Hajjaj at his worst: an obsession with ‘foreign humiliation’

21/10/2005

The first piece of media that I start my day with every morning is Hajjaj's cartoon on the back page of Al Ghad newspaper. 'Abu Mahjoob' and his entourage of other Jordanian characters play out their lives within the cartoon's frame in little sketches that hit the nail of our social reality right on in its head. No doubt, Hajjaj has his finger on the pulse of Jordanian life. His wit, intelligence, attention to the little/big details  and his twisted creative mind have  delivered the best mainstream social commentary in Jordan over the past decade.

But then there's the occasional Hajjaj cartoon on regional politics. Like the one this Thursday which made me cringe! "Saddam's Trial," reads the headline. A giant, wickedly smiling American soldier holds a huge banner overshadowing a dwarfed Iraqi judge who's sitting behind a court podium. The banner reads "The Humiliation of the Arabs" in huge letters. The small writing on the court podium says "Justice of the Iraqi People".

In one graphic stroke Hajjaj tells his readers what the "whole thing" is about: America is out to "Humiliate" the Arabs.. How? Presumably by holding a show trial (with puppet/dwarf judges) for a 'Saddam the symbol'. But wait a minute. Just a few days back, another Hajjaj cartoon depicted a  formation of decorated generals marching in step with guns pointed to their heads, The implied message: the Syrian regime's suicidal march (as symbolized through the recent Kanaan suicide).

So Hajjaj does not seem to be a fan of Arab dictators. Why then is the trial of one of the biggest dictators of Arab history depicted so bluntly and crudely as 'America is humiliating the Arabs'.

Where is the disconnect between the social Hajjaj and the Political Hajjaj? There is one Hajjaj who realizes that the 'Arab's Humiliation' is something that emanates from within on a daily basis (the small dictators at home, the street and the office). Then there is the other Hajjaj, who allows himself to tell the masses that the trial of a dictator who inflicted utter humiliation, death, despair and misery upon millions of Arabs, is an act of foreign humiliation of the Arab nation.Maybe what Hajjaj means to say is that the fact this trial is being held under the shadow of the American occupation is humiliating (would he have drawn a different cartoon had a Iraqi revolution overthrown Saddam?).

Even if the reference is to the humiliation of the occupation, then Hajjaj should have at least respected the millions of Arab victims of Saddam.

This reminds us of the Abu Ghraib scandal. There was a global outrage at what the American perpetrated in that prison. And rightly so. But who knows what goes on in Arab prisons. Who cares. As long as the torturer is 'one of us' it's OK. Self humiliation: just look the other way (or find excuses). Foreign humiliation (real or perceived): raise hell!

6 Comments

  1. Jordan: Critical Cartoons

    Jameed and Ahmed seem to agree that Emad Hajjaj is brilliant with his socially-critical cartoons, but not when it comes to ‘foreign affairs!

  2. M Arrabi says:

    Salam ya Humeid,
    I read your blog all the time. Keep up the good job.

    About the cartoon, I read it differently. The cartoon says: “Trial of Saddam, while is seeking justice for the Iraqi People, is being used by the US to humilate the Arabs”. Hajjaj is not against the trial or pro-saddam, and he’s not claiming (at least in this cartoon) that this is a puppet trial. This is similar to saying “kalimatu haq orida biha batel” [A word of truth, but used with ill intention].

    Besides that, keep up the great work. I enjoy reading your blog every morning.
    Muhammad

  3. Humeid says:

    Arrabi..

    Thanks for keeping up with my blog :)

    You present an interesting reading of the cartoon. If that is what Hajjaj meant the cartoon still doesn’t work well.

    I highly appreciate Hajjaj’s work and as I pointed out in the post, he does also expose acts of Arab dictatorship. But I just couldn’t help but feel annoyed by that latest one.

    Thanks a lot again..

  4. Basem says:

    I second on Arrabi’s take.

    The Big banner is dominating the work but one cannot overlook the “and” prefixed to “Justice to the Iraqi people” -you missed it in the translation-, as it does change the whole interpretation of the cartoon!

    From the likes of Saddam’s-face-on-the-moon dreamers in Jordan to the angry Shites and Kurds who where oppressed -to certain extents-, the issue of the trial have little to do with loving or hating the guy…

    It goes without saying that no individual with a sound conscious would find himself fond of Saddam, however it must be said that his stance during the trial was of an epic heroism nature!

    To have the self-inflated pride and guts to challenge the authenticity of the trial itself and undermining it’s legitimacy and credibility by whopping counter-questions; it is a stance that -in my book- should be respected in isolation from Saddam’s history BUT in light of the Judge and the whole –US led- legislative and judicative backing!

    I humbly believe that if it is not an international tribunal –in Hague, Warsaw or any other bizarre European city-, then they might as well hang the guy in a public square for 40 days without a trial for that all I care!

    Justice is not part of any foreign-occupation package, and it will definitely not be a bounty of defeat offered by the oppressor!

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