Israeli artist under fire for ‘9/11’ Netanyahu hijacker cartoon

Israeli artist under fire for ‘9/11’ Netanyahu hijacker cartoon
A political cartoonist for the left-leaning Israeli daily Haaretz has come under fire for likening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to one of the 9/11 hijackers. The artist said the cartoon was intended to show the Israeli PM's misguided US policy.

The image depicts Prime Minister Netanyahu in a plane labeled “Israel” barreling into a skyscraper flying a US flag on top. The cartoon is reminiscent of September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, when nearly 3,000 people died.

Critics have widely slammed Haaretz newspaper for publishing the cartoon.

With the ensuing backlash, the cartoonist, Amos Biderman, tweeted in Hebrew that the message behind the drawing is that “Bibi is arrogantly and wantonly destroying Israel’s ties with the US and is leading us to a disaster on the scale of 9/11,” Haaretz reports.

Speaking to the newspaper on Thursday, Biderman tried to explain that he was "mocking" the Israeli PM.

"He's been acting like a bull in a china shop with the United States, which is Israel's most important strategic asset," Biderman said.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has said that the newspaper needs to publically apologize and “retract this grossly offensive cartoon.”

“Not only does it completely misrepresent any tensions which may current exist between the US government and Mr. Netanyahu, it disrespects the memories of thousands of innocent Americans and others who tragically perished on 9/11, and the deep pain and trauma caused by the horrific attacks,” a statement by Abraham Foxman, National Director for the ADL, said.

Foxman said he was “shocked and outraged” that Haaretz allowed for the image to be published because the cartoon was particularly “jarring and incredibly irresponsible.”

“As anti-Semitic conspiracy theories charging that Israel and/or Jews were behind the attacks are still believed by large swaths of the Muslim world, it is particularly jarring and incredibility irresponsible that an Israeli newspaper, especially one whose journalistic standards are widely respected, would resort to publishing such a highly offensive stereotype in the name of political satire,” he said.

The cartoon was also roundly panned on social media, where it was called “garbage”, “pretty provocative” and “the most disgracefully” anti-Israel cartoon.

Israeli Foreign Ministry official Paul Hirschson remarked on Twitter that the cartoon was “gutter press.”

Roman Gertsberg, whose 25 year-old daughter Marina died in the attack on the Twin Towers, told the Algemeiner Journal the whole premise of the cartoon was beyond ridiculous.

“Nobody in their right mind should associate Israel with flying a plane into the WTC . It it very offensive to 9/11 families to distort the historical events of that tragic day in order to bring attention to one political statement or another,” Gertsberg said.

“We know who the perpetrators were – Al Qaeda and all their supporters,” he added.

Biderman told Haaretz that he certainly did not want to “insult or upset anyone” and that he “wasn't sufficiently aware of the great sensitivity that 9/11 holds for Americans."

“I have used some of Israel's greatest tragedies as the background for my cartoon. In one of my recent cartoons, which poked fun at the so-called Milky protest, I even referenced the Gestapo. I never imagined that by using an image that evoked 9/11 I would cause such a storm,” Biderman said.

The cartoon follows highly charged comments by Obama administration officials, who were cited as calling Netanyahu a “chickenshit” and “coward.”

The officials accused the Isareli PM of being more interested in political posturing than de-escalation of tensions in the region.

Netanyahu, in a rare step, addressed the anonymous officials directly, saying that unlike him, the security and unity of Jerusalem were not their primary concerns.

He said that he was attacked only because of his decision to “defend the State of Israel” and its people.

"Despite all of the attacks I suffer, I will continue to defend our country. I will continue to defend the citizens of Israel," Netanyahu added.