By Samaneh Aboutalebi

Anti-Israel cartoonists have always been under attack from Israel and its allies: Shojaei-Tabatabai

May 8, 2021 - 0:8

TEHRAN – Artists from across the world showcased their artworks in a Tehran exhibit last week to express their solidarity with Palestine.

Submissions to Palestine Is Not Alone International Cartoon, Caricature and Poster Contest were selected for the exhibit, which was organized by the Art Bureau of the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization.

“Nowadays, Palestine is really not alone as the people who are free from the tyrannies of the arrogant governments stand together with the oppressed Palestinians,” the director of the contest, Masud Shojaei-Tabatabai, told the Tehran Times.

Shojaei-Tabatabai, who is also a professional cartoonist and the director of the bureau’s Visual Arts Office, pointed to French magazine Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons insulting the Holy Prophet Mohammad (S), and said, “They have no problem with promoting hatred against Muslims by permitting such cartoons to be published, while citing it as freedom of expression.

“Meanwhile, the slightest doubt raised about the Holocaust is subject to penalties. 

“Since we started running international cartoon contests about Palestine and the Holocaust, the Israeli media has stated that we are denying the Holocaust. However, we have never denied it. We simply have asked why the Palestinian people should be made to pay the price for the Holocaust.”

He said that Israeli officials have continuously lashed out against such events, while making their best efforts to normalize their presence in Occupied Palestine and their relations with other countries, in particular, with Arab governments.   

“However, artists from 66 countries, which almost represent one-third of the world, show their people’s support for Palestine by their artworks on display at the exhibition,” he added. 

Shojaei-Tabatabai expressed his concern about probable threats to the artists participating in the competition from the governments of their countries of origins, which have close relations with the Zionist regime.

He said that Naji al-Ali, a Palestinian cartoonist who was noted for his political criticism of the Arab regimes and the Israeli entity in his works, was assassinated in 1987 outside the London office of the newspaper, Al Qabas, by Mossad double agents.

Al-Ali is best known as the creator of the character Handala pictured in his cartoons as young witness of the satirized policy or event depicted. His character, a ten-year-old standing with his back turned and hands clasped behind his back, has since become an icon of Palestinian defiance.

Shojaei-Tabatabai noted that al-Ali’s death did not mean his end, and added, “There are now hundreds of artists from all over the world who stand with the Palestinians.”

“The character Handala has continued to appear in cartoons and posters related to Palestine, and can even be found in the artworks of our current exhibition,” he asserted 

The exhibition is scheduled to move to eight countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Lebanon. 

Palestinian cartoonist Haneen Taysier Al Amassie is among the most celebrated artists whose works were showcased at the exhibition.   

Luiz Carlos Fernandes from Brazil, Cristina Bernazzani from Italy, Izabela Kowalska from Poland and Balai Kartun Rossem from Malaysia judged the submissions to the international competition.

As a symbolic deed the jury members had been selected from all corners of the world, to show the solidarity of the world with Palestine, Shojaei-Tabatabai said.

Shojaei-Tabatabai also said that he and his colleagues have always been under attack from the Israeli entity and its allies for organizing such exhibitions.

“However, their attacks just motivate us to keep going as people in Iran and other countries recognize our efforts,” he noted. 

“The Israeli media accuse us of seeking a provocative solution to the Palestine issue, while the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, has proposed a democratic solution a few years ago.” 

“The Leader has called for a referendum in Palestine, which is fully in line with current world standards, but of course, the illegitimate regime of Israel will never agree to it, as they are fully aware of what would be the outcome,” he concluded.  

The Palestine Is Not Alone International Cartoon, Caricature and Poster Contest announced winners on May 7 during International Quds Day, which falls on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan every year.

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