Bethlehem – C. Martin/PNN Exclusive - Carlos Latuff is a Brazilian political cartoonist, much of whose work focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His critical approach towards Israel´s policies has raised a great deal of controversy. Why have you devoted such a considerable part of your work to address the conflict between Israel and Palestine? How did you become interested in this issue?
Because I spent 15 days in West Bank in 1999, and I saw for myself how Palestinian people live under Israeli apartheid. The struggle for freedom is a historical struggle of many people around the world. Slavery, apartheid, ethnic cleasing, war of agression, colonization. Along the centuries, humankind has witnessed people oppressed and struggling for self-determination. If you have oppression, then you have resistance. Palestinian cause is an important struggle of our days and it has elements very similar to other struggles in the History. If you struggle for freedom, then you are a Palestinian.
You said that the purpose of your art is to break common perceptions and to challenge the mainstream version of the conflict. What is this common perception and how do you feel the media deals with it?
The mainstream media, mostly the Western media, portrays Israel as an eternal victim, even when gross human violations are committed, as the air strikes against Gaza and Lebanon and the Mavi Marmara raid. The Palestinians, whom have no army, no air force, no navy, are described by newspapers and TV channels as evil fundamentalist barbarians, the eternal agressors. It's like when you blame the victim for the agression, it's a total inversion of values.
Your work has been described as antiSemitic. What do you think of this criticism?
Baseless. Not that anti-Semitism isn't for real: it is, of course. In this world we have many kinds of hatred. Hatred against Jews, against Muslims, against gays, Gypsies, Kurds, black people and so on. The problem is when you manipulate anti-Semitism for a specific agenda; when you use it to qualify any criticism to the State of Israel as an attack to the whole Jewish people.
Have you found any pressure or censorship on your work for this reason?
You have pro-Israel watchdogs all around Internet, sniffing for anything contrary to Israel. This non-official lobby, formed by pro-Israel Jews and non-Jews, write on blogs bashing Palestinian solidarity, they edit Wikipedia entries on behalf of Israel, send emails to newspapers and websites protesting every time they publish one of more of my cartoons, etc. Today what we see is the anti-Semitism being used as a way to criminalize anything critical to Israel.
What responsibility do you think Palestinian politicians and leaders, like Hamas and Fatah, have in this conflict?
Everything I have to say about Hamas and Fatah is that I'm sorry for seeing Palestine divided. US and Israel managed to divide Palestine, following the well-known principle of "divide to conquer". Divided, Palestinians are weak.
What is your stance about the latest development in the area, in particular the killing of Juliano Mer Khamis and Vittorio Arrigoni?
I can't imagine an armed Palestinian group, from Islamic Jihad to Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, kidnapping an activist of a respected support organization like ISM and killing him. I'm sure that the only ones who will rejoice in Vittorio's death are settlers, the military and Netanyahu.