Anti-PA political cartoon goes too far, even for Hamas

Bahaa Yassin, who used sexual imagery to portray the Fatah-Israel relationship, is summoned for investigation following public uproar

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Cartoon by Bahaa Yassin accuses the West Bank and its security agencies of collaborating with Israel (Bahaa Yassin/courtesy/Palestinian Media Watch)
Cartoon by Bahaa Yassin accuses the West Bank and its security agencies of collaborating with Israel (Bahaa Yassin/courtesy/Palestinian Media Watch)

A political caricature by a Gaza-based artist accusing the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank of collaborating with Israel has sparked Hamas action against the cartoonist and sharp controversy on Palestinian social media — but not for its anti-Semitic portrayal of the Jewish state as a child-killing Israeli despoiler of the Palestinians.

Bahaa Yassin published a cartoon on his Facebook page on July 31 depicting the West Bank as a woman dressed in yellow (signifying the colors of Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party) engaged in sexual intercourse with a stereotypical ultra-Orthodox Jewish man symbolizing Israel.

The man, marked by a large Star of David, is portrayed as shooting and killing Palestinian infants while having intercourse with the West Bank.

Meanwhile, a man wearing a Palestinian headscarf standing across the fence in Gaza urges “the West Bank” to rise up and “defend her honor and children.”

The woman answers that she would like to, but does not have a permit. A Palestinian security officer stands on the sidelines smoking, ignoring the entire incident.

The caricature was tweeted by Hamas newspaper al-Resalah, but was soon removed following a public outcry, with an apology to readers.

Hamas has long faulted the Palestinian Authority and its main component, the Fatah movement, for harming vital Palestinian interests through its security cooperation with Israel. A fatal firebombing attack on the Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, which prompted the caricature, only highlighted the perceived impotence of Palestinian security in the face of alleged settler violence.

But the caricature’s blatant sexual content, as well as its disparagement of the entire West Bank population, obviously crossed the line in the eyes of many.

“They burnt a baby, and you burnt our blood,” tweeted one man at Bahaa Yassin.

Yassin promptly removed the caricature from his Facebook page, Israeli watchdog Palestinian Media Watch reported, replacing it with an amended image of a West Bank woman standing proud with a bloodied knife — having stabbed the Jewish criminal — and rebuking another lady representing Fatah: “I will avenge my children and avenge you, O [Palestinian] Authority of shame!”

Bahaa Yassin's modified cartoon (Bahaa Yassin Facebook page)
Bahaa Yassin’s modified cartoon (Bahaa Yassin Facebook page)

But Yassin’s modified cartoon was not good enough for Hamas in Gaza. Iyad el-Bozom, a spokesman for Hamas’s interior ministry which controls Gaza’s security apparatus, wrote on Facebook that the government intends to take legal action against the artist for “offending our people, their resistance and their struggle.”

“It is unimaginable that our people, a model of struggle and sacrifice for the entire world, can be depicted in such a way,” Bozom wrote. Local media later reported that Yassin was summoned by Hamas for questioning.

This was hardly the first time Yassin has portrayed intense violence in his caricatures. His artwork often echoes Hamas calls on West Bank Palestinians to carry out lone wolf attacks against Israelis and glorifies such attacks after they happen. A caricature from November 2014, for instance, praises the terror attack on worshipers at a Jerusalem synagogue that left five men dead.

Nor has Yassin held back on the Palestinian Authority and its leadership. A caricature published on his Facebook page on April 20 depicts his perpetual protagonist, Abul Izz, pointing at PA President Mahmoud Abbas as a baby sucking from a bottle decorated with a Star of David and saying, “When Palestine was raped this is what she gave birth to.”

Mahmoud Abbas depicted as bastard baby in a caricature by Bahaa Yassin published in April (Bahaa Yassin Facebook page)
Mahmoud Abbas depicted as a bastard baby in a caricature by Bahaa Yassin published in April (Bahaa Yassin Facebook page)

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