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#MeMu's: 7anzallah by Najib Al-Ali

“ Dear reader permit me to present myself… I, God forbids from the word “I”… My name is 7anzalah, My father’s name is not necessary, My mother… her name is Nakbah and my younger sister’s name is Fatimah… My foot’s size, I don’t know… because I am always barefooted… Date of birth: I was born on June 5th 1967… Nationality” I am not a Palestinian, not Jordanian, not a Kuwaiti, not a Lebanese, not an Egyptian, not anybody… etc… In brief I don’t have an identity and I don’t intend to get nationalized… Simply I am an Arab and that is all… “

The figure of Handhala has become a fixture in the visual semantics of the Palestinian protest movement, in spite of his initial refusal to be nationalised.  Created by the caricaturist Najib Al-Ali (1938—1987) in 1969, the figure represents a 10-year old boy who refuses to grow up until he can return home. He turns his back on the world and clasps his hands behind his back, refuses an outside solution to the conflict that has driven him from his homeland. Handhala goes crazy in 1982, “loses his cool”, becomes an active demonstrator, throws rocks, rather than be a passive, but very present observer, as of 1982, when Lebanon is invaded by Israel. “The crucified Jesus yanks a nailed hand from the crossbeam to throw a stone in support of the intifada.” says Michel Faber.


The simplicity and “truth” of the character, as well as his symbolic meaning have caused him to be adopted as a cartoon mascot of the Palestinian cause. He has been seen on walls around the world, lately to demonstrate solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike and to support the BDS (Boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel(3, 4) and poses as the movements logo(6), holding the scales of justice behind his back. He has become, in the terms of an online meme, a template, a space of discussion and opinion, to be recontextualised according to events and the expressive needs of the individual.

He has also been immortalised on keychains, t-shirts and other souvenir items.

 This text was written by Naji Al-Ali to introduce Handhala. Retrieved from: 7anzalah-hanzalah.html

 AKA: 7andalah, Handala. When transliterating Arabic names, it’s never quite clear what you’ll end up with.


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