The controversy following cartoonist Avi Katz's dismissal from a sister publication of The Jerusalem Post over his cartoon depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and political allies as pigs picked up steam Thursday, with veteran columnist Haim Watzman submitting his resignation in protest.
The Israel Press Council responded with a statement demanding that "the owners and editors of the newspaper clarify forthwith the reasons for the cartoonist's dismissal and whether it had anything to do with the publication of the cartoon."
Katz posted on Facebook that a similar caricature published over 30 years ago did not stir the same sort of scandal. That caricature was the work of Israel Prize laureate Yisrael Zeev and was published by Haaretz in May 1980 under the headline "Arik's Animal Farm."
Zeev's cartoon depicted senior cabinet ministers, former Prime Minister Menachem Begin and then-Defense Minister Arik Sharon as pigs, and opposition leaders such as Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres as horses and donkeys. Zeev did not lose his job.
In response to Katz's firing, 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."
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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.
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.