It is no coincidence that as tensions in Palestine rose, British censorship of newspapers increased. Journalists were jailed, the publication of certain types of information was banned and daily newspapers were closed down for publishing “dangerous” articles. More than once, the British suspended all four Arabic dailies at the same time for what they considered to be provocative articles. During the early phase of the revolt, Arabic newspapers were suspended thirty-four times, while the Jewish press was suspended thirteen.1
In this repressive atmosphere, political cartoons were useful because subversive messages could be shifted from the text to the image, where they were more likely to pass censorship regulations.2
Though they may seem simple and direct, some of these cartoons contained multiple layers of symbolism.
The June 1936 Falastin cartoon titled The Zionist Crocodile to Palestine Arabs tells a multifaceted story about the colonization of Palestine.
In the drawing, a tall British policeman in white uniform smokes a pipe. His face resembles a bulldog, in allusion to John Bull, a fictional character often used to symbolize Great Britain in cartoons at the time. The scholar Sandy Sufian remarks that “The ofﬁcer is smiling, but this is not an innocent smile; it is more the sneer of a sly, criminal man. He is wearing heavy, cleated boots that match the black scales and claws of the Zionist crocodile, indicating congruence between the Zionists and the British.”1
The bug-eyed crocodile salivates as he prepares to devour Arab fallahin and their citrus groves, his tail emerging from the sea like a ship’s ramp. He embodies two key strategies of early Zionism: gaping jaws representing the colonization of indigenous land through Zionist land acquisition, and scaly tail alluding to the arrival of tens of thousands of European settler colonists to Palestine by ship.
- 1. Ibid, p. 30.