The peace dove

When you think of the peace dove, what do you associate it with? Chances are it makes you think of the peace process in the Middle East. Why? Because the majority of appearances of the peace dove in political cartoons are in connection with the conflict in Israel-Palestine. 

I did a tally of the number of political cartoons associated with a particular conflict that came up in a search of the word “dove” on the site Politicalcartoons.com for the last ten years (Politicalcartoons.com has a pretty impressive collection from artists around the world).  Some 64 percent of the appearances of the dove were in cartoons on the subject of conflicts involving Israel. The dove doesn’t seem to venture all that much outside the Middle East, but he/she has been seen in cartoons on the Olympic Games, on US President Obama’s peace prize, in Northern Ireland, Spain, Colombia, Georgia and India-Pakistan. While the symbolism of the peace dove has its origins in Christianity and Judaism, as these examples show, its significance is clearly not limited to conflicts involving these religions. 

Funnily enough, the dove is rarely seen in Africa at all. But this is not because all of the countries on the continent are constantly at war (most are not), or because those that do experience conflict never find peace. A number of historic peace agreements were concluded for some of the world’s deadliest conflicts happening there over the last ten years – in Angola, Sierra Leone and the DRC (officially at least) in 2002, in Liberia in 2003, and in Sudan in 2005. Yet the peace dove was nowhere to be seen. 

© Copyright 2006 Olle Johansson (reproduced with permission)

But the peace dove is not necessarily found where newly found peace is blossoming or is expected to arrive on the scene. In fact, the dove that does appear in cartoons on the Middle East is usually being eaten, battered, decapitated, shot, blown up, or otherwise maimed or threatened – reflecting the state of ‘peace’ in the areas in question. 

Sadly, it would seem that the peace dove (at least the one in political cartoons) is not really concerned with the state or scale of conflicts, or with successful peace processes. It appears that he/she is just eager to jump on the bandwagon and be associated with the popular conflicts of the day – the handful of ‘important’ ones that the rest of the news media are so intently fixated on. Just like almost everyone else, the peace dove has no time for stealth conflicts (however large in scale they may be) or stealth peace processes…

2 Responses to “The peace dove”

  1. I have noticed that words that mean the opposite can be used interchangeably under the guise of sarcasm.

    I think here the dove is used to represent the lack of peace. however odd that may seem.

    But why the lack of its use when relating to African conflicts…wouldn’t we all like that to be changed.

    If it was changed, then this blog would no longer be needed. (no offence intended Virgil)

  2. Yes indeed. The dove appears in cartoons sometimes when peace arrives, but more often when people hoped there would be peace but there wasn’t… In any case, Africa has plenty of both conflict and peace, just no doves…

    Seems like you are trying to put me out of a job. Wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t have to write this blog! But then I’d have to find something else to do… I could always write on more important matters, like celebrity gossip, I suppose, but competition in that field seems pretty stiff. No, unfortunately, I think this line of work is going to keep me occupied for quite some time…

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