It’s World Press Freedom Day, and cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh is locked away

on 10 Comments
Free Rein by Mohammad Saba’aneh July 13 2010                                                   (Cartoon Movement/World Press Freedom Day Collection)

The strangest thing happened to me last night. I was reviewing my earlier posts about Mohammad Saba’aneh because his incarceration has become somewhat of an obsession to me. I can’t help it. I worry about him all the time: googling to see if there’s any new news, anything, any word, but there isn’t.

He’s locked away, stolen by Israel. Suffering no doubt.

Since I began searching, I’ve intercepted many many of his cartoons on the teeth grinding, mindwrenching Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) hate site. If there’s one conclusion I’ve come to it’s that PMW is as obsessed with Saba’aneh’s artwork as I am, only—in another way. A thwarted gruesome obsession is what they’ve got.

But back to my story. Mulling over my earlier reports again, opening every single link, and heading over to his archives at the cartoon movement, I opened the Movement’s homepage … and lo and behold found out that it was World Press Freedom Day yesterday and they are honoring it with a collection. So I started flipping thru the cartoons with thoughts of 30-year-old Mohammad Saba’aneh– his talent, his youth, what is he thinking right now? Are they torturing or interrogating him? How many young people like him have I never even heard of? Why has his art clutched my heart? How many old men languishing in Israeli prisons were once young promising talents like Saba’aneh, and what remains of their lost art we will never see?

I thought of Saba’aneh’s globes of freedom, and hoped he’s seeing that light right now. I prayed he was seeing it thru all the oppression, through all the missings of his family and friends and pens and pencils and colors and talent and art.

Then scrolling through the World Press Freedom Day Collection an image jumped right out at me, right off the page. “Who is this?” I thought. “Another pure talent.”

And I looked closer and checked the name, and burst into tears. It was a piece by Mohammad Saba’aneh. Someone had the wisdom to put his work in the cartoon movement’s display.

And while I don’t expect anyone here to share my obsession, if there’s just one person like me googling for news of Mohammad Saba’aneh, something, anything, they will now find my story and know, they’re not alone. And he’s not alone.

Check out some more of the exceptional talent in the Cartoon Movement’s Collection:

Press Freedom

The political cartoon is one of the best ways by which one can measure the level of press freedom in a country. A cartoonist cannot work when there is no freedom of speech and opinion. The collection is the largest we currently have, featuring almost 40 perspectives on the subject of press freedom from all over the world.

P.S. And there’s this news. In an international index of press freedom, journalists in Israel (112th, -20) enjoy real freedom of expression despite the existence of military censorship; but the country fell 20 places in the index because of the Israeli military’s targeting of journalists in Palestine.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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10 Responses

  1. Daniel Rich
    May 4, 2013, 7:15 pm

    Annie Robbins,

    Q: 30-year-old Mohammad Saba’aneh– his talent, his youth,

    R: a bit of a nonsensical side note – when you’re a teenager [or in your twenties for that matter]over 30 is regarded as being ‘old.’

    Fortunately, no matter how much time passes, my shadow doesn’t grow a day older…

    As to solving these kinds of problems, may I suggest that you use one of the Jewish Voices For Peace’s templates [sign petitions/send emails/letters to congress critters/be on the phone/demonstrate/redirect flows of money/etc.]?

    • Annie Robbins
      May 4, 2013, 7:45 pm

      how old are you daniel? most people have not reached the peak of their profession by the age of 30. in sports perhaps, or prostitution. anyway, it’s my musing and my obsession. to me he’s young, barely older than my son.

      thanks for your advice on the template.

      • Daniel Rich
        May 4, 2013, 8:46 pm

        @Annie Robbins,

        I’ll be 55 this June, Annie.

        As to peaks, it’s my understanding that it’s all ‘downhill’ [physically] after leaving the teenager behind and morph into an ‘adult.’

        Morally/philosophically there’s no end to growth whatsoever, unless one gets stuck in a tribal/group/sect rut, of course.

        But thank you for keeping a watchful eye on those exposed to the brutishness of the Apartheid Regime.

      • Cliff
        May 5, 2013, 9:41 am

        im 28, i feel super old !

      • bintbiba
        May 5, 2013, 10:02 am

        “Morally/philosophically there’s no end to growth whatsoever, …….”
        So well said, Mr.Rich!!

  2. chocopie
    May 4, 2013, 8:19 pm

    Thank you Annie, I’ve been wondering about him too.

  3. Kathleen
    May 5, 2013, 9:38 am

    Powerful Annie. And just one more of thousands of examples of how an apartheid state works.

  4. Kathleen
    May 5, 2013, 11:46 am

    Was just over at Huff Po linking Annie’s piece over there under an appropriate thread. And then went on over to the Israel attacks Syria thread and finding lots of very abusive genocidal comments towards Arabs. Generally I hit abusive comment and they come down. But not going to do that with a few of them. Amazing how much hatred there is towards Arab countries here in the states. No way to tell if it is in one particular religious or cultural group over there. But you sure can feel the hate. Here is one
    181 Fans
    Become a fan
    22 minutes ago (10:47 AM)
    A swift, EFFECTIVE, Isreali unilateral military intervention against Iraqi, Syrian, & Palistinian (“Hezbollah”) terrorism.

    Favorite (15) Flag as Abusive
    Permalink | Share it
    367 Fans
    1 second ago (11:39 AM)
    This comment is pending approval and won’t be displayed until it is approved.

    Here we see another example of the hateful ethnocentrism that exist among many Jews towards Arabs and others. Genocidal threats that cultivate hatred. This comes out of Israel and out of Zionist communities in the U.S. Just look at how many times it has been clicked “favorite” I generally would mark this as “abusive” which it clearly is but interesting to see how many times hateful individuals who wish genocide on others click as a “favorite” My question for the moderators is do you allow these type of comments to go up if they reference wanting to destroy Israel because I have never seen any comments like that go up

    Israeli Warplanes Strike Syria In Escalation: Official

  5. justicewillprevail
    May 5, 2013, 1:06 pm

    No need to apologise for your obsession. Mohammad is a real talent, and it is very important to raise awareness about him, and of course the thousands of others in his position. In addition to Annie’s links, here is a link which shows all of his work at Cartoon Movement:

    What is particularly poignant about many of his drawings is the heart-wrenching awareness of the cruelty of political imprisonment and the yearning for freedom – now, here he is, in the very position of the people he strove to give a voice to. And, as you point out, no doubt subject to the routine cruelties and sadism of the military police.

    Whilst every prisoner should be a blot on Israel’s conscience (if it had such a thing), the position of artists is often a powerful symbol of how a deeply repressive and censorious regime behaves. It indicates their opposition to, and fear of, free expression, and the power this has to both give hope to their fellow citizens, and to awaken the rest of the world to the nature of the repressive power. We have seen this many times, particularly in the former Soviet regime and its satellites, where the position of dissidents was widely publicised in the West. Similarly with artists such as Ai Wei Wei in China.

    Mohammad should be known as one of Israel’s dissidents, and widely acknowledged as an eloquent, humane artist whose work is a powerful critique of the Israeli state apparatus, a worthy successor to the Stalinist regimes of the post war period, who considered free expression a thought crime against the state.

    What strikes me about his work is not only the eloquence, but also the humanity and lack of hatred in it which, in itself, is a powerful critique of the incredibly callous sadistic practices of people who routinely crush any expression of Palestinian culture, so determined are they to alter history and replace it with fiction. Bullies, repressed and fearful of simple truths, expose themselves by their crude attempts at silencing thoughtful, independent minds. Mohammad is testimony to their barbarity.

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