Palestine: Remembering Political Cartoonist Naji Al Ali

Today, [July, 22] marks the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Palestinian political cartoonist Naji Al Ali, famous for his criticism of Arab autocratic regimes and Israel.

” 25 years over the assassination of Naji Al Ali”
photo: Facebook Page Handala

Al Ali was born in Al-Shajara village in either 1936 or 1937. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, which resulted in the creation of the State of Israel, Al Ali was among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to be expelled from their homes. With his family, he moved to a refugee camp in Southern Lebanon.

On this same day in 1987, Al Ali was shot in the face in London. As a result, he spent five weeks in a coma before passing away.

On this 25th anniversary, netizens from Palestine, and the entire Arab region have been paying tribute to Al Ali, by sharing his caricatures and quotes.


Handala writing on the wall: "Revolution until Victory"

Handala writing on the wall: “Revolution until Victory”
Caricature by Naji Al Ali

Handala is undeniably Naji Al Ali's timeless star. Through Handala, Al Ali criticized and ridiculed Arab leaders, and societies, Israel, and US involvement in the Arab region.

Twitter user Yousef M. Aljamal tweeted Naji Al Ali's quotes on Handala. Here are some of these tweets:

“I drew him as a child who is not beautiful; his hair is like the hair of a hedgehog who uses his thorns as a weapon”, #Handala #NajiAlAli

@YousefAljamal: “His hands are clasped behind his back as a sign of rejection at a time when solutions are presented to us the American way.” #Handala

@YousefAljamal: “Handala was born ten years old, and he will always be ten years old.”

“At that age, I left my homeland, and when he returns, Handala will still be ten, and then he will start growing up”

@YousefAljamal:”The laws of nature do not apply to him. He is unique. Things will become normal again when the homeland returns.”

@YousefAljamal: “I presented him to the poor and named him Handala as a symbol of bitterness.”

@YousefAljamal: “At first, he was a Palestinian child, but his consciousness developed to have a national, global and human horizon.”

Timeless Caricatures:

Handala turning his back to the viewer. At the grave “I think therefore I am” is written. Another immortal Caricature by Naji Al Ali- shared by twitter user @CultureofFear

Al Ali might be dead, but his caricatures have proved to be immortal, and timeless.

@iFalastenya: قتلوه ولكن حنظلة ما زال حيٌ يرزق. ‎‫#ناجي_العلي‬‏
They killed him [Naji Al-Ali] but Handala is still alive
@ZahretTshreen ‪#‬‫ناجي_العلي‬ أصبح بتنبؤاته قائدا لكل شباب ‪#‬‫فلسطين‬ حتى بعد رحيله بربع قرن .. مازالت رسوماته تحكي واقعنا المرير
@ZahretTshreen: With his predictions, Naji Al Ali has become a leader of the Palestinian youth a quarter of a century after his death…His drawings still tell the story of our bitter reality

Over the years, Handala has stood as a symbol for Palestinian resistance and the right to return.

@occupytheory: #Handala continues resisting / حنظلة لا يزال يقاوم / #OWS #globalsolidarity #Syria #Egypt #Palestine #Bahrain #Yemen #Libya #Tunisia #Greece

@__Hossam: رحم الله من رسم حنظلة … حنظلة يا ‪#‬‫ناجي_العلي‬ مازال ينتظر العودة , ومازال ينتظر القدس , ومازال ينتظر وطن محرراً يحتضنه …
May the one who created Handala rest in peace…O Naji Al Ali, Handala still awaits returning [home]…still awaits Jerusalem, and still awaits a liberated home that embraces him

The 10-year-old boy also stands by the side of ordinary Arabs.

Mohamed Diaa from Egypt tweets:

#Handala was reflecting the suffering of Arab people under the dictatorship regimes. RIP #NajiAlAli

Who Killed Naji Al Ali?

It is still unknown who assassinated Al Ali, but there have been speculations about the involvement of Israel.

@NadeenR: tweeted:

#Israel is not afraid of those holding a weapon as much as of those holding a pen. RIP Naji Al Ali. #Palestine

However, Al Ali did not only criticize Israel. Criticism of autocratic Arab rulers, and the Palestine Liberation Organization were common themes in his cartoons.

“He criticized everyone, I was told, Israelis, the PLO [The Palestine Liberation Organization] , Arab regimes. No one knows who killed him. Everyone had reason”, said comics artist and journalist Joe Sacco on Naji Al Ali in the introduction for the book A Child in Palestine.

The world may never know who was behind the assassination of Naji Al Ali, but the world will always remember him, and his imperishable character, Handala.

For more information about Naji Al Ali, and his work in English, check out this PDF document prepared by Arab American artist Fayeq Oweis.


  • Vacy

    Naji’s tragic vision continues,  Arab betrayal, useless Palestinian leaders, US complicity in the Israeli occupation, refugees refused return, little Handalas  slaughtered.

  • Meshuggah Bacon

    I have the answer to all of the difficulties in the Middle East.  To find out what it is, send me $2 in a plain envelope.

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