On Wednesday, March 7th, Carlos Latuff appeared via Skype at King's College. Latuff's presentation was part of the numerous activities taking place during Israeli Apartheid Week in Halifax.
The Brazilian Latuff has drawn cartoons addressing struggles, unrest, and inequality the world over, but his cartoons on Palestine have earned him the greatest notoriety. Because of the global appeal of his cartoons, which Latuff credits to their ability to transcend the barriers of language, he is revered by Palestinians and their allies. Conversely, however, he is also a prime target of the Zionist movement.
One of his frequently-used motifs is the blurring of the distinctions between imagery depicting the horrors committed upon Jews and others during the Holocaust of World War II, and the travesties committed on Palestinians by Israelis in the Occupied Territories.
He draws Palestinians in Holocaust prisoners' garb, and Israeli soldiers with SS insignias. One of his most interesting cartoons depicts Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of Israel and in his time responsible for numerous war crimes, including the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982, locked in a deep and sensual embrace with none other than Adolf Hitler.
All of this has landed Latuff in the bad books of the Zionist lobby, who, beyond launching the standard catcall of “Anti-Semite” have now begun to label Latuff a Holocaust denier. But Latuff has never once publicly denied the Holocaust, nor do any of his cartoons suggest that he denies the Holocaust. Latuff says the allegations are entirely baseless.
“For me it's pretty ridiculous to deny as historic an event as [the] Holocaust,” says Latuff. “We can discuss how [the] Holocaust has been used for political purposes by Israel. This is one point. But to say that the Holocaust never existed? For me that's pretty ridiculous. For me it was a historical event, like the massacre of the Armenians, like Hutus and Tutsis. It's a massacre. It's a tragedy. I always say that.”
In the age of digital persuasion, Latuff's cartoons have not always gone uncensored by search engines and social media sites. Recently, Latuff notes that Zionist pressure was put upon Code Pink, the women-initiated grassroots peace initiative, to not use Latuff's Occupy AIPAC cartoons, specifically made for the cause. Latuff remains unapologetic, and judging by his joyful countenance on the screen at King's college, unfazed.
“In spite of these problems, I keep making my cartoons. I keep producing graphic solidarity to Palestine. And I hope to keep producing these kinds of cartoons, not only for Palestinians, but also for Egyptians, for the Kurdish in Turkey, and Bahrain [and more].”
Latuff's output is prodigious, and hundreds of his cartoons are archived on the internet. Aside from that though, one of the reasons that Latuff's art is so appealing and widespread is his unique take on the role of the artist within the struggle. Latuff takes solicitations from movements all across the world, provides them with cartoons, and refuses payment for his work.
“I'm not paid for these cartoons. I refuse to be paid for these cartoons. Nobody needs to pay me a single cent, and this artwork can be reproduced in many ways,” says Latuff. “As an artist, this is my way to support the cause...I think the role of a conscientious artist is to put your art at the service of the causes, of the service of people, of the service of change. So I hope my cartoons can serve good causes. And the Palestinian cause... it's a good cause.”