April 23rd, 2024

Quebec newspaper La Presse removes cartoon denounced as antisemitic, apologizes

By Thomas MacDonald, The Canadian Press on March 20, 2024.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Jerusalem, Israel, Sunday, March 17, 2024. Quebec newspaper La Presse has removed a political cartoon that depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the vampire from the silent film "Nosferatu" after criticism that the caricature used antisemitic imagery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Leo Correa, Pool

MONTREAL – Quebec newspaper La Presse has apologized for publishing a cartoon Wednesday that depicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the vampire from the film “Nosferatu” after criticism that the caricature used antisemitic imagery.

The image published online portrayed Netanyahu with pointed ears and long sharp fingers, evoking a sequence in the 1922 silent film in which the vampire Count Orlok hides away on a ship in pursuit of his human prey.

A text overlay identified the caricature as “Nosfenyahou” on his way to the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, which Netanyahu this week said would be targeted by a ground invasion, despite international appeals against the assault. La Presse removed the cartoon from its website Wednesday morning.

Many commentators and politicians denounced the image as an expression of antisemitic tropes, with some noting the German film’s echoes in Nazi propaganda and ties to historical depictions of Jewish people as vampires.

In a statement posted to X, formerly Twitter, the embassy of Israel in Canada said “shame on (La Presse) for posting this vile caricature.” The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs wrote on X that criticism of Netanyahu is possible “without stooping to using antisemitic tropes such as hooked fingers or a big nose.”

The centre said the drawing “contributes to the normalization of antisemitism that has been affecting our community for months.”

La Presse chief editorialist Stéphanie Grammond apologized in a statement posted online Wednesday afternoon, saying it was never the paper’s intention to promote harmful stereotypes.

“The drawing was meant to be a criticism of Mr. Netanyahu’s policies,” she wrote. “It was aimed at the Israeli government, not the Jewish people.”

The cartoon by award-winning editorial cartoonist Serge Chapleau also drew condemnation from politicians in Ottawa, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called it unacceptable. “It is distasteful and exactly the wrong thing to do, particularly in these times,” he told reporters.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks said that to see “antisemitic tropes used in a national publication like this is just egregious.”

In remarks on the Senate floor, Conservative Senator Leo Housakos accused La Presse of “following in (the) footsteps” of Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, which pushed antisemitic imagery before the Second World War.

“The fact that this antisemitic trope was published in the first place reveals either gross ignorance or blatant antisemitism within the ranks of media in this country,” Housakos said. Writing on X, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called the cartoon “vile” and “disgusting.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2024.

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Related companies of La Presse, Torstar and the Globe and Mail hold investments in The Canadian Press.

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