The Palestinian public prosecutor in the West Bank recently issued an arrest warrant for Gaza-based cartoonist Baha Yassin, in response to complaints that he insulted the Palestinian flag and women in one of his recent pieces.
Although the arrest warrant was issued on December 1, reports of the move only emerged Sunday when a copy of the document was given by one of the plaintiffs to Palestinian media.
Known for his political, often violent caricatures, Yassin sparked public outcry last June when he posted a picture on his Facebook page depicting the West Bank as a woman dressed in yellow — a color associated with Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party — engaged in sexual intercourse with a stereotypical ultra-Orthodox Jewish man, symbolizing Israel.
The image, which accused the Fatah party of collaborating with the Jewish state, was considered insulting by many Palestinians across the political spectrum, who objected to its overt sexual imagery.
Yassin’s caricatures commonly portray intense violence and openly advocate for the killing of Israelis. He is known for praising terrorist attacks in his drawings, such one he posted in November 2014 following a terror attack on worshipers at a Jerusalem synagogue that left five men dead.
In the wake of the negative reaction, Yassin took down the caricature and replaced it with one of a West Bank woman standing proud with a bloodied knife after having stabbed a Jew and rebuking another lady representing Fatah saying “I will avenge my children and avenge you, O [Palestinian] Authority of shame!”
At the time, Hamas’s interior ministry spokesman, Iyad el-Bozom, panned the first cartoon on Facebook and said Gaza rulers intended to take legal action against the artist for “offending our people, their resistance and their struggle.”
In the end Hamas seems to have not followed through with its threats, but that did not stop a group of three particularly incensed West Bank residents taking on the case.
One of the plaintiffs, Hassan Salim, told Al-Watan news on Sunday that they filed the initial complaint against Yassin because his drawings “insulted Palestinian women” and “show contempt for the Palestinian flag.”
The latter refers to an image posted by Yassin on his Facebook page of a donkey combined with the Palestinian flag. “The Palestinian flag is a symbol for freedom for every Palestinian and free man in the world. These drawings belittle the Palestinian flag and damage its symbolism and sacredness,” Salim said.
According to Salim, the district court in Ramallah held a session last Thursday where they demanded Yassin’s referral to the Palestinian Public Prosecutor’s office for trial. According to Salim, Yassin is to be arrested if he enters any area under Palestinian Authority sovereignty and if he does not do so he is to be tried in absentia.
Luckily for Yassin, the arrest warrant issued bears little weight as the Ramallah court does not have jurisdiction in the Hamas controlled Gaza strip where he resides.