What the Arafat Cartoon Controversy Says about the Prospects of Palestinian Democracy

Recently, the Yasir Arafat Museum in Ramallah decided to remove several depictions of the terrorist leader, on the grounds that they are “offensive.” Ben Cohen examines the incident, and what it says about what a Palestinian state might look like:

The principle underlying this act of censorship is one that Arafat himself would have appreciated; a client of the Soviet Union who spent much of his time meeting with dictators in the Communist bloc and in the Arab world, Arafat was an admirer of those systems of government where the state is the ultimate regulator of what the people living under its jurisdiction see, hear, and read.

In totalitarian states, artistic depictions of leaders are by definition sycophantic. From the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, from Chairman Mao of China to the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the official portraits of those who wield near-unlimited power invariably show them as steely-jawed and commanding the love of their people; as strong and paternal; and as courageously unwavering in their convictions.

Less so was the case with the portraits of Arafat chosen for display at the museum in Ramallah. . . . One might conclude that there is some gentle mockery in these caricatures, though nothing that could be considered insulting, and certainly nothing that could be construed as a slur on either Arafat’s Arab nationality or his Muslim faith—a marked divergence from the anti-Semitic tropes and Nazi imagery that routinely accompanies Arab and even some Western caricatures of Israel’s elected leaders.

Unquestionably, what transpired in Ramallah was a victory for censorship. It is also another strong reminder of the absence of a democratic culture in Palestinian politics. . . . Those Palestinian artists who forget to censor themselves can expect a visit from Fatah’s enforcers in the not-too-distant future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Freedom of Speech, Palestinian statehood, Yasir Arafat

Iran’s Responsibility for West Bank Terror

On Friday, a Palestinian stabbed an Israeli police officer and was then shot by another officer after trying to grab his rifle. Commenting on the many similar instances of West Bank-based terror during the past several months, Amit Saar, a senior IDF intelligence officer, predicted that the violence will likely grow worse in the coming year. Yoni Ben Menachem explains the Islamic Republic’s role in fueling this wave of terrorism:

The escape of six terrorists from Gilboa prison in September 2021 was the catalyst for the establishment of new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank, according to senior Islamic Jihad officials. The initiative to establish new armed groups was undertaken by Palestinian Islamic Jihad in coordination with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, implementing the strategy of Qassem Suleimani—the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards who was assassinated in Iraq by the U.S.—of using proxies to achieve the goals of expansion of the Iranian regime.

After arming Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Iran moved in the last year to support the new terrorist groups in the northern West Bank. Iran has been pouring money into the Islamic Jihad organization, which began to establish new armed groups under the name of “Battalions,” which also include terrorists from other organizations such as Fatah, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. First, the “Jenin Battalion” was established in the city of Jenin, followed the “Nablus Battalion.”

Despite large-scale arrest operation by the IDF and the Shin Bet in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad continues to form new terrorist groups, including the “Tulkarem Battalion,” the “Tubas Battalion,” and the “Balata Battalion” in the Balata refugee camp.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Palestinian terror, West Bank