Arab Media Review: Anti-Semitism and Other Trends July - December 2006
Iranian Holocaust Cartoon Contest
Posted: January 24, 2007
In a despicable sequel to the Mohammed cartoon controversy, in which thousands of Muslims took to the streets earlier this year in protest of cartoons in a Danish newspaper depicting the prophet Mohammed, Iran's Culture Ministry named the "winners" of a contest for editorial cartoons attacking Jews and the Holocaust.
The vicious anti-Semitic imagery and stereotypes, Holocaust denial, and comparisons of Jews and Israelis to Nazis submitted and exhibited was unsettling, but not surprising. The effect, if not the intent, was to make Jews and Israel the scapegoat for the West's supposed transgressions against the Muslim faith. This plays into the rhetoric and message of the Iranian regime, whose president, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly called for Israel to be "wiped off of the map" and openly questions the fact of the Holocaust.
Despite the fact that Jews had no role in the original controversy over the cartoons depicting Mohammad, which erupted in February 2006 with protests, embassy burnings and other acts of violence in Muslim and Arab countries in the Middle East, Africa and in some European countries, the Iranian response was to encourage the dredging up of centuries-old canards and stereotypes of Jews, using editorial cartoonists in an inexcusable attempt to promote and bolster their regime's hateful anti-American, anti-West and anti-Israel worldview.
Winning Entry: A Parody of Auschwitz
First Prize: Derkaoui Abdellah (Morrocco)
A Moroccan artist was awarded the top prize for his cartoon showing the Israelis constructing a wall around the Al Aksa Mosque and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Reflected on the panels of the wall is an image of the infamous railway leading to the gates of Birkenau at Auschwitz -- as if to suggest that the border fence in Israel, built with the goal of stopping suicide bombers, has some connection or parallel with the largest German extermination camp in Europe during World War II.
The winning entries do more than push the envelope or test the limits of free speech. They offer a profoundly disturbing portrait of anti-Semitism and a rogue's gallery of bigotry, prejudice and hatred. Some cartoonists openly mock the Holocaust. Others deny it outright. The artists use Nazi imagery like the swastika with an obsessiveness that defies rational explanation, stripping it of meaning. The images seethe with hatred of Jews: Jews as tormentors of Arab people; Jews as Nazis; Jews conspiratorial manipulators; Jews as holding the world hostage with the memory of the Holocaust.
The contest, which was announced by Ahmadinejad and co-sponsored by the Tehran daily newspaper Hamshahri, supposedly was in retaliation for the Danish cartoon controversy—in which caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed offended Muslims worldwide—and was also to be a test of the West's principle of free speech. A total of 204 entries from Iran and around the world were exhibited beginning in August 2006.
The Iranian cartoon contest served as a bullhorn for the regime to broadcast some of the ugliest anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial that exists in the Muslim world, and to give such expressions of bigotry a patina of legitimacy. Themes present in many of the submissions included Holocaust denial; accusations of Jews using the Holocaust for political gain; comparisons between Jews, Israel, and the Nazis; and Jewish conspiratorial control over the United Nations and the world. Such anti-Jewish motifs are part of a daily drumbeat in the Muslim and Arab press.
Second Prize: Carlos Latuff (Brazil)
Second Prize: A-chard (France)
On the floor: "The myth of the gas chambers." The Jew on the left is asking: "Who put it on the floor?" The Jew on the right is answering: "Faurisson."
Third Prize: Shahram Rezai (Iran)
Special Prize: Naji Benaji (Morocco)
Special Prize: Mohammadreza Doustmohammadi (Iran)
Special Prize: Casso (Brazil)
Special Prize: Maziyar Bizhani (Iran)
Special Prize: Gatto Alessandro (Italy)
Special Prize: Mahmoud Nazari (Iran)
Special Prize: Raed Khalil (Syria)
Special Prize: Naser Al Jafar (Jordan)
Special Prize: Jaber Asadi (Iran)
Special Prize: Eloar Guazzelli (Brazil)