Last March I wrote about Palestinian political cartoonist Mohammed Sabaaneh being imprisoned by Israeli authorities for no good reason, except the unstated reason that they didn’t like his cartoons which were critical of Israel. I’m happy to announce that he was just released! Here is a nice article from The World.
At that time I asked readers to send a letter to the Israeli Ambassador calling for Sabaaneh’s release. Cartoonists around the world made the same requests of the Israeli ambassadors in their countries – I never heard of any of them getting a response. I got no response.
Great to have you back, Mohammad!
Here is my letter to Israel’s Ambassador …
March 16, 2013
Cagle Cartoons, Inc.
Ambassador Michael Oren
Embassy of Israel to the United States
3514 International Dr. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Dear Ambassador Oren,
I am writing to urge Israeli authorities to release a Palestinian political cartoonist, Mohammad Saba’aneh, who was jailed by the Israeli Defense Forces, on February 16th, at a border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan. He is being held without charge and is denied access to an attorney. Under Israeli law, Muhammad may be held indefinitely without charge. Only Israeli authorites know why he is imprisoned.
Muhammad is a cartoonist for Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, and he works at the Arab American University in Jenin on the West Bank. He is a respected cartoonist; he is not a terrorist or a criminal. Arab cartoonists often draw ugly, racist, offensive cartoons about Israel, but Muhammad’s cartoons are not among those; his work, although critical, is more balanced and artful.
Click on the photo above to read more about Saba’aneh’s plight from the Cartoonists Rights Network site.
I met Muhammad in 2010, when the U.S. State Department sent him to our Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention in Florida, where he got to meet many of his American colleagues. Muhammad told me he was a fan of my work; he is a charming guy, eager to show his own cartoons to all of his new friends. Muhammad is active in the global cartooning community and cartoonists around the world are closely following the story of his plight in Israel.
I run a small business, Cagle Cartoons, Inc., that syndicates the work of cartoonists from around the world to over 850 subscribing newspapers, including half of the daily, paid-circulation newspapers in America. Among the cartoonists we distribute is Yaakov Kirschen, the cartoonist who draws Dry Bones for The Jerusalem Post; Yaakov’s cartoons run in Jewish newspapers throughout the USA. Our American editorial cartoonists are great supporters of Israel, in contrast to cartoonists from the rest of the world who harshly criticize Israel. The contrast is easy to see as editorial cartoons reflect world opinion. American cartoonists are Israel’s most visible suporters, and my own small business is the leader in distributing these views for America and the world to see.
It seems clear that Muhammad has been jailed to chill his cartoons that are critical of Israel. Instead, this ugly incident risks chilling Israel’s most visible supporters in America’s press, at a time when Israel needs our support more than ever.
American cartoonists like to see Israel as a champion of democracy and press freedom in a hostile Middle East – Muhammad’s case undermines that perception and seems to be a clumsy attempt to silence the press. This incident makes Israel appear to be no better than its repressive neighbors.
I’m writing to you in the hope that you will urge the authorities in Israel to release Muhammad, return him to his family and allow us to again see Israel as a democracy that respects a free press.
President, Cagle Cartoons, Inc.
Want to hear more about Mohammad Saba’aneh? An interesting audio report from The World, including an interview with my Israeli cartoonist buddy, Uri Fink, is posted below. Here is another recent report about Saba’aneh. Here is a nice blog that follows the case at Cartoon Movement, including cartoons drawn in support of Saba’aneh.