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.
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 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.”
Al Ali might be dead, but his caricatures have proved to be immortal, and timeless.
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
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.
#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.
Naji’s tragic vision continues, Arab betrayal, useless Palestinian leaders, US complicity in the Israeli occupation, refugees refused return, little Handalas slaughtered.
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