the land of this ‘satanic’ evil was a man named Matthew Hopkins, who was dubbed the “Witchfinder General”.

So, it appears that Bell is characterising Labour’s antisemitism row as a witch hunt – a dishonest campaign to smear Labour members with false charges of antisemitism. This precise “witch hunt” framing of the crisis, has inspired a fringe group (Labour Against the Witch Hunt) and a film (Witch Hunt).

Here’s the second cartoon, published at the Guardian on July 16th.

Here, Bell continues with the same theme, while introducing “antisemitic tropes”, which he has mocked in previous cartoons.

Here’s the third cartoon in the series, which, as we noted in a previous post, was published on Bell’s personal website, but not at the Guardian – prompting Bell to accuse editors of over-sensitivity to the “infernal” (tiresome) issue of antisemitism:

Whilst the significance of Netanyahu in the second frame isn’t totally clear at this point, it will become apparent.

Do read the rest of this cross-post by Adam Levick of UK Media Watch here.