The PolSoc president said the society "would never give a platform to individuals linked with antisemitism", after uninviting Bell, who has worked for the Guardian for over 40 yearsWikimedia Commons /

A college politics society has cancelled a talk featuring political cartoonist Steve Bell, after he was sacked by the Guardian in an antisemitism row over a sketch of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Queens’ College Politics Society cancelled the event yesterday over concerns that Bell’s presence would be platforming antisemitism and could “provoke protests.”

The decision came after the Guardian cartoonist was sacked over a sketch depicting Netanyahu carving the outline of Gaza into his own stomach. The newspaper rejected the drawing on the grounds that it evoked anti-semitic “pound of flesh” tropes from Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice.

Michael Watts, President of Queens’ Politics Society, told Varsity: “A decision was made to cancel the event as soon as I discovered the cartoon and the surrounding controversy.”

“We do not believe that it is in anyone’s interest for the event to go ahead,” Watts continued, stating the society “would never seek to give a platform to individuals linked with antisemitism.”

Bell, who worked for the Guardian for over 40 years, has defended the sketch, claiming the image was inspired by a famous cartoon of President Lyndon Johnson with a Vietnam-shaped operation scar.

The decision comes in the wake of vice-chancellor Deborah Prentice’s announcement that University Security Section are on “alert” for “any activity that might make members of the Jewish community feel unsafe.”

The university announced its concern after last weekend’s unprecedented attack by Hamas, a Palestinian organisation of Islamist militants, which killed at least 1,400 people in Israel.

Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the EU, and the UK, as well as other powers.

Israel has since conducted a retaliatory bombing campaign, killing 2,700 people, and told 1.1 million Palestinians to leave northern Gaza ahead of a planned ground offensive.


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Speaking to Varsity, Bell said the society had not given him “a great deal of explanation” for the cancellation of the talk, which was due to go ahead this Wednesday.

Michael Watts, President of Queens’ Politics Society, explained that the society had “regrettably” informed the cartoonist of the event’s cancellation several hours after publicly announcing the invitation’s withdrawal.

It is not the first incident in which Bell has been accused of using antisemitic imagery in his cartoons.

In 2020, a drawing of Keir Starmer holding Jeremy Corbyn’s head on a plate was interpreted by some as a reference to Salome, the daughter of the Jewish King Herod being presented with the head of John the Baptist.