IT BECAME NECESSARY TO DESTROY THE PLANET IN ORDER TO SAVE IT
By Khalil Bendib
Plan Nine Publishing, 160 pages, $15.95
Berkeley resident Khalil Bendib, a cartoonist, sculptor and news commentator (KPFA “Voices of the Middle East”) has just published a collection of cartoons called “It Became Necessary to Destroy the Planet In Order to Save It.” Described as the “first ever book of political cartoons written from a Muslim-American perspective,” Bendib works hard to demystify widely held beliefs about Arabs and Muslims, including the notion that “Muslims don’t have a sense of humor.”
A naturalized citizen born and raised in North Africa, at the age of 15 his first cartoons appeared in Algeria’s national weekly, Les Actualities. His initial (but not final) brush with censorship occurred at the Daily Trojan, the student newspaper at USC where he earned a master’s degree in Japanese language and culture. He then went on to a full-time job as a political cartoonist with the San Bernardino Sun. While there he received national attention for his work.
Since leaving the Gannett newspaper chain, his cartoons have been featured in hundreds of small and mid-sized Muslim, Arab, African-American, Jewish and progressive on-line and print publications, including the Daily Planet. “It Became Necessary to Destroy the Planet In Order to Save It” contains cartoons previously published and many that have not yet been in print.
The book is divided into 10 chapters that comment on elections, Sept. 11, the Middle East, social justice, militarism, government, economy, environment, sin and the almighty media. The chapters that worked best were sin and economy. The election cartoons were dated, the environment section overwhelming and the chapter on the Middle East was both thought-provoking and disturbing.
Humor is subjective. And political humor can be downright dangerous. Bendib’s little book of cartoons will find an audience of enthusiastic fans as well as vigorous detractors, but as is stated in his energetic press releases, Bendib “has discovered that he fits perfectly within an America that has traditionally espoused the ideals of freedom of speech and tolerance and he would dream of living nowhere else on this planet.”
Visit Bendib’s website at www.bendib.com/book. His book is available at Black Oak Books, 1491 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, and at City Lights Books, 261 Columbus Ave., in San Francisco.