Former PMs armed only with ink in cartoon on Middle Eastern crisis
As war in Israel and Gaza sadly rages, cartoonist Mark Knight’s depiction of former Australian PMs’ call to calm reminds the nation of the most powerful, precious asset we have: peace
READING LEVEL: RED
That well known metonymic* adage* “The pen is mightier than the sword” is a saying that means words and ideas can, at times, be a more successful and effective means of bringing about change.
This week six former Australian prime ministers tried to use words – powerful words – to encourage Australians not to fall into race hatreds and division over the war in Israel and Gaza, following the Hamas terrorist attack on the Jewish State.
The former leaders condemned Hamas’ kidnapping and killing of Israeli men, women and children, and they called for Israel to try to avoid Palestinian civilian casualties in their retaliation.
But the bombing of Gaza has led to many civilian deaths and still Hamas continues to fire missiles into Israel.
The struggle has a long history. It is a situation that has been going on since the inception* of the State of Israel in 1948, with Palestinian resistance groups like the PLO* in the past and now Hamas* and Hezbollah* intent on the destruction of the Jewish homeland.
A two state solution, a Palestinian state and State of Israel, was the goal. These last couple of years have been among the calmest in the region and Israel was about to sign a peace pact with Saudi Arabia. Sadly that was sabotaged* by the Hamas terrorist raid and the government of Israel was so shocked by the attack, they now want to physically eradicate* Hamas. Peace seems further away than ever.
To draw a cartoon on Middle Eastern affairs is always fraught* with danger. But I wanted to illustrate how six former Australian prime ministers were so moved by events in Israel – and how that was affecting race politics and the rise of anti-Semitism* here in Australia – that they felt the need to act.
I felt it should be a simple drawing to show our former leaders, four of them from the Liberal Party and two from Labor, coming together in a show of unity for the country, to ask for their fellow Australians to show unity, whether they be Palestinian, Jewish or neither.
Amid all the bombings, missiles and rockets being fired, I thought I would situate the leaders among all this chaos.
The cartoon would show them all working together, just like in a war photographer’s picture dispatched from a frontline, showing soldiers feeding artillery shells into an artillery cannon, except our PMs would be firing off a statement.
I sketched John Howard with the launcher on his shoulder Julia Gillard is surveying the scene with binoculars. Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are at the ready and Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott are loading the projectile into the launcher. The only other living former prime minister, Paul Keating, is not there. He declined to be a part of the letter. We see Rudd and Abbott lifting this heavy item into the breach but it is not a missile, it is a fountain pen.
The pen that wrote the statement calling for calm despite the anarchy* on the ground. That is the shot they will fire. A call to calm rather than a call to arms.
We just wonder, among all the noise of warfare, anger and rage, whether it will be heard or even understood?
- metonymic: using a word that describes one of its qualities or features
- adage: saying
- inception: the start, beginning or founding of something
- PLO: Palestine Liberation Organisation
- Hamas: a militant nationalist group, dedicated to establishing an independent Islamic state in Palestine, including via terrorism, that controls the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian section of the Mediterranean coast
- Hezbollah: Lebanese militant group and political party that emerged after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982
- sabotaged: deliberately damaged or destroyed
- eradicate: wipe from existence, completely remove or destroy
- fraught: a high pressure situation, tense
- anti-Semitism: hostility, prejudice or hatred toward Jewish people
- anarchy: lack of organisation and control within a society of group
- Which former prime ministers signed the open letter?
- Who is the living former leader who did not sign?
- When was the State of Israel established?
- What were the former leaders calling on fellow Australians to do?
- Before the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, Israel was about to sign a peace pact with which Arab nation?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. What happens next?
Imagine this cartoon is part of a story that is made up of three cartoons. The three cartoons tell a complete story, and Mark’s cartoon is the start of the story. Think about what the story could be and draw the next two cartoons that tell the story.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Visual Communication Design, Critical and Creative Thinking
Being able to draw is only one of the skills needed to be a great cartoonist. Write a list of all of the other skills that you think cartoonists like Mark need to do their job.
Next to each skill, write a sentence that explains why that skill is important or helps them to do a great job.
Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Media Arts, Visual Communication Design
Look at the cartoon and make a list of five nouns that you see. Then describe those five nouns with five adjectives. Now add a preposition to those five nouns and adjectives.
Finally, choose your favourite bundle and put all the words together to make one descriptive sentence.