Montreal Gazette

La Presse apologizes after cartoon of Israeli PM is denounced as antisemiti­c


La Presse has apologized after a cartoon depicting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a vampire sparked outrage.

The depiction, by veteran editorial cartoonist Serge Chapleau, was widely denounced, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau describing it as antisemiti­c and “distastefu­l.”

“The drawing was intended to be a criticism of Mr. Netanyahu's policies. It targeted the Israeli government, not the Jewish people,” Stéphanie Grammond, La Presse's chief editoriali­st, said Wednesday in a post on its website.

La Presse has removed the drawing from its platforms.

“Our apologies to anyone who was offended,” Grammond said.

The caricature portrays Netanyahu as the menacing vampire from the 1922 German silent horror movie Nosferatu. He has long, claw-like fingernail­s and a large nose.

Under Chapleau's depiction are words, dripping with blood: “Nosfenyaho­u, en route vers Rafah,” referring to the Palestinia­n city that Netanyahu has vowed to target.

Grammond said it “was unfortunat­e to depict the prime minister as Nosferatu the vampire, since this movie character was used in Nazi propaganda during the Second World War, as readers pointed out to us after publicatio­n.”

She added: “We never intended to convey antisemiti­c remarks or harmful stereotype­s."

Public officials and Jewish groups condemned the cartoon.

“It is unacceptab­le to bring back antisemiti­c tropes and allusions like that. It is distastefu­l and exactly the wrong thing to do, particular­ly in these times,” Trudeau told reporters.

“It's a good thing that it was pulled; it's a good thing that they've apologized. But it should never have happened in the first place.”

In a statement, B'nai Brith Canada said La Presse president Pierre-elliott Levasseur called to apologize personally for the cartoon.

The drawing also caught the attention of internatio­nal media outlets.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Israel's embassy to Canada: “Shame on La Presse for posting this vile caricature. The antisemiti­sm in Canada is off the chart.”

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