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May 19, 2016

Iranian Holocaust Cartoon Exhibition Opens

Iran’s newest “Holocaust contest” exhibition opened on May 14 in a gallery in Tehran. According to Iranian news reports, the contest received over 864 submissions from participants around the world.  Of those, 150 cartoons from 50 countries were accepted, with representation of cartoonists from Brazil, China, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Peru, Syria, Turkey and Yemen, among others.

Contest organizer Masoud Shojai Tabatabaei insisted the event was not to deny or celebrate the Nazi Holocaust, but to call out the “Holocaust” being witnessed with “the big killings by the Zionist regime in Gaza and Palestine.”Iranian Holocaust Cartoon

Of course this is not the first such contest held in Iran, nor the first time the Iranian government and its organs have politicized, denied and abused the memory of the Holocaust and its victims.

In the exhibition, the cartoons are divided into two themes. The first relate to the Holocaust; the second compare Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to Hitler. Photos from the exhibition reveal cartoons featuring swastikas and other anti-Semitic imagery.

The contest has earned the condemnation of the State Department (“abhorrent”), UNESCO (“goes against the universal values of tolerance and respect”) and the German Foreign Ministry (“the murder of 6 million men, women and children during the Holocaust, for which we Germans bear guilt and responsibility, must not be abandoned to ridicule”).

The contest winners will be announced on May 30.

If you’re wondering how much one can earn from a cartoon lampooning or diminishing an act which killed six million Jews, it is reported that the winning cartoon will be awarded a sum of $12,000.

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May 11, 2016

Iran’s Second International Holocaust Cartoon Exhibition Opens On May 14

On May 14, 2016, the second international Holocaust Cartoon Contest exhibition will open in Iran, with the first place winner – reportedly to be announced in June – receiving a large cash prize. According to reports in the Iranian press, the May 14th date was chosen to coincide with Nakba Day (catastrophe day), the term used by Palestinian to refer to the events surrounding Israel’s independence in 1948.

The contest reportedly received over 800 submissions from artists in 50 countries, and the exhibition will feature 100 works, as well as 50 profile cartoons on the subject of “Netanyahu”, a reference to the Israeli Prime Minister.

Auschwitz TracksDome of the Rock






In a recent New Yorker magazine interview, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif denied accusations that the Holocaust contest is supported by the Iranian government. However, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the secretary of the NGO responsible for contest Massoud Shojaei Tabatabaei stated that the contest organizers cooperate with the Iranian Ministry of Culture, and that everyone in the Iranian regime “knows that this exhibition is highly respected.”

Iran held its first Holocaust cartoon contest back in 2006 under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, receiving 204 entries from Iran and around the world. During his tenure as President, Ahmadinejad repeatedly used his position to promote Holocaust denial, a practice that continues to this day in parts of Iran. The 2006 contest’s winning submission depicted Israel constructing a wall, painted with an image of the infamous railway leading to the gates of Auschwitz, around the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. Other winners included images of Palestinians in concentration camp garb, the “myth of the gas chambers” and a Holocaust museum in the shape of a swastika.

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April 20, 2016

As Passover Approaches Temple Mount Tensions Remain

With Passover approaching, Israeli authorities are gearing up for potential tensions over the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary.

The sacred space has long been the focal point of religious and political tensions and conflicts. The responsibility for the site is shared by Israel, which has sovereignty over the site, and Jor­dan, whose Cus­to­dian Min­istry has man­aged the site since the 1994 peace treaty between Jor­dan and Israel. The agreement includes a clause restricting Jews from praying on the Mount, known informally as the “status-quo.” The Waqf, an Islamic religious trust, overseas the day-to-day operations at the site.

Credit: Andrew Shiva

Credit: Andrew Shiva

There have been many flashpoints.  For years, there have been accusations among Palestinians and across the region of a conspiracy by Israel to “Judaize” Jerusalem, particularly when it comes to this shared holy site. In 2000, then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the site, which the Palestinians used as an excuse to launch the Second Intifada. Hamas, the Gaza-based terror group, even praised the recent bus bombing in Jerusalem as a “natural reaction” to Israel’s “desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque” located on the site.

In recent years tensions relating to the site have intensified, with a noticeable increase in the number of Jews visiting and secretly praying on the Mount, a violation of the status-quo. Among them, Israeli government ministers and politicians, some of whom have called for Jews to be allowed to pray on the Mount.

And over the past week, other incidents have focused attention on the sacred space.  Last week, the Temple Mount Institute, a Jewish messianic organization, conducted a secret Jewish wedding on the Mount, which was filmed and posted on social media. While it may sound strange to condemn a Jewish wedding at a holy Jewish site, the incident was part of the larger, potentially explosive effort by some on the religious right, to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.

And from the Palestinian side, there was the adoption by the UNESCO executive board of a highly-biased, one-sided resolution on Jerusalem which ignored the Jewish connection to holy sites like the Temple Mount and Western Wall. The resolution described both sites only in their Muslim/Arabic names, alleged Israel was planting fake Jewish graves, and criticized, on political grounds, a recent Israeli decision to build an egalitarian prayer area in the Western Wall Plaza. Shockingly, a number of Western countries voted to support the resolution, including France, Spain and Sweden.

The Israeli government, much to its credit, has taken steps to reduce tensions, including banning all government ministers and Knesset members from visiting the Mount. They have also worked closely with US and Jordanian governments on a plan to install surveillance cameras on the Temple Mount, which would help refute claims that Israel is violating the status quo. In an unfortunate development however, Jordan announced this week that it was dropping this plan due to objections from the Palestinians who were “skeptical” about the initiative. Palestinians had also placed notices on the Mount threatening to smash any security cameras which were installed. This is not an encouraging development.

In the ancient tradition of Passover, Jews were required to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and bring a special Passover sacrifice to the Jewish Temple. While the sacrifice is no longer practiced, the next week will bring many tens of thousands of Jews to the Old City of Jerusalem and Western Wall area adjacent to the Temple Mount for prayers, blessings and celebrations.

While Israel must continue efforts to ensure the status-quo remain unchanged, the Palestinians must refrain from further escalating the tensions by using the Mount as a political issue to attack Israel. Any serious escalation of tensions over the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary – over Passover and beyond – could turn into a potentially explosive and violent situation.


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