The ace, Ramallah-based Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh has stepped up his international activities in recent months, continuing his campaign to raise worldwide awareness of the plight of the Palestinians and to build ever-stronger ties between cartoonists and thought leaders around the world and their counterparts in Palestine.
Mohammad, the creator of the above great image, is the Middle East Regional Representative for the Washington, DC-based Cartoonists Rights Network International.
We last wrote about him six months ago, when he was invited by the UN’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to take part in a civil-society forum they were organizing in New York. (His work was also featured in an exhibition on high-performing Palestinians that was held at the UN’s headquarters building.)
Some of the highlights of his activities since then have included:
** In February, the UK-and-east-of-Atlantic version of his book of political cartoons came out, under the title Palestine in Black and White. This is a slightly abridged version of the original, US-and-rest-of-world version of the book that was released by our friends at Just World Books in April 2017.
The new version of the book has received rave reviews from, among others, Jonathan Fryer and Olivia Snaije, and will certainly increase familiarity with Mohammad’s work among all readers east of the Atlantic.
** In March, working with his network of colleagues from all around the world, he organized a groundbreaking, open-air exhibition of cartoons titled “From the World to Jerusalem.” 150 cartoonists from 40 countries had contributed works to the exhibition, which was originally sponsored by the Municipality of Ramallah, though the artworks were later also exhibited at “Hawsh al-Fan” inside Jerusalem itself.
The exhibition attracted considerable public support.
Mohammad explained that the arrangement he reached with the contributing cartoonists specified that, in addition to allowing these works to be included in this exhibition, they had to undertake to display and publish them as widely as possible in their home countries.
The exhibition has also been mounted in Belgium, and plans continue to take it elsewhere.
** Last month, Mohammad’s own work was featured in a cartooning exhibition in the south-Belgian city of Bastogne. (This was a follow-up to the award-winning appearance he and his work made at the Marseille Comics Festival last September.)
… For all Palestinians living under Israel’s now 51-year military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, traveling to and from their homeland is an undertaking that is always complex and expensive and often also very threatening. Like all other Palestinian residents of the West Bank, when Mohammad wants to travel internationally he has to exit and enter the Israeli-controlled West Bank via Jordan, which adds considerably to the cost and complexity of any travel. (For Palestinian residents of Gaza, travel has been almost impossible for the past eleven years, during which Israel has maintained a tight siege around the Strip.)
Back in 2013, as Mohammad returned to Ramallah at the end of a trip he had made to Jordan in connection with his day-job as a university administrator, the Israeli border-control forces arrested him at the Allenby Bridge and held him in various prisons for five months before they finally released him.
Then, in December 2016, when he returned to the West Bank from Jordan after attending an art exhibition, he was once again exposed to harassment at the Allenby Bridge. On that occasion CNRI’s director, Dr. Robert Russell, issued a statement of support for the organization’s Regional Representative in the Middle East. In it, he underlined that:
We support Mohammad completely. We and others are watching closely as the net is drawn closer in an effort to intimidate and terrorise him. For a minority such tactics simply don’t work because the opposite of fear is laughter and while many of his cartoons are very serious, behind them all is a lightness of spirit.
In the current very trying times for Palestinians everywhere, Just World Educational is proud to join with CNRI and all the other advocates of human rights (including the right to freedom of expression) who are supporting Mohammad Sabaaneh and his brilliantly creative, truth-telling art. We are also pleased to remind all our supporters that we will be bringing Mohammad back to the United States in the fall of 2018, for a nationwide speaking tour that will be a follow-up to the one he did with us last year.