Friday, November 17, 2017

The arrest of Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba‘aneh


By Anna Germaine - February 21, 2013
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Behind Bars]
Tags: [culture of impunity] [Israeli army] [Yesh Din] [investigations]

Mohammad Saba’aneh, 34 is the editorial cartoonist for Al Hayat al Jadeed, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority. He also works in Public Relations with the Arab American University of Amman. On Saturday February 18 he was arrested by the Israeli army in Jericho, near the Allenby Bridge while returning home from Amman.

Saba’aneh was then taken to Al Jamleh detention center in Israel where he has been detained since Saturday, with no access to either his lawyer or his family.  

“Our worst fear is that his detention will be extended from a few weeks to six months without accusations,” another Palestinian cartoonist and member of the Cartoon Movement, Ramzy Taweel commented.

Unfortunately, given the treatment of many Palestinian political prisoners such as Hassan Karajah and Walid Khalid Hussein Ali, this is very likely. So far, Saba’aneh has had one court hearing where his detention was extended for another nine days under the claim of needing more investigation. 

Saba'aneh focuses on the strength of the Palestinians—with doves as symbols of hope for peace and trees representing roots in the land. Neither his artwork nor his subject matter suggests violence or violent resistance

“Mohammad’s arrest was a complete surprise,” Tjeed Royaards, Dutch editorial political cartoonist and cartoon editor of the Cartoon Movement told me. “Mohammad makes great cartoons that are powerful images, but they're not what you would consider controversial. A lot of his imagery has to do with freedom and freedom of expression, but he rarely draws caricatures of politicians or directly attacks persons in his cartoons.”

Though Palestine is a strong theme throughout Saba’aneh’s artwork, his criticisms of Israel and Israeli policies almost never depict Israel as a monster or even include images of Israeli soldiers. Instead, he focuses on the strength of the Palestinians—with doves as symbols of hope for peace and trees representing roots in the land. Neither his artwork nor his subject matter suggests violence or violent resistance. 

“We think it has to do with a broader strategy of the Israeli Defense Forces to harass journalists, and to make life as difficult as possible for them,” Royaards continued.

Even though preventing a journalist from doing their work is illegal under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Israeli forces assaulted journalists and media personnel working in Gaza and the West Bank 17 times in January of 2013 alone. Israeli authorities have been known to arrest both Palestinian and international journalists for reporting, photographing or filming in the field, interrogate alleged journalists who do not hold an Israeli-issued GPO press card at the border and now, tracking and targeting Palestinian journalists and artists based on the presence of Palestinian political or cultural affiliations in their work. 

This is the first time that Saba’aneh himself has been detained by the Israeli authorities.

Although Cartoon Movement has experience with cartoonists having problems with authorities of repressive regimes such as China, Mexico, Egypt and the Sudan, this is the first time that one of their members has been arrested. As part of the Cartoonists Rights Network International, Cartoon Movement is taking every step to get Saba’aneh out of detention even in the face of a legal battle, though it is difficult to have control over this situation without Saba’aneh being able to access his lawyer. 

In addition to the Cartoonists Rights Network International, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists are also investigating Saba’aneh’s case. In the last two years alone, 27 Palestinian journalists have been detained by the Israeli authorities.




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