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Naji Al-Ali was born in 1936 in the Palestinian village of Ash Shajara. In 1948, Ash Shajara was one of the 480 villages destroyed in what is known as the “Nakba,” or catastrophe. The Nakba is the devastation of Palestine in the creation of the Israeli state: The Palestinians lost more than half of their land, massacres took place and 750,000 refugees were created. Naji Al-Ali was 10 years old when he and his family were expelled from Palestine to Ein Al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon.

Naji Al-Ali grew up to become perhaps the most popular cartoonist in the Arab world. With brutal honesty, Naji Al-Ali analyzed the relationships between the governments of the United States, Israel and the Arab regimes and the ramifications for the Palestinians. Time Magazine described him saying, "This man draws with human bones." The Asahi Newspaper, in Japan, once wrote, "Naji Al-Ali draws using phosphoric acid."

Naji Al-Ali was well loved for his work but was also well hated, as illustrated by the many death threats he and his family received. On July 22, 1987, in London, Naji Al-Ali was assassinated as he walked towards the offices of Al-Qabas newspaper. He died in the hospital on August 29th. His murderer has never been apprehended.

Naji Al-Ali was killed as the Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was beginning. To this day, Naji Al-Ali’s searing cartoons, seen through the eyes of the refugee boy named Handala, continue to be used over and over again.

Naji Al-Ali was one of the most prominent cartoonists in the Arab world. Sarcastic, poignant and perhaps too bold, Al Ali's cartoons were drawn from his experience as a Palestinian refugee since childhood and clearly reflected his political stance, which was often critical of the Arab regimes. The following extracts are drawn from an interview with Radwa Ashour, novelist and professor of English literature at Ain Shams University, during the summer of 1984 in Budapest, Hungary. It was published in the periodical Al Muwagaha in 1985, only two years before Al-Ali was assassinated in London in 1987 at the age of 50.

Additional Information
Read I Am From Ain Al-Helwa, by Naji Al-Ali
Al-Ali's Biography on Wikipedia

Naji Salim al-Ali (1938-1987) Photo Credit: www.passia.org

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