UNESCO slams Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest


16/05/2016

The United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, condemned a state-sponsored Holocaust-themed cartoon contest currently being held in Iran.

The Second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest opened Saturday and was scheduled to run through the end of May in Tehran. The top prize is $12,000.

“Such an initiative, which aims at a mockery of the genocide of the Jewish people, a tragic page of humanity’s history, can only foster hatred and incite to violence, racism and anger,” Irina Bokova, the director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said over the weekend.

“This contest goes against the universal values of tolerance and respect, and runs counter to the action led by UNESCO to promote Holocaust education, to fight anti-Semitism and denial.”

The exhibition, totalling 150 entries from 50 countries, was launched on the eve of the Palestinian commemoration of "nakba", which means catastrophe in Arabic, marking the 1948 creation of Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned the competition, which was held a day earlier, saying that the Islamic Republic is in the midst of preparing for another Holocaust of the Jewish people.

Netanyahu spoke by phone with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday, asking him to also condemn the competition.

"Over the weekend Iran convened a special Holocaust-denial cartoon contest," said Netanyahu at the Cabinet's weekly meeting.

"We raise this here because it must be understood what our problem with Iran is," continued the prime minister. "It is not just its policy of subversion and aggression in the region; it is the values on which it is based. It denies and belittles the Holocaust and it is also preparing another Holocaust. I think that every country in the world must stand up and fully condemn this. This is what I told US Secretary of State John Kerry last night in my conversation with him."

The US State Department on Sunday denounced the contest as "inflammatory and abhorrent."

"We are concerned that this contest in Iran could be used as a platform for Holocaust denial and revisionism and egregiously anti-Semitic speech, as it has in the past," the US State Department said in a statement.

"Such offensive speech should be condemned by the authorities and civil society leaders rather than encouraged. We denounce any Holocaust denial and trivialization as inflammatory and abhorrent. It is insulting to the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust," the statement continued. 

Iran's third annual cartoon contest had a grand prize of $50,000, up from $12,000 last year. Organizers claim the purposed of the competition is designed to highlight the world’s double standard in defending caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammed, whose depiction is forbidden in Islam.

More than 750 cartoons were sent to Iran from around the world for the contest's first edition, including entries from the United States and Britain, Iranian organizers boasted.

Around 200 of those cartoons were then selected to be part of an exhibit in a Tehran museum.

The first contest and associated exhibit was firmly condemned by the United States, Israel and many Jewish organizations.