When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a group of famed editorial cartoonists hope the pen is mightier than the sword.
A traveling exhibit of their work that promotes peace and reconciliation in the Middle East opened Thursday night in Manhattan.
"Cartoons in Conflict: Editorial Cartoonists Explore Palestinian-Israeli Conflict" began its New York run in a Chelsea storefront at 6 West 26th St. and displays the works of 40 artists.
"We are doing everything we can to spread our message of reconciliation," said Mazen Faraj, a member of the Parents Circle Families Forum (PCFF), one of the groups behind the exhibit. "The cartoons keep us connected to our history and help us learn from these experiences."
Faraj, a Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp near Bethlehem and participated in the first uprising, began a crusade against regional violence after his 62-year-old father was killed in 2002 by an Israeli soldier who mistook the groceries he was carrying for something else.
"It's easy to forget the human side in this," Faraj said. "The cartoons help show the real face of the conflict. They help people realize that we are all in this together."
After difficult discussions with friends and family, Faraj joined the PCFF - an organization made up of Israeli and Palestinian families that have lost loved ones to the regional conflict - where he met others with similar stories, who even in the face of loss and pain, were committed to peace.
"Sometimes this work is like taking water out of the ocean with a teaspoon, but we're trying to create a person-to-person framework for reconciliation," said Robi Damelin, an Israeli who lost her 28-year-old son, David, to Palestinian sniper fire in 2002. "When people realize there are actual living people just like them who are affected by the conflict, they change."
The exhibit is one of the many educational programs that the organization supports, but the organizers and contributors believe cartoons are a particularly powerful way to get their message of peace across.
Among the participants are Pulitzer Prize winners Pat Oliphant and Jim Morin, syndicated political cartoonist Jeff Danziger, and The New Yorker's Liza Donnelly
"Cartoons get at the essence of an idea and help people really feel an issue," said Donelly, 54, a staff cartoonist for the New Yorker whose work is featured in the exhibit.
"Very few lines, and a minimum of text conveys something forceful," said Manon Slome, founder of No Longer Empty, an organization that plans art exhibitions in empty city storefronts and is a co-presenter of the exhibit. "Because this is an international show, it points to is our similarities rather than our differences and this is part of getting past the stereotypes that feed the conflict in the Middle East."
It appears the organizers are on to something as the collection, which has been shown in Israel, Italy and Spain, has been received well.
"It's very heart warming to see the response that we've been getting," Damelin said. "People are definitely interested in the Middle East, but more wonderful is that the world wants to see a solution."
"We need to agree on a better future for the next generation," Faraj said. "I want my daughters to live a better life."
Along with special edition signed prints, all of the displayed artwork will be sold on the exhibit's closing night and all of the proceeds will go to support PCFF education programs. The exhibit will remain open until December 23rd. For more information, call 212-593-6400 ext. 1579.
Photograph: Robi Damelin (8 from left)and Mazen Faraj(7 from left)
To the Original Article