Handcuffed and Blindfolded: Viral Photo of Palestinian Boy’s Brutal Arrest Emerges as Symbol

Published December 13th, 2017 - 03:20 GMT
Palestinian graphic designer Asma Musleh's take on Abed Al Hashlamoun's powerful photo (Asma Musleh)
Palestinian graphic designer Asma Musleh's take on Abed Al Hashlamoun's powerful photo (Asma Musleh)

Blindfolded, handcuffed. A young boy surrounded by two dozen heavily armed soldiers. It is an image that powerfully captures the power imbalance at the heart of the Israeli occupation.

This photo was taken by Abed Al Hashlamoun in the West Bank city of Hebron on December 7, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel. 

It showed a 16-year-old protester Fawzi al-Junaidi being arrested, accused of throwing stones. He claimed to have been heavily beaten using a rifle during his arrest, Al Jazeera reported.

The minor is being held under administrative detention and was expected in military court on Wednesday. He is one of 320 children currently being held by Israel, according to Defense for Children International - Palestine.

In the less than a week which has followed, the striking picture has been shared widely across social media, inspiring work by artists in Palestine and beyond.

Palestinian graphic designer Asma Musleh shared this interpretation of the picture on Twitter, writing “I am free as long as I am in my country... But you are passersby!”

Meanwhile, many have circulated Italian artist Alessia Pelonzi’s take on the image.

“The soldiers are taking the kid but you can see the Palestinian flag in the drawing anyway,” Pelonzi told Anadolu Agency about her painting.

“It’s something that can't be silenced. You can't sweep their identity as a people under the carpet.”

“For me, it’s very important to show that, even from abroad, we can decide to be on the right side of this tragic fight, in order to end it as soon as possible and to guarantee the Palestinians the justice they deserve,” she added.

Many others have simply pointed out the extent of the imbalance in the photograph, symbolizing Israeli army brutality.

“A young boy tells the story of Palestine,” tweeted @thothaayya. 

“When an armless 15 years old boy scares a dozen #Israeli soldiers with their guns and machine guns isn’t that a clear message that even they know it’s not their land ands their existence depends on using force and oppression…” added @haninabualrub. 

Images like this, particularly involving children, have been instrumental in shaping public opinion on Middle Eastern issues. 

The shocking photos of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body after he was washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015 had a huge impact on attitudes towards Syrian refugees in Europe.

That picture, too, sparked a wave of artistic responses. 

A mural depicting Alan Kurdi in Frankfurt, Germany (Wikimedia Commons)

Hashlamoun’s photograph is perhaps particularly poignant since it evokes the iconic Handala, a cartoon Palestinian refugee boy by Naji al-Ali, drawn with his hands behind his back.

Graffiti on the West Bank separation barrier depicting Handala (Wikimedia Commons)

Al-Ali wrote of the symbolic barefoot child: “His hands are clasped behind his back as a sign of rejection at a time when solutions are presented to us the American way."

In the Second Intifada, images of Jamal al-Dura and his 12-year-old son Muhammad became iconic. First seen cowering as they were caught in crossfire between security forces, the young boy was then pictured slumped over his father’s legs.

A monument in Mali depicting Jamal and Muhammad al-Dura (Wikimedia Commons)

As commentators warn of the potential for another intifada over Trump’s Jerusalem decision, the photo of Fawzi al-Junaidi’s arrest looks set to become just such another symbolic image in the Palestinian struggle.

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