As the murder of three Israeli teens spurs further violence across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, I wanted to post some cartoons by the infamous Palestinian illustrator Naji Al-Ali.
Al-Ali himself was the target of extralegal violence and emblemizes the tragedy of Palestine. By way of a brief background:
Twenty-six years ago, a cartoonist was gunned down on the streets of London. The assassins of Palestinian illustrator Naji Al-Ali were never apprehended. Yet, the attempt to silence his voice proved ineffective.
The signature character in Al-Ali’s cartoons was Handala, a young Palestinian boy observing the world’s tragedies. Handala’s back always faces the reader, situating him or her in the vantage point of the shoeless refugee boy. The viewer experiences Palestine and Israel through Handala, though Al-Ali’s pen also indicted Arab regimes, the U.S. and other enablers of Palestine’s refugee crisis. This act of witnessing has had a major impact on the region, and its cartoonists. Handala has been painted on the separation wall that splits Palestine and Israel, on barricades encircling Cairo’s interior ministry, and in Morocco’s medinas.
With a Palestinian-American teen beaten yesterday, the top image—of Handala struck by an arrow—captured the angst and sorrow I was feeling about the situation.
The color images above are by Iraqi artist Hani Mazhar, who draws inspiration from Al-Ali, and presented these works last year at Katara, a cultural village funded by the Qatari state. It was apparently the first time that Al-Ali’s cartoons were presented in the Middle East:
“These paintings are aimed at paying homage to Naji Al Ali. I want to show the people the aesthetic side of his cartoons, not only the political message, which is very important to me because Naji Al Ali’s image in the media was limited to being a cartoonist only, not as an artist. For me it is very important to show his other side,” said Mazhar.