Sacco's profound cartoon story about Palestinians living in
the occupied West Bank.
2 of Joe Sacco's humanistic cartoon novel about Palestinians
in the West Bank.
AL-ALI - PALESTINIAN CARTOONIST
thinking is internationalist, and my concerns humanitarian."
by Mark Vallen
al-Ali was one of the best
known political cartoonists in the Arab world. His works
afford Westerners an insight into Arab public opinion, something
which is needed now more than ever before. Naji was not
a political or religious extremist, and his works represent
the widely held views of the Arab people. He was born in
the Northern Galilee in Palestine and grew up in a refugee
camp in Lebanon. When he was young, Naji was jailed several
times for his political cartoons... and his jail experiences
further developed his artistic/political tendencies.
he traveled to Kuwait, where he studied art academically.
At this point Naji was convinced he could become influential
as a cartoonist, and that his works would help contribute
to the liberation of his people. In the cartoon above, Naji
created a bound Arab man being lashed by a colonial master,
the cuts and drawn blood on the victim's back forming the
flag of the United States.
most of Naji al-Ali's cartoons there stands a small boy
viewed from the backside. That small boy is Naji al-Ali
himself as a child expelled from his Palestinian homeland.
Naji named the character Hanzala... which means "bitterness"
in Arabic. The artist saw his Hanzala character as a bold
witness to history, and he said that his character was,
"my icon which safeguards my soul from committing mistakes...
he is the ever alert conscience." In the cartoon
above, Hanzala watches a young Palestinian girl forced to
play a macabre game of jumping rope, only the "rope" held
by her tormentors is the barbed wire of military occupation.
above cartoon shows Hanzala walking gingerly through a field
of stones. An unidentified Palestinian is pictured having
picked up one of those stones but was shot before it could
be cast. The would be stone thrower's blood drops to the
ground to nourish a flower, a symbol of the independent
Palestinian nation to come.
al-Ali's cartoons were published in Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan,
Morocco, Tunisia, and Palestine... places the artist himself
was forbidden to visit. Conservative Arab regimes disliked
Naji with almost the same zeal as his Israeli enemies, and
Naji received numerous death threats. He eventually moved
to England where he continued to lambaste the powerful with
his vitriolic pen. On July 23rd, 1987, Naji al-Ali was standing
outside the offices of the AL QABAS newspaper in
London when he was shot in the face by an unknown assassin.
The artist's voice was silenced at last, but his little
Hanzula character continues to be more than a witness to
history. Soon after Naji al-Ali was taken from this world
by the enemies of art and justice... the first Intifada
is owned and operated by Mark Vallen ©. All text by Mark