The correspondence columns of the Herald have over the past few days lambasted this newspaper for publishing a cartoon by Malcolm Evans on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The cartoon suggested that the situation on the West Bank amounted to apartheid. It was a cartoon that sought to criticise the policy of the Israeli Government and in so doing it included the Star of David. While the Israeli national flag embodies the same symbol, and national emblems are often used to symbolise governments, the Star of David is also representative of the Jewish religion.

The Herald is at pains to separate the policies and actions of an elected government from one of the world's great religions. For this reason the cartoon was not our preferred choice and another was submitted by the cartoonist. Unfortunately, in our production processes the original cartoon found its way into the newspaper. That is something that we regret.

The incident has, however, highlighted a fundamental issue faced by news media, and the public in relation to this conflict in the Middle East. Criticism of Israel is, in the minds of some, criticism of all of Judaism. Yes, there are some for whom that may be the case; people whose views are driven by prejudice. That is not to say, however, that all criticism of the Israeli government's policy in relation to Palestinians is based on such prejudice, Far from it. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of those policies, just as Palestinians can be called to account for their unacceptable retribution on innocent Israeli citizens.

This newspaper is not anti-Semitic and stands against such prejudice. No right-thinking person could condone what has for ages been a blight on Western civilisation. However, it will continue to allow in its columns the legitimate scrutiny and censure of policies and actions on both sides of that most regrettable of conflicts between Israel and the would-be state of Palestine. We will expect critics of those policies and actions to be as mindful of the need to protect the sanctity of the Jewish faith as recent events have made us.