Socialist Worker cartoonist Tim Sanders has recently returned from a trip to East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
His trip was during a period of increased repression of Palestinians by the Israelis—more than 200 Palestinians have been killed since October last year. During Tim’s visit an Israeli soldier shot a Palestinian man in the head as he lay on the ground.
Footage of the incident posted on the internet provoked international outcry.
Tim visited as part of a delegation from east London’s Tower Hamlets Palestine Solidarity Campaign. They had joined a “Freedom Bus” organised by the Jenin Freedom Theatre.
Tim explained, “The theatre does an annual tour going to various sites, cities and places in Palestine.”
As part of Tim’s visit he worked with other artists to paint murals at Palestinian community centres and schools. He explained, “I did one on the wall of a community centre in a village in the Jordan valley, which was built out of wood and mud in just one day.
“They had to do it like that because if the Israelis see a half?built building, they’ll just come and knock it down.
“The village’s symbol is a thistle because it grows in very harsh conditions—and keeps growing under all sorts of attacks.
He added, “It was a bit of a riot. The kids don’t have much to do, and they’ve certainly got nothing much to look forward to.
“Palestinians really want people to visit. It’s quite a practical form of solidarity.”
But Tim also made it his task to document life under occupation—showing the reality of everyday life and the brutality of occupation.
Soldiers and kids
Israeli soldiers arrested a 16 year old boy while we were there.
It was in a restricted area in the middle of East Jerusalem, and he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He was a little boy really. They said he was 16 but he looked a lot younger.
The Israeli forces were armed to the teeth. They’ve got weapons all over the place— automatic weapons, tear gas, and things for bashing your head in.
They’ve got everything really. The Palestinians just have stones in general.
Everyday life amid brutality
Some of what I painted was just everyday stuff, like people working or hanging around, mothers and children, or people shopping.
At moments the occupation is really brutal—you can really see it.
At other times it’s almost like it’s not there.
Daily life there can be interrupted at any time by the Israelis at a checkpoint, or coming and knocking things down.
You come across some really sad stories.
Like children who always take their favourite toy to school, because they might come home and not have a house.
Defying the settlers
This man or one of his sons has to sit outside their house every day to make sure it is not seized by settlers.
If they leave their house for a couple of days, the law deems that they’ve abandoned the house and it can be “reclaimed”, so these settlers move in.
Half of his house is already occupied by settlers. It was taken when the rest of the family went to a wedding outside of Jerusalem.
We got into a settlement in Hebron. Unusually it’s a settlement in the middle of the city.
In the inner city settlements such as in Hebron or East Jerusalem, the Israelis will occupy the upper stories of buildings which look down on markets. They’ve had to put netting above all these streets because the settlers throw things at the people in the street below. They throw stones at children. It’s really naked racism.
The contrast with how welcoming the Palestinians are was striking. In the settlement you’re just looked at with utter suspicion. There was a lot of hostility. They don’t like it at all.
On the last day I drew a door with a key hole. The key is a symbol that all Palestinians will immediately recognise.
It represents return to their homes, which they were expelled from when Israel was set up in 1948. I didn’t actually include the key. I wanted to suggest it by having the lock. So the key is implicit.