Beyond Images Challenging myths and presenting facts about Israel 
The Palestinians’ leading cartoonist: “I believe Israel should not exist….”
London - published on 14 January 2003
Beyond Images Ref: 39

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Omayya Juha’s influence on Palestinian media and society

Omayya Juha is the Palestinians’ most well-known cartoonist. A 30 year old mother and devout Muslim, she draws cartoons for al-Hayyat al Jadida, the official newspaper of the Palestinian Authority. Recognised on the street in the Gaza Strip where she lives, she won an award in 2001 for being the best cartoonist anywhere in the Arab world.

Her work satirises the Palestinian Authority, mocks the Arab nations for their failure to support the Palestinian people, and vilifies Israel (though without using the crude anti-semitic imagery seen in many newspapers in the Arab world). Her work is widely considered to reflect the mood and attitudes of the Palestinian “street”.

In an interview which was published in the Jerusalem Post magazine on 8 November 2002, she provided the following insights into her basic beliefs:-

Returning to the Palestinians’ homes pre-1948….

Omayya Juha was brought up in the belief that her grandparents had been forced out of their village in 1948, and that it had been replaced by an Israeli moshav (Moshav Tekuma), which is within the borders of pre-1967 Israel.

A consistent theme in her cartoons is that of an elderly, one-legged man, clutching on to a key - symbolising his belief that he will one day be able to return to the home he left in 1948.

In one cartoon (described in the Jerusalem Post, and available via her website) the key hangs on one of four strings of barbed wire that pierce a bleeding heart in the shape of Israel.

The underlying idea is clear: that the Palestinians have a right of return to all of Israel; that the Palestinians will continue to claim that right, no matter how unrealistic it has become; and that exercising that right “pierces” the “heart” of Israel…

On Israel’s Right to Exist ….

Juha is explicit in her position on Israel’s right to exist:-

“I believe Israel should not exist. There are Jews - Neturei Karta - who don’t recognise the State of Israel. And you want me to recognise it? I am the owner of the land. Jews should live in the land as citizens, not as a country… Hamas, Fatah, all these factions have the same ideology. They want all the homeland, all Palestine. I don’t accept a division of the land. I don’t want a return only to the 1967 borders….”

On compromise with Israel…

Given the above, it is hardly surprising that Omayya Juha opposes any compromise with Israel:-

“I don’t support normalisation of our relations with Israelis. They stole our land, they expelled us, they killed our children and brothers…. It is obvious that all deals [with Israel] are only ink on paper. There is no peace. There will be no peace between the occupier and the occupied…. My pen is my weapon. Like a gun. Some people told me that my pen is an uprising pen. I will not betray my people. We will continue the intifada until we liberate the land….”

Beyond Images conclusion

Omayya Juha is not a Palestinian politician, but her ideas reflect popular Palestinian feeling.

She rejects coexistence with Israel; she rejects a two-state solution; and she rejects anything short of a full right of return of all refugees to their pre-1948 homes.

As long as such attitudes prevail, is it any surprise that there is no peace with Israel?

Supporters of the Palestinians should be urging journalists and artists to move beyond historic grievances, challenge misconceptions and stereotypes about Israel, and use their influence to promote reconciliation with the Israeli people.