The visual art of Israeli cartoonist, “Mysh” has drawn the ire and censorship of social media giant, Facebook, it has emerged today.
According to the artist, three major pieces have been removed, with threats that his page will be completely erased if he continues to post “flagged material” in the future. Mysh reported that his page had already been suspended for 24 hours by the social network while efforts to contact the relevant department dealing with censorship issues have so far been unsuccessful.
In some of Mysh’s work he draws inspiration from popular comic book superheroes such as Superman, Batman and the Hulk to comment on the political and economic issues of the day. These have included Israel’s wealth divide, the recent spate of anti-African agitation and violence, and settlement expansion in the territories of the West Bank.
One of the piece’s reproduced here, which has been banned by Facebook, depicts the Israeli settlement enterprise in the figure of the Hulk.
Another banned illustration entitled “A Problem of Self-Esteem” is meant to critique the “Holocaust-complex”, the tendency by Israeli leaders and parts of the general population to view Israel as a permanent victim, due to the trauma of the Holocaust, a self-image which is not always in tune with the current reality. In response to Facebook’s decision to remove the cartoon, one user reposted the image on Mysh’s page saying, “go ahead Facebook, delete it again”, reflecting an upswell of online support for the Israeli cartoonist.
This third piece, which so far has escaped the Facebook censor, shows far-right national-religious politician, Michael Ben Ari, Shas Minister of Interior Eli Yishai, and Prime Minister working hand-in-hand to distract the Israeli citizen with the recent African immigrant issue in Israel. Routinely referred to as “infiltrators” by the media and political class, the increasing number of Africans in South Tel Aviv, principally from Sudan and Eritrea has become a hot-button issue in recent weeks. Religious and right-wing politicians from both extremist and mainstream parties alike have used the issue to stir-up racial hatred and violence among the disenfranchised and impoverished neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv. Last Wednesday, Likud Parliamentarian, Miri Regev, former Brigadier General of the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Department told a baying crowd that the African “infiltrators are a cancer in our body”. Regev subsequently denied making those comments, but her speech was then caught on camera and widely distributed throughout the internet, thus exposing her denials as false.
I emailed the Facebook press department several hours before publishing to receive an official explanation for why they opted to censor and threaten Mysh’s work with a ban, but no response has so far been forthcoming. Mysh has informed me that Facebook will not return his own request for more information until the 6th of June.
The controversy over Mysh’s artwork comes at a time when the whole medium of political cartoons and animation are gaining increasing importance online as users demand more hard-hitting visual content incorporating opinion as well as basic news. Al Jazeera recently ran a piece for its “Listening Post” programme on this new trend, featuring Mark Fiore, the first ever online animator to win the Pulitzer Prize in 2010.