The US State Department has withdrawn an invitation to Palestinian Majed Badra to attend a government-sponsored international exchange program for political cartoonists after deciding that some of his work was “anti-Semitic.”
The program, part of the International Visitor Leadership programme, brings to the United States for several weeks at a time emerging foreign leaders in business, government, media, education and the arts. Badra was originally invited last year to participate in a programme specifically for political cartoonists from North Africa and the Middle East.
Programme literature says the exchange is designed to “explore constitutionally guaranteed press freedoms in the United States, and the accompanying principles of editorial expression” and to “illustrate the diversity of viewpoints held by Americans and how this diversity–reflected in political cartoons–contributes to a dynamic and pluralistic political system.”
Badra told the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press that his editorial cartoons are meant as a commentary against the Israeli occupation, not the Jewish people themselves. He said:
“I just wanted to 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 people in the world regardless of their gender, religion, race or color.”
Badra said he was told his visa had been canceled on June 10, just days after it was first granted and more than a year after he had been nominated and accepted into the programme. He told RCFP that he took down his web site after US officials encouraged him to delete controversial cartoons to ensure consideration for future programmes.
The irony of the situation — exercising his freedom of speech cost Badra the chance to participate in a program championing freedom of speech — was not lost on the cartoonist.
“I just draw what surrounded me,” he told RCFP. “I draw the truth. We live in a difficult situation.”