Guardian censors Jeremy Corbyn cartoon

Republished with permission: Copyright © Steve Bell 2020 - All Rights Reserved.

The Guardian has censored Steve Bell, one of the UK’s leading political cartoonists.

The long-running “If…” strip did not appear in the paper on Wednesday. Bell provided this copy to The Electronic Intifada.

It is a commentary on Labour’s ongoing campaign to purge its former left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn – a veteran Palestine solidarity campaigner.

In the strip Corbyn is coerced into apologizing “for not being a right wing Zionist.”

Bell confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that the paper had refused to publish, saying that: “The only reason I was given was that they felt ‘uncomfortable’ with running it.”

He said that the paper usually gives an explanation for the few instances in which it had refused to publish. Since it didn’t this time, he said, “it could be construed as censorship.”

The Guardian seems to have wanted to “suppress something simply because they disagree with my point of view,” Bell said.

“If…” has been published by the paper for almost 40 years. It offers a surreal and funny running commentary on British political affairs.

The Guardian did not reply to a request for comment.

Whipping

The censored strip would have been the third in a series published by The Guardian this week showing current Labour leader Keir Starmer as a dominatrix threatening not to whip Corbyn.

It’s a send up of the UK Parliament’s ridiculous jargon: the parliamentary parties’ disciplinary leaders are termed “whips” and imposing a party line is called “whipping.”

It also lampoons Corbyn’s apparent willingness to capitulate to pressure and apologize. The former leader has been subjected to years of smears about “Labour anti-Semitism.”

The paper has censored the cartoonist at least twice in the past – both times over Israel.

Earlier this month Starmer announced that he had “taken the decision not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn” – meaning he cannot be part of the Labour group in the House of Commons.

The whip was initially withdrawn from Corbyn as part of his suspension as a party member in October.

But last week a Labour disciplinary panel readmitted Corbyn to the party. That would normally mean he’d automatically return as a Labour MP too, but Starmer blocked it.

The row began on 29 October, the day before Corbyn’s suspension.

The former leader had responded to the launch of a long-awaited report into supposed “institutional anti-Semitism” in Labour by accurately stating that the scale of anti-Semitism had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons.”

The report itself did not find Labour guilty of “institutional anti-Semitism.”

Labour’s chief whip Nick Brown wrote to Corbyn this week demanding that he “unequivocally, unambiguously and without reservation apologize” and that he should delete or edit his cautious October statement.

It seems unlikely that Corbyn’s “whip suspension” will be ended without such an apology.

Brown is depicted in Bell’s strip in a black hood and red shorts, demanding Corbyn “apologize properly… for everything! For being an old lefty git and for not being a right wing Zionist!”

When cartoon-Corbyn gives the apology, Brown responds “It’s not enough!”

Should the real life Corbyn apologize too, it seems likely that Labour will just find another pretext to get rid of him anyway.

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Comments

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Word has come forth that Steve Bell's annual contract will not be renewed next Spring by the Guardian. For those who wondered how such an incompatible marriage could have been sustained for so long, the answer may be found in the fact that many print edition readers bought the paper for Bell's daily contribution. Now that newsstand sales have collapsed to a fraction of the former print run- thanks in large part to a steady rightward drift in editorial policy- any argument for retaining the man's services has pretty much evaporated. He's a thorn in their side and an unwelcome reminder of what a real critical portrayal of the powerful looks like. We must hope that his imminent departure from the Guardian will herald a new birth of uncompromising and unrestricted work from this mad genius, either in a personal forum online or at whatever publication dares to welcome him.

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I agree wholeheartedly a paper without Steve Bell is just a sad neo-liberal fanzine

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The Guardian editorial policy is founded on a deep hatred of any criticism of Israel whilst proudly displaying it's lefty credentials.

Its most vehement anti-Palestinian appears to be Jessica Elgot, a former journalist for the rightwing haterag The Jewish Chronicle and one of The Guardian's political editors, who frames every single thing she writes about Labour to ultimately undermine Palestinian emancipation, often straying into outright lies to attain that end.

The Guardian needs to be flushed down the toilet as the fake-lefty rag it really is. At least most of the other mainstream press don't hide their destructive rightwing agenda.

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The appalling Elgot goes further:

https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/...

There is also a second article she has written for the JC, following an interview with Saville, in which she lauds his support for Israel and paints a very sympathetic portrait of him. Naturally, the appalling Elgot now works for the Guardian.

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Since it has now transpired that Jimmy Saville was a rapist, paedophile and abuser I hope that the Zionists give back to the funds Saville raised to Palestinian childrens' charities.

Yes it has been known for sometime that Steve Bell had had his contract terminated. When we demonstrated outside The Guardian last month in opposition to the Guardian's refusal to support Julian Assange I taunted those inside the building with the fact that there's only 1 decent journalist left on The Guardian and he was the cartoonist, who is being sacked!

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The Guardian first censored Steve Bell during the Falklands war, not long after it began published his If strip. One strip had the name [Francis] 'Pym' changed (without consultation) causing the furious cartoonist to insist that in future none of his work was to be changed without his approval. Another strip about this conflict simply disappeared into the ether without any explanation.
Difficult to believe now that Katherine Viner once helped to edit the play 'My Name is Rachel Corrie'. Another weak link that sold out her principles under Zionist pressure?

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Richard is absolutely right. I've often pondered how someone who put on 'My Name is Rachel Corrie' could virtually outlaw all criticism of Zionism in the Guardian. I guess opportunism coupled with a £300K+ salary. Mind the Guardian was going that way well b4 she became editor. I was banned from writing for CIF in 2008 after Zionist pressure.

Since then it has been one long down hill

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Hi John, Yes literally he is not a member of the Parliamentary Labour Party subject to their decisions and votes. He is a party member though. It will not really matter because he is still an MP and can vote how he likes as usual. It's just an incredibly petty move on Starmer's part and everyone knows it

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I appreciate the explanation -- and partial confirmation, I think, of what I'd guessed. And I know that there are differences in "party discipline" (if you'll pardon the phrase) between the UK and the US.

Does anyone have guesses, ideas, or *views* on whether Corbyn has a better long-term chance to succeed for his agenda by

(1) trying to win the Labour leadership again; or

(2) trying to lead his supporters elsewhere?

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You are talking about an honourable man not an ambitious social climber. He won't leave Labour and he won't stand again for the leadership - at 71 he is a bit old anyway. Of course he might get kicked out of the party, which could cause a schism, but he wouldn't try to exploit such a situation: it would be completely out of character. If Starmer kicks him out he might stand as an independent in his constituency, and would have a very good chance of winning.

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I think Richard Lightbown misses the point re Viner and her play on the death of Rachel Corrie - a young, idealistic American - who was killed defending Palestinian homes. For Viner, Palestinians are objects in a drama (and also in her drama in this case). Viner draws the line at Palestinians as subjects of history, opposing the colonisation of their lands. Then they are the 'other'.

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This is making it very hard to quote from the Guardian in support of progressive politics. It makes faithful Guardian readers like myself very "uncomfortable" indeed.
Now the cartoon has been explained and clearly makes a valid point, it should be published in the Guardian a s a p.

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Long a fence-sitter which tilted rightwards whenever an election came into view, The G has lost any semblance of courage. Orwell is proved right once more: "If liberty means anything it is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear." Steve Bell is fine example of sane irreverence in a world of mad conformism. And his two-fingers to the powerful is a very common attitude among the common folk. That's why he's been dropped. He doesn't love Big Brother and if that attitude is allowed to gain traction who knows, we might even get democracy.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.