I was going to give this a miss since there's so much discussion of it elsewhere on the internet today, but as its progenitor has now spoken in his own defence, and that defence is pathetic, it's worth pointing this out. The object of discussion is a cartoon by Steve Bell in which Binyamin Netanyahu appears as puppet-master, manipulating Tony Blair and William Hague. People were quick to notice that that is an anti-Semitic trope with a long tradition behind it. Bell's defence, predictably, is that the aforesaid tradition is of no consequence, because all that matters is what was in his head:
He [Bell] said the cartoon was about "the cynical manipulation of a situation by a specific politician" and "NOT about cynical manipulation by 'the Jews'. I refute completely any charge of antisemitism, since I would never conflate the two."
Mr Bell added: "I also refute the charge that I am somehow deliberately repeating the antisemitic 'trope' of the puppet master. The wilful manipulation is Netanyahu's not mine.
"I can't be held responsible for whatever cultural precepts and misapprehensions people choose to bring to my cartoon. My intention, I think, is fairly clear."
Apart from the fact that Steve Bell evidently doesn't know the meaning of the word 'refute', he can be held responsible for the meanings widely attached to symbols he chooses to use. Where words, pictures, meanings are concerned, it isn't just up to him what these must signify for the rest of the world. He can confirm this for himself by drawing on some other racist stereotypes (than anti-Jewish ones) in the weeks ahead to see what happens. It is, however, entirely common these days for anti-Semitism to be thought of as being in people's heads and nowhere else (see 4 here). That Bell's cartoon appears in the Guardian is anything but a surprise; otherwise one might be able to ask about its processes of editorial oversight (sic).