Acclaimed Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh was detained by Israeli forces last week as he tried to return to his Ramallah home following a trip to Europe, according to his contracted publishing house Just World Books.
Sabaaneh, who regularly draws cartoons for MEMO, was returning from the international cartooning festival in Bastogne, Belgium, on 31 March when Israeli border-control forces held him for five hours at the Allenby Bridge, intimidated him, and confiscated one of his key works, a cartoon in the form of a tapestry narrative.
The cartoonist has used his talent to raise awareness of Israel’s ongoing and illegal occupation of the West Bank and is the Regional Representative in the Middle East for the Washington DC-based Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI).
Last year, Sabaaneh was also honoured as a special guest by the UN at a festival celebrating Palestinian culture, and earlier in 2017 conducted a 15-city speaking tour of America.
This was not the first time Sabaaneh has been detained. In 2013, when trying to return from a trip to Jordan, he was arrested at the border and imprisoned for five months. This particular experience informed a chapter of his recently published book “White and Black: Political cartoons in Palestine” which detailed the plight of Palestinians taken from their loved ones.
Sabaaneh is regularly harassed by both Israeli and Palestinian officials when attempting to cross the border. Israel uses arrest as a means of intimidation, often holding Palestinians for weeks without charge or access to a lawyer.
Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps are also a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, during which many of the detentions occur.
Yesterday, human rights groups revealed that Israeli occupation forces arrested more than 600 Palestinians in the occupied territories and besieged Gaza Strip last month, including 94 children and nine women.