Iran will host the Islamic Republic’s third annual Holocaust denial cartoon contest this weekend, just over a week after the world somberly remembered the 6 million Jewish lives that were murdered by Hitler during World War II, and four short months after the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.
The controversial exhibit, which first took place in Iran in 2006, has already received over 800 submissions from artists in 50 different countries. Breitbart News reported in January that this year the contest’s grand prize has increased from $12,000 to $50,000.
In an interview with the New Yorker last month, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attempted to distance both himself and President Hassan Rouhani’s “moderate” administration from the questionable contest, saying it was sponsored by private NGOs.
“It’s not Iran. It’s an N.G.O. that is not controlled by the Iranian government. Nor is it endorsed by the Iranian government,” Zarif said at the time.
However, the Washington Post‘s Ishaan Tharoor astutely points out that “the organizations involved, the Owj Media & Cultural Institute and the Sarsheshmeh Cultural Center, are institutions with direct ties to organs of the Iranian government, including the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps,” which operate under Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
When asked why Iran allows for the Holocaust denial cartoon contest to take place, Zarif said:
Why does the United States have the Ku Klux Klan? Is the government of the United States responsible for the fact that there are racially hateful organizations in the United States? Don’t consider Iran a monolith. The Iranian government does not support, nor does it organize, any cartoon festival of the nature that you’re talking about. When you stop your own organizations from doing things, then you can ask others to do likewise.
Khamanei recently questioned the “reality” of the Holocaust on Yom Hashoa, which is known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. Certain reports suggest Zarif, himself, does not deny the tragedy. However, an article penned in the New Republic suggests otherwise. Furthermore, a 2006 video of Zarif (who was then an ambassador) at Columbia University provided an interesting response to a question posed by student Jordan Hirsch who asked “do you personally believe that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust?”
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon contacted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon calling for the international body to condemn the grossly anti-Semitic, state-sponsored contest.
“This anti-Semitic act represents the pure evil of the Iranian regime,” Danon expressed.
Denying the Holocaust is one of the most powerful expressions of anti-Semitism, which legitimizes the deaths of millions of Jews. While the world will remember the atrocities of the Holocaust which are still fresh in our collective memory, one member state will be hosting a contest which desecrates the memory of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The United Nations must resolutely stand up against this hatred and harshly condemn this heinous act.
Last year, Iran held the Holocaust denial contest in February. Despite protest from the United Nations to bar the event from taking place, the contest was moved forward from June to May 14, just one day before Nakba Day, also known as “catastrophe day” which Palestinians celebrate after Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut).
The winner of the first Holocaust denial cartoon contest did not actually deny the tragedy. Rather, Moroccan-born Abdellah Derakoui’s cartoon used the Holocaust and compared the actions of Nazi Germany to those of the Israeli government.
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