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Israel-UAE deal: Jordanian artist arrested over cartoon

Emad Hajjaj was detained after he published a caricature critical of the Israel-UAE deal
Emad Hajjaj's cartoon was published on Arabic news website Al-Araby al-Jadeed
Hajjaj's cartoon depicts UAE Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan holding an 'Israeli dove' spitting in his face (AFP)

Jordanian authorities have detained cartoonist Emad Hajjaj, after he published a caricature critical of the Israel-UAE normalisation deal.

Hajjaj was referred to the State Security Court on Thursday, prompting social media calls for his release. 

His cartoon depicted Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan - often referred to as the de-facto ruler of the UAE - holding a dove bearing the Israeli flag. The dove is spitting in the Gulf leader's face, while Arabic text refers to Israel's opposition to the sale of US F-35 aircrafts to the UAE. 

Nidal Mansour, the CEO of the Centre for the Protection and Freedom of Journalists, said Hajjaj was arrested in relation to Jordan's cybercrime law, which penalises publishing content that could be deemed offensive to another Arab country. 

In a tweet, Mansour called for his immediate release.

Translation: I learned earlier of the arrest of my dear colleague Emad Hajjaj, who was returning from the valley. I contacted the ministers of interior and the state for media affairs, and I found out that it was in connection with the cybercrime laws of the country. We call for his immediate release, as his detention amounts to punishing him prematurely. 

Photos circulating on social media showed Hajjaj waving to supporters while being escorted away by authorities. 

Translation: #FreedomForEmadHajjaj, after he was referred to the state security court. Were cybercrime laws not enough? State security laws are imposed when people express their ideas creatively, such as the artist Emad Hajjaj. 

The cartoon, which referenced the normalisation between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, was published on Arabic news website Al-Araby al-Jadeed. 

The caricature, published on Wednesday, was titled 'Israel asks America not to sell the UAE F-35s'.

Earlier this week, the United Arab Emirates cancelled a meeting with Israeli and American officials to formalise normalisation, due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opposition to the US selling Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets to Abu Dhabi, Axios reported.

Abu Dhabi had been trying to purchase the advanced US-made jets, but American policy dictates Israel must maintain its military superiority in the region.

Hajjaj has garnered a large following on social media through his political cartoons, and has a following of more than 130,000 people on Twitter. 

Israel and the United Arab Emirates announced their deal to normalise relations on 13 August, which was met with condemnation from Palestinians and their leadership.

The US-brokered agreement said Israel would agree to suspend its planned annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank as part of the deal. However, hours later Netanyahu said he remained "committed" to annexing parts of the West Bank, despite such a move being widely considered illegal under international law.

The Palestinian Authority denounced the agreement in a statement, calling it "a betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause", and demanded its retraction.

This week, Washington also announced that the US was planning a Middle East peace summit in the coming weeks.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.