What would the life of Disney characters look like in occupied Palestine?

Fot. Aseel Abu Ramilah via Instagram.

A young Palestinian decided to draw the world’s attention to what the life of Palestinians under occupation looks like. Instead of the pictures typical for war, on this girl’s photos there are… fairy tale and movie characters. See this special project of Aseel Abu Ramilah

Phots move no-one

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict  has been going on for decades and the life of Palestinians under occupation is a nightmare. Inhabitants of the Occupied Palestinian Territories are constantly subjected to abuse, human rights violations and humiliation. Restricted access to health care, food and water, work, education, land, flats or energy. Constant checks, patrols and arrests. These are only some of the problems which Palestinians have to face under occupation [1]. 

What is more, in its latest report, Human Rights Watch stated that Israeli state has committed the crimes against humanity of apartheid against Palestinian people [6].

Israeli authorities commit apartheid against Palestinians. Read the report >>>

However, as Aseel Abu Ramilah – a young artist from Jerusalem – says, “many people watch photos showing life in occupied Palestine. But the pictures do not move anyone anymore” [2]. That is why she decided to make a series of unique collages. She was right that the view of well-known cartoon and movie characters on the streets of the country in conflict will grab the worlds attention and offer a fresh look at the problem.

There is no shed blood on her photos, nor are there any other pictures typical for war. The young artist says that people are bored with them. There are, however, well-known and beloved characters in her photos.

Grab the world’s attention

Aseel Abu Ramilah was born in 1993 in Jerusalem. After graduating from the Palestinian university in Bir Zajt in 2016, where Aseel studied architecture, she fell in love with photography. The young architect bought her first professional camera and started taking photos of what was around her: the buildings and streets of Jerusalem.

The breaking point for Aseel was a graphic design competition, in which she decided to participate. It gave the young Palestinian the idea to use her passion and newly gained skills to draw the world’s attention to the problems of Palestine. 

Aseel stresses that she was not the author of this idea. She was impressed by the works of artists from other countries. Aseel noticed that they sometimes use popular cartoon and movie characters in their works. She also wanted to draw attention to serious problems. That is why she decided that Palestine should also be presented in such an innovative and creative way.

A superhero in Palestine

In 2019 Aseel decided to publish her first projects. The photo series was titled “What if Palestine”. The works of this young artist are a reflection on what life of popular fairy tale and movie characters would look like in the Palestinian reality.

Her first photo shows the silhouettes of popular superheroes, who found themselves in Palestine. As Abu Ramilah writes, this is the clash between fiction and reality. 

On the Occupied Palestinian Territories even superheroes like Superman or Batman become helpless. Their superpowers are useless when they encounter on their way obstacles with which Palestinians have to deal on the daily basis. The wall, a symbol for the conflict and the creation which is against the international law, or checkpoints.

What if they lived in Palestine?

“The wall between Palestine and Israel is a creation that never should have come into being” [3]. It makes the everyday life of Palestinians considerably more difficult, exposes them to humiliation, makes them feel like in prison. The fortification has become a symbol for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and due to that it is a frequent motif, exploited by many artists. It appears numerous times in Aseel’s works, as well.

To draw attention to the problem of this wall built by Israelis, Abu Ramilah uses the fairytale Alice in Wonderland. What would the life of the main character look like if she lived in occupied Palestine? In the Palestinian reality Alice would also find the door, but instead of the door to Wonderland, this would be the door to the other side of the wall, to freedom, a dignified life and respect for human beings.

And what would the life of Aladdin characters look like if they were born in Palestine? The Palestinian wall would considerably influence the plot of this famous Disney movie. In the original Aladdin, trying to win the princess’ heart, takes her on a magical journey around the world on a flying carpet. In the Palestinian reality, he could show her the wall at the most, because for the inhabitants of this occupied territory it is very often a closed border.

Do you remember Tangled? The main character, Rapunzel, dreamt about finally leaving the tower in which she had been captured for years. If Rapunzel was born a Palestinian, instead of getting out of the tower she would dream of crossing the wall and seeing Jerusalem, the place of her birth. For Palestinians, deprived of basic civil liberties, freedom of movement is a dream [4].

What about a happy ending?

One of the more interesting of Aseel’s ideas was the reference to Cinderella. If the main character was born in Palestine, she would never go to the ball and marry the prince. There would be a security wall standing on the way to her dreams, an unexpected control or a bombardment- things which Palestinians have to face every day. Life in Palestine lacks magic and happy endings are rare. 

What is more, life in the conflict zone is full of dangers. Innocent people are dying; shootings, bombardments and death is everyday life for Palestinians. Aseel stresses this by referring to The Lion King story. Do you remember the famous scene of Mufasa’s death? Who was not in a flood of tears at least once watching it! If this well-known Disney movie was set in Palestine, Simba would lose his dad in a bombardment. Just like Palestinians lose their loved ones every day.

Another iconic scene from The Lion King– Mufasa and Simba, sitting on the Pride Rock. They are looking at the horizon as the sun is setting on the Pride Land. “One day this will all be yours” – says Mufasa to his son.

In the Palestinian reality, the characters are sitting on the Mount of Olives, from which they can see the Holy City, Jerusalem. Aseel shows that Palestinians don’t lose hope. Despite suffering, constant humiliation and the unending conflict they still believe that the day will come when they will be able to live in their homeland in peace. And they will be free. [5]

Photos provide food for thought

With publishing her first photos Aseel gained throngs of fans, who are sending her their ideas for next projects. She shows, in a creative way, what the life of a nation under occupation looks like. Her photos move and provide food for thought.

You can find more photos of this young artist on her social media: Instagram (@aseelaburmilah) or Facebook (Aseel AR. Designs).

Julia Parkot – Arabist. Interested in particular in the topics of terrorism, refugees and widely understood culture of Islamic countries. A member of Salam Lab team. Follow Julia on Instagram at @msjvlia.


[1] PISM, Konflikt izraelsko-palestyński 2020. Rok złego przełomu,
[2], [4], [5]  Al-Jazeera, شخصيات كرتونية عالمية في القدس.. هكذا تنقل أسيل أبو رميلة نبض المدينة للعالم,
[3] Tomasz Jakimiuk, Mur między Palestyną a Izraelem – krew i sztuka w 85 zdjęciach,
[6] Anna Słania, Salam Lab, Report: Israeli authorities commit apartheid and persecution.

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