May 12, 2008 / 4:56 AM / 10 years ago

Gaza cartoon commemorates Palestinian "Nakba"

GAZA (Reuters) - Jewish fighters are shown shooting Palestinians and bombing their villages in an animated film by Gaza-based women marking 60 years since Israel was founded and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced.

<p>Arabs stand outside a church in Iqrit, northern Israel, May 10, 2008, as part of an annual pilgrimage to a village whose residents were ordered out by Jewish fighters during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The villagers, Arab citizens of Israel, have long demanded a right to return to the site to live. REUTERS/Ammar Awad</p>

“The Tale of a Key” describes the Jews as “enemies of the religion and enemies of the homeland” and is meant to highlight what the illustrators called the “holy” right of dispossessed Palestinians to return to land that is now part of Israel.

The women behind the film, who run a production company in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, say they are not politically aligned but want to teach Palestinian children and adults about the events that drove them from their homeland.

“It tells of the suffering, the killing and displacement,” said Moamena Abu Hamda, director of the JohaToon company in Gaza City. “It shows that the Palestinian people did not leave their land by their own will but they were forced to do it.”

Hamas’s Al-Aqsa Television drew Israeli and international censure last year for using cartoons and puppet-shows featuring Mickey Mouse and Lion King lookalikes to illustrate the Islamist movement’s battle against Israel, which it does not recognize.

JohaToon plans to screen the 32-minute film, which it says is for adults as well as children, in Gaza this month and hopes to market it in other Arab countries and further afield.

Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes in the war that led to the founding of Israel in 1948. About 4.5 million refugees and their descendents now live in squalid camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

Most of the Gaza Strip’s 1.5 million residents are either refugees or their descendants and live in eight densely populated camps and four cities.

Refugees cling to a “right of return” and their fate is one of the thorniest issues facing negotiators who are trying to reach a deal this year to create a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank -- land Israel occupied in 1967 Middle East war.

While Israel celebrates its 60th birthday with fireworks, parties and military display this month, Palestinians hold rallies to mourn the “Nakba,” or “catastrophe” of displacement and to highlight the refugee problem.

Abu Hamda insisted “The Tale of the Key” -- which refers to the keys many Palestinians carry as symbols of their lost homes -- was not meant to incite violence against Israelis but to recount stories passed down from previous generations.

“We have laid down facts as we heard them from our grandfathers and grandmothers,” Abu Hamda told Reuters. “We told the tale as we heard and as people saw it.”

Editing by Giles Elgood

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