by Martin Odoni

Following up on that offensive image of Ed Miliband in a cartoon in the Evening Standard the other week, I thought people might be interested to know that I submitted a formal complaint to the ‘newspaper’. I am going to share both the complaint and the response I have received, as I think it demonstrates a point I have been making for some time. I wish to make clear that I am not necessarily saying that the reply is not fair enough. But I am saying there is some characteristic right-wing hypocrisy on display.

Here is my original complaint; –

M Odoni

Apr 14, 13:41 BST

A cartoon by Christian Adams that appeared in the Evening Standard on 7th April, portraying Ed Miliband, was clearly anti-Semitic. It portrayed Miliband as having a hooked nose, bushy eyebrows and prominent teeth, in line with traditional stereotype Jewish imagery. I have attached images of the cartoon in question. I also note with disgust the enthusiasm with which the Chief Editor of the ‘newspaper’ has promoted the cartoon online.

Please take action against both the artist and the Chief Editor that you feel appropriate for such racial aggravation; please note that your response to this request will be very revealing as to the Evening Standard‘s attitude to racist imagery.

I also attached images of the cartoon. Here it is if you need to refresh your memory; –

Miliband hooked nose cartoon promoted by Gidiot

If you really believe that the Brick Lane Mural was anti-Semitic, how can this be anything else?

Here is the reply I received from the Evening Standard; –

Madeline (Evening Standard)

Apr 15, 16:16 BST

To whom it may concern, [WRITER’S NOTE: Nice personal touch there, when I put my name in the original e-mail….]

Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback on our daily cartoon.
While I am sorry that you have felt cause to complain, the Evening Standard denies that the cartoon bears the meaning you have alleged. 

Kind regards,

Madeline Palacz
Editorial Compliance Manager

Now, in most climates, I would in fact be totally okay with this. But the problem is that in the climate of anti-Semitism hysteria over the last five years, what I see is the right wing giving itself room-for-nuance that it will not give to anyone else.

As I have pointed out more than once, an image will never ‘be’ anti-Semitism. Nor an object. Nor even an action. Anti-Semitism is the attitude that might be behind said image, object or action. And the Evening Standard are making precisely that point here. As I say, I am okay with that in itself. If Christian Adams insists that he genuinely did not mean to play-to-racial-stereotype with this image, I am prepared to give him the benefit-of-the-doubt, at least until he does it again. The reason why is because it is possible for people to behave in a way that resembles the behaviour of anti-Semites without having any particular hostile intent towards Jews behind it.

(This is the reason why I think Keir Starmer’s whole notion of “anti-Semitism training” seminars is completely nonsensical. They might police the actions, but they will never police what the people attending the seminars are thinking, and many of them will not need policing in the first place.)

But that is the point – intent. Attitude. And that is precisely what has been missing in the endless hysteria about supposed ‘anti-Semitism-in-the-Labour-Party’. Anything that can be presented as bearing a resemblance to the behaviour of anti-Semites is just assumed must be, ipso facto, the deeds of anti-Semites. And there are inevitable points of resemblance between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, or even between anti-Semitism and simple disagreement with Israeli policy.

So many people on the left – including not only my own Jewish self but also Mike Sivier of Vox Political and Tony Greenstein (among others) – have been tarred with the anti-Semitism brush for reasons of resemblance in what we have written, far more than for reasons of intent behind it.

My question therefore is this. If the left are not allowed to have the real intentions behind what they say and do taken into consideration when the ‘Jew-hater klaxon’ is sounded – not even Jewish members of the left – why should a right wing newspaper like the Evening Standard, which has shown no shortage of self-righteousness on the topic itself, get to protest, “No no no, we didn’t mean it that way!!! We were just being mean about Ed Miliband’s general appearance”?

And on further reflection, would that really make it a whole lot better?