The federal commissioner for combating antisemitism in Germany, Felix Klein, blasted Germany’s largest broadsheet paper Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Wednesday for publishing an antisemitic cartoon attacking Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Israel’s 2018 winner of the Eurovision song contest, Netta Barzilai.

The cartoon shows Netanyahu celebrating on the Eurovision song stage in Netta’s attire while holding a missile which has a Star of David imposed on it. He is depicted singing with a speech bubble that says, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Klein told the mass circulation BILD that “Here associations are revived with the intolerable cartoons of National Socialist propaganda.” He added that even if cartoons provoke and create irony, “a red line was crossed here.” After the cartoon appeared on Tuesday in the SZ, the scandal gained traction with a Tweet from Aras-Nathan Keul, a board member of the Youth Forum of the German-Israeli Society , wrote: “Dear SZ, this drawing is antisemitic.”

The cartoon shows Netanyahu in military boots and behind him on the stage reads Eurovision Song Contest. The cartoonist Dieter Hanitzsch replaced the V in Eurovision with a Star of David.

Hanitzsch’s use of the Star of David to ridicule Israel’s self-defence measures against Hamas-engineered attempts to enter Israeli territory sparked widespread outrage on social media. Critics also say that the drawing conjures up the Nazi antisemitic accusation that Jews are warmongering.

The Frankfurt-based Anne Frank Educational Center termed the cartoon as “Israel-related antisemitism” on its Twitter feed.

The Munich-based SZ removed the cartoon from its website and apologised.
Wolfgang Krach, the editor in chief of the paper with a circulation of nearly 400,000 as of 2015, said the cartoon caused “discussions within and outside the SZ editorial team. He added that “The cartoonist Dieter Hanitzsch says that he only wanted to point out that the next ESC [Eurovision Song Contest] finale in 2019 is to be held in Jerusalem. Despite the caricaturist’s intention, one can understand the drawing differently and take it as antisemitic. Its release was therefore a mistake for which we apologise.”

However, the 85-year-old cartoonist Dieter Hanitzsch defended his drawing. He told the German Jewish weekly Jüdische Allgemeine Zeitung:“the editorial apologised and it is their business. I do not apologise.” He dismissed the allegation of antisemitism because it “does not affect me. I did not mean it that way. I would like to be able to criticise Netanyahu’s policy, even as a German.