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Yaacov 'Zeev' Farkas, 79; Israel's Most Influential Political Cartoonist

October 19, 2002|From Associated Press

Yaacov "Zeev" Farkas, called the founder of the political cartoonist's art in Israel, has died. He was 79.

Farkas died Tuesday at a hospital in Petah Tikva, Israel. The cause of death was not announced.

Before television came to Israel, politicians and other public figures competed with each other to appear in his full-page spread in the weekly supplement of the newspaper Haaretz. "Anyone who appeared in the middle of that page -- not on the margins -- knew that he had arrived, that he was really somebody," his colleague Benny Zipper wrote in Haaretz.

The weekly cartoon, an intricate mixture of dozens of characters, objects and symbols created around a central theme, appeared for decades, always including an oval-faced, jug-eared self-portrait. After the weekly page was discontinued in the 1980s, Farkas continued drawing daily editorial cartoons.

Many public figures, past and present, have caricatures of themselves, drawn by Farkas, framed and hanging on their walls, Zipper wrote.

Born in Hungary in 1923, Farkas survived the Nazi death camp at Dachau, where thousands of Jews were killed during World War II. In 1947, he came to what was then British Mandatory Palestine, and in 1952 he became the editorial cartoonist for the newspaper Omer. He began drawing political cartoons for Haaretz in 1962.

He always signed his cartoons "Zeev," with a tiny portrait of himself holding a huge artist's brush dripping with black paint.

His kindness was legendary. "He was never mean to anyone," Zipper wrote. In 1972 President Richard Nixon wrote him a letter of thanks for a cartoon in Haaretz showing the beleaguered U.S. leader carrying a cross and surrounded by enemies.

One of Farkas' most famous cartoons, published in 1979 at the time of the Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt, showed the dove of peace posing as a magician and producing three tiny figures out of a hat: Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Jimmy Carter.

In 1993, Farkas was awarded the Israel Prize for Journalism. In explaining its decision to honor a cartoonist rather than a writer, the Israel Prize jury wrote: "He established the daily political cartoon as an essential and inseparable aspect of Israeli journalism in its task of expressing matters of distinct public importance."

Farkas is survived by a daughter.

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