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An exhibition in Iran will mock the Holocaust

imrsAn Iranian woman looks at an entry from the International Holocaust Cartoon Contest in Tehran on Aug. 14, 2006. (Raheb Homavandi/Reuters)

In early May, organizers in Tehran will stage the Second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest. Given the horrors of the Holocaust — in which the Nazi regime systematically killed more than 6 million Jews, as well as millions of Roma, homosexuals, political dissidents and other undesirables — and current fears about a rise in global anti-Semitism, an event with that name ought to raise myriad red flags.

An exhibition will feature some of the 839 pieces of “artwork” submitted as part of the contest by artists from more than 50 countries, reports Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency.

Its stated goal is to provoke Western sensibilities — particularly as a response to satirical cartoons of the pr0phet Muhammad published in numerous European outlets in recent years. The “contest and exhibition intends to display the West’s double standard behavior towards freedom of expression as it allows sacrilege of Islamic sanctities,” Fars reports.

But this isn’t just about Iranian anger with publications such as France’s Charlie Hebdo, which has published cartoons depicting the founder of Islam.

The first such contest, held in 2006, featured toxic motifs of Holocaust denial — a hobby horse of Iranian hard-liners. It also aired long-standing grievances in the Middle East over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians living under occupation. The victorious cartoon in 2006, drawn by a Moroccan, depicted Israel setting up a separation barrier around the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem; a black-and-white rendering of a concentration camp covers the wall.

A prompt for this year’s contest, organized by the Tehran-based House of Cartoons and the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex, asks questions such as these:

“If the West says that freedom of speech has no borders then why don’t they let historians and experts properly research the Holocaust?”

“Why should the Palestinian people pay for the Holocaust?”

In February, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, panned the planned Iranian event.

“It ridicules one of the darkest events in human history, and it cheapens the death of millions of Jews who were murdered,” he said in a statement. “The horrors of the Holocaust are still fresh in the collective memory.”

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made Holocaust denial a key theme in his anti-Israel rhetoric. On his way out in 2013, he lauded his spreading of the message that the Holocaust was a myth: “We put it forward at the global level. That broke the spine of the Western capitalist regime,” he said, in a testament to his own delusions.


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