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May 27, 2016 3:20 am

Iran’s Holocaust Cartoon Contest Is No Caricature of Regime’s Identity

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An entry submitted to Iran's 2016 Holocaust cartoon contest. Photo: Holocaust International Cartoon & Caricature Exhibition 2016.

An entry submitted to Iran’s 2016 Holocaust cartoon contest. Photo: Holocaust International Cartoon & Caricature Exhibition 2016. – A haredi Jew looks into a mirror and sees the face of Adolf Hitler gazing back at him. The walls and guard towers of Auschwitz are squeezed into a snow shaker, with flying dollar bills replacing the fake snowflakes. Another haredi Jew waves a swastika-shaped fan at an Israeli flag, which blows furiously atop a corpse draped in a Palestinian flag.

Not enough? There’s more. The gates of Auschwitz, adorned with the deadly motto “Arbeit Macht Frei,” swing open to reveal the Al-Aqsa mosque, which sits on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, devils’ horns jutting from his forehead, gives a Nazi salute; instead of his usual business suit, he wears a bloodstained brown uniform, with a Star of David rendered as a swastika decorating the sleeve.

These are just a selection of the entries submitted to Iran’s latest Holocaust cartoon contest, currently on display in Tehran at the none-too-subtly named Islamic Propaganda Organization. By and large, the cartoons are crudely drawn, in keeping with the themes that they promote.

Yet I have to confess to being more bored than shocked. Such imagery is hardly new, after all. The depictions of Jews in this exhibit are straight out of Nazi propaganda, while the depiction of the State of Israel as Hitler’s inheritor was pushed by the Soviet Union for almost half a century. The Islamist barbarians who run Iran may be many things, but creators of pathbreaking art they are definitely not.

As fashionable as it is in President Barack Obama’s circle to pretend that the Iranian regime is in the throes of dramatic change, with a surging “moderate” wing that wants to engage the West, this latest cartoon contest — like last year’s contest, like the first cartoon contest in 2005, and like the conference of Holocaust deniers convened in 2006 — demonstrates that the mullahs’ cannot kick their enduring pathology: striking a blow at the global Jewish conspiracy by wiping Israel off the map.

Even if we accept for the sake of argument that the regime can be simply bifurcated into “moderates” and “hardliners,” those Iranian leaders identified in the West as “moderates” come out of this latest cartoon scandal looking far shabbier than their “hardline” rivals. Recall that Iran’s “hardline” supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, chose Holocaust Remembrance Day to question whether the slaughter of 6 million Jews had in fact occurred. The cartoon contest, backed to the hilt by the regime, is the natural outgrowth of Iran’s state policy of antisemitism, which holds that the Holocaust is a myth shamelessly used by the Jewish state to garner world sympathy. Khamenei and his cohorts, who are structurally and politically at the center of power in Iran, are quite open about all this and don’t feel the need to rationalize or excuse the state-sponsored mockery of the genocide of Jews.

Not so with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose detestation of Israel doesn’t blind him to the fact that the countries he flirts with, like Germany, take a dim view of Iran’s Holocaust denial antics. But unlike the “hardliners,” who are disarmingly honest about their views on the Jewish people and their desire to eliminate Israel, Zarif speaks with a forked tongue.

That shouldn’t mask the fact that Zarif is both a coward, since he refuses to condemn the cartoon contest, and a liar, since he insists that the regime he represents has nothing to do with it. Speaking to The New Yorker, Zarif clucked, “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.” That claim is about as truthful as the Obama administration’s reassurance that the nuclear deal struck with Tehran will prevent the regime from developing nuclear weapons. In other words, it isn’t at all.

No doubt, there are those who will take Zarif at face value, and perhaps even laud the fact that, by his account, artists exhibiting in Iran have creative license unfettered by government restrictions — so long, that is, as their subject is the Holocaust. For those not seduced by wishful thinking, there is the cold reality that the cartoon exhibit is completely dependent upon regime support. As the Iranian writer Majid Mohammadipointed out in a detailed briefing published by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the institutions involved in the exhibit are “all organized, financed, and managed under the supreme leader’s office, his appointed bodies, and the executive branch headed by the president. There are no private or independent nongovernmental institutions active in this area. The government and its varied set of institutions are the only ones that pay for these types of ideologically oriented activities. There is no channel for private funds, and no provision in Iran’s tax code, to support these activities.”

Why engage in such an activity in the first place? “The Islamic Republic seeks to be the most prominent global voice of antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment and in doing so has made connections with and promoted individuals espousing these views from across the world,” Mohammadi says. “The Holocaust is just a subject of a set of cartoons in this effort.”

