ناجي العلي

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NAJI AL-ALI



Naji al-Ali was born in al-Shajara village in Palestine, 1938. His village no longer exists, as it had been razed and replaced by an Israeli colony. He was ten years old when he and his family were exiled into Ain el-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon. He had worked as a farmer, car mechanic, and a college drawing instructor before he became the most famous cartoonist ever known to the entire Arab World, publishing his work in several newspapers in Kuwait, Lebanon, and the UK. He was so famous that people developed a habit to flip the page to his cartoon before even reading the headlines. He also joined the Arab National Movement (ANM) and was put in Arab prisons several times for his political beliefs.

This cartoon shown on the right cost Naji his life. In fact, he had been getting death threats for many years before that, from the Israeli Mossad as well as Yasser Arafat's thugs, though it was the latter who got to him in London.

Two days before his assassination, Naji was interviewed by Al-Azminah Al-Arabiya (Arab Times) Magazine, which represented the opposition in the United Arab Emirates, produced by Mr. Ghanim Ghabbash (also assassinated). The interview was published in the 170th issue on August 15, 1987. In that article, it was mentioned that Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasser Arafat, had once stood before Abdallah al-Salim High School in Kuwait, 1975, to present a speech to the students, in which he had said: "Who is this Naji al-Ali? Tell him if he doesn't stop drawing cartoons I will put his fingers in acid!"

Ghabbash reported Naji saying: "Do you know this Rashida Mahran? Don't mistaken her for one of the freedom fighters. Rashida Mahran is a very important lady who rides Arafat's private jet and lives in a castle in Tunisia, where she has great influence on the Organization [i.e. PLO] and its institutions. I made a cartoon about her, and after that I have received dozens of threats, blessings, and sympathy. Can you imagine that someone contacted me on behalf of Abu Iyad [co-founder of the PLO, assassinated by the Israelis in 1991], and told me how delighted he was with the cartoon, and said that I have done something that no other top official in the Organization could do. But he also said that I have crossed the red lines and that he was worried about me and asked me to take care of myself. So I told him: My brother, if I'd take care of myself, I wouldn't have enough time to take care of the rest of you."

Naji succumbed to his wounds in London on August 29, 1987. Through thousands of cartoons he had left behind, he continues to live in us, that is unless we choose to forget him.
 

"متهم بالإنحياز، وهي تهمة لا أنفيها. أنا منحاز لمن هم 'تحت'"
ناجي العلي

"I am accused of being biased, and I don't deny it. I am biased towards the underdog."
Naji al-Ali

Oday Baddar