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

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy