Today, I received a letter containing bad news from Majed Badra, a young Palestinian cartoonist. He was very excited to be coming to the USA to learn about political cartooning and the culture of the USA. This program includes stops in New York City, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Maryland, Portland, Oregon and finally St. Petersburg, Florida. Many events are planned that include meeting with professional US political cartoonists and seminars about press freedom, journalism, Human rights and ethics.
Majed encountered a slight problem, however. He had the audacity to criticize the state of Israel for its occupation of the Palestinian territories and the inhuman treatment of the Palestinian people in his cartoons. Contrary to popular western media propaganda, every Palestinian is not a maniacal, rocket launching, terrorist hell bent on the destruction of Israel. Unfortunately for Majed, that reality is not an accepted part of the narrative for the supposedly picked on Israel. He must be punished for wanting a Palestinian state to call home. Instead of bringing Majed to the US to show him, supposedly, how freedom and democracy works, he has been unfairly grounded and barred from travel. So much for freedom, I guess. Of course, no one wants to hinder Israel's freedom to bulldoze Palestinian homes and farms that have the misfortune of sitting atop the aquifers or putting a stop to nation building by way of squatting. That freedom must not be impinged.
So the authorities tell Majed that he has no right to be angry or depict that anger in a relevant way. The hypocrisy can't be more blatant.
The letter I received from Majed:
I was nominated to participate in the (International Visitor Leadership Program) "Political Cartoonist Program" on June 20, 2011 to July 9, 2011. After I got the VISA, and have the tickets for flying, I took a holiday from my work, and I canceled all my obligations,even I leave more than 2 works chances and I prepared myself for traveling in few days.
I received a call from the General Consulate in Jerusalem and they told me that they refused my participation due to the anti-Semitic nature of some of my cartoons.
I was extremely disappointed to hear the bad news about reconsider the decision of granting my visa to the United States.
I talked to the General Consul in the American Consulate in Jerusalem and I told him that there are misconception in explanation and understanding these cartoons. In the fact, I'm not (anti Semitic and anti Jewish), I respect all religions, I just wanted express that I'm against the Israeli occupation, settlements, killing, siege and injustice, and how much we want democracy, human rights, freedom and two states solution.
I'm open minded and I carry all the respect to all people in the world regardless of their gender, religion, race or color, The human beings have some differences which I believe was made to help the creation of a human who is able to accept, understand and appreciate others.
I appreciated very much the nomination to travel to USA to meet and learn from people from a different culture especially that I spent all my life in Gaza.
Only as I have gotten older and have studied the issue have I learned to distinguish between Israel and the Jewish people and, of course, having the opportunity to visit the US would give me another way to further learn about and get more perspective about the world, to further improve my ability to express myself and my views through my cartoons.
For information that the Program will discuss the freedom of speech and press in the United States,
WHERE IS THE FREEDOM?
How can we solve this problem?
Kind Regards and respects
This is the summary of the program submitted by the Institute Of International Education to the US State Department that Majed would have participated in:
Freedom of expression in the media is critical to supporting stability and democratic institutions in the Near East and North Africa. This program will examine the role of a free, independent media in a democracy vis-à-vis political cartooning. Participants will examine the practices, techniques and ethical responsibilities of political cartoonists, the philosophical beliefs underlying their work, and the impact that their cartoons have on history, political debate, public opinion and free speech.
And these are the project’s goals:
Examine the role played by political cartoonists in the United States and their influence on public opinion and government policy; Explore constitutionally guaranteed press freedoms in the United States, and the accompanying principles of editorial expression; Review and become familiar with cartoonist training in the United States; Examine the effective use of humor and art in activism; and Illustrate the diversity of viewpoints held by Americans and how this diversity--reflected in political cartoons--contributes to a dynamic and pluralistic political system.
Typical US government hypocrisy, right? Say one thing, deliver the opposite. Since, these goals do not apply to a young Palestinian man who doesn't appreciate Israel's pseudo-apartheid system and the misery placed on the backs of his family, friends and people, he should be denied an opportunity for some advancement. You’re a bad man, Majed! You made pictures that told a story western audiences don’t want to hear.
What can we do to help Majed? I don't know. Complain to the US State Department? I doubt any sound would penetrate the cement that fills the heads in Washington D.C.
Majed in Al Jazeera article, Voices From Gaza
Majed on Twitter
Majed on Facebook