Naji Al-Ali: Art as an act of Defiance

If you’re wondering how art can serve a political cause, Naji al-Ali is your man.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the assassination of this Palestinian cartoonist who dedicated his life and his art for struggling against the Israeli occupation of his land and for exposing the atrocities of the Israeli regime in Sabra and Shatila and other sites. Al-Ali also harshly criticized the Arab impotence and division, which earned him the wrath of many Arab regimes. A freedom fighter in every sense of the word, his loyalty was only to the Palestinian cause.

He was posthumously awarded the annual Golden Pen of Freedom award of the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FIEJ) in 1988, an award given to recognize outstanding actions in favor of freedom of expression.

Al-Ali is best remembered for his cartoon character, Hanzala, now a symbol of Palestinian resistance. Hanzala is a 10-year old boy (Al-Ali’s age when he was forced to leave Palestine as a child). He is featured as a poor and innocent barefoot witness of the war crimes committed by the Israeli Army.

Naji Al-Ali, just like the Chinese Ai Weiwei, the Syrian Ali Farzat and many other artists-activists, is a name you should know and never forget. He lived for a cause and was killed for it, but his ‘Hanzala’ lives on.