Cartoons in Conflict

As part of its 2010 Summer School, Community Dialogue ( hosted an exhibition of international cartoonists’ contributions to The Parents Circle – Families Forum (, which is a grassroots organisation based in the Middle East.

The Parents Circle – Families Forum represents more than 500 families, both Israeli and Palestinian, who have lost a family member to the conflict.

At the Belfast launch event at Farset International, Springfield Road, Forum members Robi Damelin (Israeli) and Seham Ikhlayel (Palestinian) described the background to this exhibition and their project work, as well as shared their stories, experiences and hopes:

I was particularly intrigued to learn more about their “Crack in the Wall” project, which will make interactive use of websites and social media. As Robi explained, with it becoming increasingly difficult to physically meet up, the use of phone lines and online resources become vital.

Robi and Seham insist that any peace agreement that does not involve the people in the process nor include reconciliation as a specific outcome is doomed to failure.

Robi also has no time for the display of flags, citing Israeli flags in Protestant areas and Palestinian flags in Catholic areas of Belfast:

“I don’t think that’s helping anybody. It just makes you feel good about yourself. I don’t see how Seham’s life was improved by a Palestinian flag.”

After Robi and Seham spoke, there was a Q&A session, with inevitable comparisons between the Middle East and Northern Ireland experiences. My impression was that the locals weren’t actually listening to Robi’s understanding (or incomprehension) of forgiveness. That is, several people tried to probe why it is apparent that Christian-populated places put such a premium on forgiveness. At one point Robi said that when Bishop Desmond Tutu insists on forgiveness, that’s immoral; you can’t righteously compel forgiveness.

There were workshop-style discussions afterwards, which I wasn’t able to stay for. But I am very grateful for Community Dialogue for facilitating this exhibition’s trip to Northern Ireland.

  • greenflag

    That family tree cartoon looks very familiar . People in NI have been looking at it now for the better part of 40 years if not almost 100.

    The last Israeli and last Palestinian cartoon is Belfast black humour in Levantine format. Shades of the frog and scorpion river crossing .

    Congrats to Robi and Seham for their exhibition . Maybe the locals will now fold up their Palestinian and Israeli flags and and put them away and thank their common Christ how ‘lucky’ they are ‘relatively’ speaking.

    The empty chairs and wall cartoon reminded me of the 35 year or so long , no talks about no talks between the local NI parties in the run up to the GFA and also reminded me of an older Lebanese true /joke from turbulent times .

    Bashir Gemayel , the murdered Christian President of Lebanon arrives in heaven :

    Jesus is sent to interview him .

    What did you do in your lifetime ?’ Jesus asks .

    ‘I must know’ pleads Jesus but Gemayel stays obstinately silent .

    An angel is sent for to find out what is going on and asks Gemayel why he is not answering Jesus’s questions .

    ‘Why should I ?’ replies Gemayel ,

    ‘I don’t talk to Palestinians .’

  • Rory Carr

    I like the Hegellian cartoon (4th from last).