The Jerusalem Report, a news magazine published by Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post, fired on Tuesday the illustrator Avi Katz after a cartoon of his mocked an image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud lawmakers taking a selfie that was published following the passage of the nation-state law.
The cartoon depicted the politicians as pigs. Katz did not comment on his firing, while The Jerusalem Post told Haaretz that "Katz is a freelance cartoonist at the Jerusalem Post, and based on editorial considerations, it was decided not to continue the relationship with him."
Despite the clear homage to George Orwell's "Animal Farm", including the use of the well-known quote "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others," many people on social media were quick to compare it to anti-Semitic caricatures.
Hundreds of comments were posted, mostly outraged by the swine imagery, in response to the cartoon that Katz posted on his Facebook page, which was shared more than 2,800 times. "Crazy anti-Semite," wrote one commenter. "Filled with self-loathing, frustrated and bitter. I suggest that you climb into a jar of saltwater [in a] dark and shady place until you are nicely pickled." Another commenter wrote: "It is you who is the big. And those in the picture are just the representatives of your people and the illustrator is one of the enlightened [who are] boorish and ignorant."
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Alongside the criticism, some defended Katz and said freedom of speech is supposed to permit such cartoons. After his firing was announced, a campaign was launched on behalf of the cartoonist, which has raised more than 11,000 shekels ($3,000).
The Union of Journalists in Israel said that it "takes seriously the decision to fire cartoonist Katz from The Jerusalem Post because of his critical cartoon. Causing harm to a journalist because he expressed an opinion, lte alone when it was approved by his editors, is a dangerous step that must not be accepted. We call on Katz's editors to retract this unacceptable step."
As a result of the firing, Tel Aviv's upcoming Animix Festival, which celebrates animation, comic books, and cartoons, will feature an exhibit on freedom of speech.
"In the context of the messianic/religious/nationalistic polemics sweeping Israel, and in light of the inflamed public mood, we now get the firing of a cartoonist from a newspaper in response to a legitimate and brave cartoon that the editor did not like (but which was published in his newspaper)," said Nissim Hezkiyahu, the founder and art director of the Animix Festival.