This is not a recent development, nor is it related to Israeli policy or anything Israel actually does. Antisemitism among Iran’s Islamists in fact precedes the creation of the State of Israel. In his excellent book “Germany and Iran: From the Aryan Axis to the Nuclear Threshold,” German historian Matthias Kuentzel described the massive audience in Iran for Radio Zeesen, a Nazi propaganda outlet that broadcasted programming in Farsi. Among the listeners was the figurehead of Iranian Islamism, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. According to Kuentzel, Khomeini was an enthusiastic “connoisseur” of European antisemitism. “They are liars and determined,” Khomeini wrote in a tract entitled “The Islamic State.” There was also the following claim, based on the same wretched fantasies that lead to Holocaust denial: “We see today that the Jews (may God curse them) have meddled with the text of the Qur’an and have made certain changes in the Qur’ans they have printed in the occupied territories.”

These same views prevail among Iran’s leaders today, no matter what Zarif says. Indeed, to disavow Khomeini would be unthinkable in the current context, as demonstrated by the recent election of Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati as head of the “Assembly of Experts,” a key ruling body that chooses the supreme leader.

Jannati is a boilerplate fanatic who leads chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” at Friday prayers. It was Jannati who, in 2009, backed then president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s blood-drenched crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators. The regime that existed in 2009 still exists today, with the same mechanisms of fearsome repression at its disposal. It cannot be reformed, and certainly not from within. But — heretical as it is to say this — it can, and should, be overthrown.

Ben Cohen, senior editor of & The Tower Magazine, writes a weekly column for on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He is the author of“Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014).

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  • daniel rosenthal

    Georget K.
    I hope that your doctors will soon be able to adjust your medications so you could feel better and once more be able to …..

  • nat cheiman

    Apart from a distraction caused by my digression as a result of Georgets garbage ( supra), my suggestion is to have a competition with cartoonists depicting the Prophet Mohammed ( More hammered) and publish those as a tit for tat. Childish!? Indeed. But at least a response

  • nat cheiman

    Georget K. You and millions of others are halucinating.
    You & the rest of your ilk are silent on atrocities committed by Isis/ Hamas & most of the arab nations.
    The defenceless people to whom you refer , fire rockets. Send their children with suicide vests & stab innocent civilians.
    Moreover, the people that you refer to as indigenous, are not so indigenous as you claim. Read your history from the beginnig and dont start at a point that suits your ideology.
    Quite frankly speaking, you are asinine and vacant in your thinking. Your use of the words “blood thirsty zionists”is sufficient proof that you are anti semitic and do not regard Jews nor G-D with respect.
    Talking of sub humans, that reminds me that you & your ilk use cell phone/computers and medical technology invented in Israel, that is used around the world , by people and sub humans, who either are ignorant of its origination, or choose to be hypocritical and nevertheless, use these, anyway.
    I am beginning to think that you write as an Isis supporter.

  • joelsk44039

    Quite obvious that you know nothing about Israel and the Jewish people. Your remarks are based on pure hatred and not on reality. The only “indigenous people” in the area are the Jews. The Arabs come from Arabia and are the true occupiers.

  • Myron Slater

    The comments by “George K” is blatantly anti-Semitic and was written by a someone who didn’t even try to examine the facts. If he only was not blinded by hate, he would still be too stupid to think!

  • Georget K.

    I wish the blood thirsty Zionists in Tel Aviv who are on a daily rampage against defenseless indigenous people wake up one day and learn that the entire world hates them. Not because of their religion –Jewish is a God religion and respected by all – but due to the behavior of their statesmen that behave like sub-humans. Their job is to kill, rape, destroy, murder children who at their early age want freedom and show that with throwing stones at the rifles, and make the rest of the world suffer because they can. You should be ashamed of yourself for writing the article that you did defending these sub-humans. The money you get from these murderers is worse than the money a pimp makes out of young children who are made prostitutes.

    • David

      It’s morally corrupted, brainwashed people like you who should be ashamed of themselves. Putting the blame on a population’s leaders for doing exactly what the rest of the entire world does, protecting their population from a bloodthirsty and blood-lusting enemy that wants that population wiped out from history, is a coward’s act.

    • The Indigenous people of that region are the Israelites and the Judeans not the Arabs.
      The 3000 year old capital of the Kingdom of Judea was and will be for ever Jerusalem.
      The only blood thirsty subhumans in the Middle East are the ones who teach their children to hate and to kill and instead of advancing their minds,poisoning them and turning them in to blood thirsty sub-humans. Israel is the only free prosperous, viable democracy in the Middle East, where Africans Orientals Christians Muslims and Jews have equal rights, most Arab Israelyi’s value and are proud of their citizenship, some are intimidated from the outside to protest and throw stones. Some Israely Arabs are diplomats and judges and members of parliament
      Your mind has been poisoned, perhaps you should read some real history books,not just propoganda, Zionist means – return to mount Zion ! Ther original home land for the JEWS

    • Lucifer69

      OK Georget, now jump your camel and head for hijaz.