Friday 15 March 2013

Cartoonist held without charge in Israel

Mohammad Saba'aneh is a political cartoonist who creates beautiful work which is by turns angry, impassioned, heartfelt and touching. I see his work as continuing in the grand tradition of other great Palestinian political cartoonists, such as the late Naji al-Ali.

As well as being the editorial cartoonist for al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official daily newspaper of the Palestinian National Authority, he is also a member of the international cartoonist collective The Cartoon Movement (based in Amsterdam), and a contributor to the UK-based current affairs magazine New Internationalist. Beyond cartooning, he is also employed by the Arab American University in Amman, and it was while returning home from the University on Saturday 16 February this year that he was detained by the Israeli Defense Forces at the Allenby Bridge checkpoint, which sits on the border of Jordan and the occupied West Bank.

He is currently being held without charge and has so far been denied access to his lawyer.

A number of international organisations have been working to draw attention to the plight of Saba'aneh, and calling for his immediate release/access to his lawyer, including Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Cartoonists Rights Network, as well as many of the publications already mentioned above.

Really good political cartoons (or any form of artistic expression) have the power to afflict the comfortable while comforting the afflicted. The sooner Mohammad Saba'aneh is allowed to return to making the beautiful and inspiring art for which he is known the better.

Update: The website of the Palestinian Prisoner Support Network, Samidoun, reported the good news that Mohammed Saba'aneh was released on July 1, after a five month sentence for "contact with a hostile organisation." This seems to refer to his open support for Palestinian political prisoners and communication with a Jordanian book publisher who is interested in publishing a book of his cartoons.