Avi Katz, the cartoonist let go by ‘The Jerusalem Report’ over a caricature depicting Netanyahu and Likud lawmakers as characters from ‘Animal Farm,’ talks about what happened behind the scenes, why accusations of anti-Semitism are so off-base, and what the saga says about freedom of expression in Israel today.
By Oren Persico
Avi Katz wasn’t even in Israel when the cartoon was published. He was in the United States, where he was born, visiting his children. A few days earlier, he had realized his deadline was approaching for the weekly cartoon he publishes in The Jerusalem Report, called “Sketchbook,” and that he hadn’t yet sent anything to his editors.
“I went over the news and I saw Fitoussi’s photograph of the selfie and I broke out laughing,” Katz says, referring to Associated Press photographer Olivier Fitoussi’s photo, initially published in Haaretz, showing Benjamin Netanyahu and some of the more radical and oft-ridiculed lawmakers from his Likud party celebrating the passage of the Jewish Nation-State Law in the Knesset. Netanyahu appears forlorn, MK Oren Hazan is smirking, and the latter’s belly is exposed as he raises his arm to take the selfie.
“I said to myself, I don’t need to do a caricature, the caricature already exists,” Katz recalls, “and I decided to do the easy thing. It’s like telling someone else’s joke and you hope you don’t mess it up too much. I drew the photo the same way they were positioned and standing in it, Hazan and [David] Bitan and the rest, and I drew them as pigs. On the top half of the page, in large letters, I wrote the George Orwell quote and then I sent it.”
Jerusalem Report editor Steve Linde (formerly editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post) immediately wrote back saying thank you, Katz recalls. Something along the lines of, “Great, I was worried you weren’t going to make the deadline.” Soon after, Katz says, “they sent the cartoon to print and it appeared in the magazine.”
The quote, as anyone who has read the book would immediately recognize, is taken from Orwell’s Animal Farm, a satirical allegory of the Soviet Union that takes place on a farm controlled by the pigs, who explain to the other animals that although all the animals are equal, some animals are more equal than the rest.
To Katz, the parallels between the discrimination anchored...Read More