This is to inform you that two days ago during my return from Jordan through Allenby Bridge after having participated in an art exhibition. My bag was searched (which is something normal) but an Israeli soldier found my sketchbook containing a number of my drawings about The Occupation. I was in front of this soldier at the waiting room watching her reaction. She called out to her colleagues and they gathered around my sketchbook but I still thought this was nothing unusual. However after one hour of waiting they called me and took my passport. After a further hour an intelligence officer came and took me to my bag.
Officer: What is this?
Me: It’s a sketch book.
Officer: Is it yours?
Officer: You admit that?
Me: Yes, why not?
Officer: Drawing tanks and soldiers is a problem.
Me: Is this forbidden?
Officer: I am the one who is asking questions here. Where you have been and what you have been doing?
Me: You know where I have been and what I was doing at that time.
The officer then went through my drawings asking about each one separately. The irony is this book contains comics I started drawing about my arrest when returning back from Jordan in 2013.
He left me for more than half an hour then came and told me that he was awaiting a decision on whether to arrest me or not from the officer responsible for my file, to give me a notice to visit the intelligence office or come to my own house. After another hour he returned, gave me my passport and let me go.
I don’t know what will happen in the coming days. If you want to publish anything about it, it’s ok.
CRNI’s Executive Director, Dr Robert Russell responds:
“A few days ago our friend and colleague Mohammad Saba’aneh sent us an email chronicling the latest escalation in the efforts of the Israeli Defense Forces to halt the flow of his pen. This is nothing new, in fact parties on both sides of the fence have tried to silence him.
We’ve known Mohammad for many years, monitoring the actions against him that have come to our attention first hand, through word-of-mouth from other cartoonists and via other human rights and free-speech organizations.
Last year we held a workshop at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Museum on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus. We invited Mohammad because his observations of the political environments around him are so astute and to the point.
His is a story that’s familiar to those cartoonists whose work affects and reflects social and political change in their own countries and beyond. Mohammad is firmly in that fold because of his powers of observation, a gifted drawing hand and above all his courage. It’s one thing to draw cartoons about human rights but a whole different level of engagement to bring about change in opinions and behaviour of others.
Mohammad is our Regional Representative for the Middle East. He works tirelessly to help the children who find themselves in orphanages and hospitals there. He runs regular classes for young people, helping them to use drawing and cartooning to express their traumas and fears. He does this all at his own expense. They say a sorrow shared is halved; Mohammed instinctively understands this and he has dedicated his life to making sorrows half sorrows.
We support Mohammad completely. We and others are watching closely as the net is drawn closer in an effort to intimidate and terrorise him. For a minority such tactics simply don’t work because the opposite of fear is laughter and while many of his cartoons are very serious, behind them all is a lightness of spirit.
Please keep us laughing Mohammad. We are watching and the world is watching. As for the antics of those working to silence you, we are laughing and the world is laughing.”