RAMALLAH, PALESTINE — Mohammad Sabaaneh’s incisive artwork has earned him a barrage of antagonism from Israel and Palestinian political factions. In February 2013, he was issued an administrative detention order by Israel and jailed for five months for alleged association with Hamas through his artwork. Some of his cartoons were published in a book written by Sabaaneh’s brother, who is affiliated with Hamas. Israel defined his contribution to the book as “collaboration with Hamas.”
Sabaaneh’s experience is reminiscent of other Israeli efforts to target freedom of expression. Palestinian media is regularly targeted, including direct attacks on journalists through physical aggression and detention. With the Palestinian Authority following suit since passing its Cybercrime Law, avenues for Palestinian independent expression entail censorship risks and punitive measures.
Sabaaneh grew up in Kuwait as part of the Palestinian diaspora, returning to Palestine in September 2000 before the commencement of the Second Intifada. Sabaaneh’s return to Palestine wrought new perspectives on Palestinians resistance and enabled him to discern the difference between the image of the Palestinian prisoner as a “hero” from the outside and the actual human existence of Palestinian political prisoners.
When Israel imprisoned him, sharing a fate similar to that of other Palestinian political prisoners contributed to a new approach in his artistic expression. While in solitary confinement for two weeks, Sabaaneh sought to transcend the dehumanization, embarking upon an art project that he planned to exhibit upon his release and that has now been published as a book titled Palestine in Black and White. Read more.