An Israeli cartoonist is standing by his work after coming under criticism for publishing an editorial cartoon evoking the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.
The cartoon, by Amos Biderman of Haaretz, shows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the controls of an aircraft headed for a building topped by an American flag. The plane says "ISRAEL" on the side:
"The message is that Bibi is arrogantly and wantonly destroying Israel's ties with the U.S. and leading us to a disaster on the scale of 9/11," Biderman explained in a tweet in Hebrew, according to Haaretz.
The cartoon was published amid a controversy in which an unnamed U.S. official reportedly called Netanyahu "chickenshit."
Many took offense at the cartoon, and the Anti-Defamation League demanded an apology.
"The cartoon in question is offensive on many levels," ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement. "Not only does it completely misrepresent any tensions which may current exist between the U.S. government and Mr. Netanyahu, it disrespects the memories of thousands of innocent Americans and others who tragically perished on 9/11, and the deep pain and trauma caused by the horrific attacks."
Foxman added that the cartoon feeds conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which were carried out by al Qaeda terrorists. He wrote:
Furthermore, as anti-Semitic conspiracy theories charging that Israel and/or Jews were behind the attacks are still believed by large swaths of the Muslim world, it is particularly jarring and incredibility irresponsible that an Israeli newspaper, especially one whose journalistic standards are widely respected, would resort to publishing such a highly offensive stereotype in the name of political satire.
Some family members of 9/11 victims also took offense.
“If this cartoon shows that Israel flies the plane into the World Trade Center, then it is the most ridiculous display I’ve ever seen," Roman Gertsberg, whose daughter was killed in the attack, told Algemeiner. "Nobody in their right mind should associate Israel with flying a plane into the WTC. It it very offensive to 9/11 families to distort the historical events of that tragic day in order to bring attention to one political statement or another.”
On Twitter, users roundly rejected the cartoon, calling it "obscene," "staggering," and "f**king disgusting."
But Biderman said he wasn't trying to insult anyone.
"I wasn't sufficiently aware of the great sensitivity that 9/11 holds for Americans," he told Haaretz on Thursday, adding:
"I have drawn cartoons depicting every war that Israel has fought, including the Yom Kippur War -- which I was involved in -- where we suffered thousands of casualties. I have used some of Israel's greatest tragedies as the background for my cartoon. In one of my recent cartoons, which poked fun at the so-called Milky protest, I even referenced the Gestapo. I never imagined that by using an image that evoked 9/11 I would cause such a storm."
"I was mocking Bibi," Biderman said. "He's been acting like a bull in a china shop with the United States, which is Israel's most important strategic asset."