This is your opportunity to see a former Palestinian prisoner/artist in the United States at the height of a historic hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners.
The cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh, who has just published a book called White and Black Political Cartoons from Palestine, will be continuing a book tour, Life and Prison in Palestine: A Cartoonist’s Eye, in Portland, Oregon, tonight, and in Olympia tomorrow. Then San Francisco, Palo Alto, Anaheim, and San Jose — and next weekend in Chicago. (And yes, Just World Books is an advertiser at our site; but this is news.)
Saba’aneh opened his appearance in Washington three days ago by speaking of the 1600 prisoners who are hunger-striking for their dignity, and for better conditions, and of the 1600 families of these prisoners who are suffering.
“I ask all the people around the world to stand with them and support them,” Saba’aneh said.
Saba’aneh was imprisoned in 2013. He had visited Jordan on business. On his return from Amman, he was interrogated by an Israeli soldier at Allenby Bridge, and soon detained.
At that moment I realized that I became one of the characters in my cartoon, a character representing the Palestinian prisoner.
Saba’aneh was held by Israel for five months on charges of a links to a terrorist group. He spent two weeks in solitary confinement in a dim dungeon. I ask you to watch Saba’aneh for a few minutes at least, and tell me that he is any different from any young artist you know in the States, in his delicacy of speech and thought and manner.
The Israelis kept him in grim prison conditions, indifferent to his health, so that he would cough up evidence of his guilt.
Because of this isolation, I start to think that I should deal with my psychology. OK I’m inside this cell, but I should pretend or claim that I am a journalist inside the Israeli prison to report to all the people around the world about what’s happening inside Israeli prisons.
Saba’aneh resolved to make cartoons about the Palestinian prisoners. He stole small pieces of paper, and a stub of pencil, too, in order to make the cartoons. These thefts were a victory for him morally. Because he had done something against the authorities; and he was able to keep the paper even when he was moved to another prison and searched.
He prepared his cartoons in a code so that if the authorities found them they would not know what they were about. For instance, he would leave out the bars of the cell when he did a portrait of a Palestinian prisoner. Then when he was free, he finished the cartoons.
Saba’aneh described his artistic development in an interview that just ran on PRI:
“Most of the cartoonists and artists in the Arab world want to show Palestinian martyrs and prisoners like a hero, like a superman,” he says. “This is something I did not feel when I was in the prison.”
Sabaaneh says in prison all he wanted was to feel was human again. He craved the ordinary things like seeing his wife and daughter, visiting with friends and doing his artwork. “I did not feel like superman inside the prison.”
Let’s hope that the excellent producers at Fresh Air hear Saba’aneh and manage to get him on while he is in the States. This is a young artist who has a great political future before him, and he is here at a time of considerable moment!
Here is that calendar for the tour again.