Meeting short take #3: Iran proposes a "Holocaust cartoon contest"
TEHRAN, Iran - A prominent Iranian newspaper said Tuesday it would hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
Hamshahri, one of Iran's largest papers, made clear the contest is a reaction to European newspapers' publication of Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which have led to demonstrations, boycotts and attacks on European embassies across the Islamic world. Several people have been killed.
Hundreds of Iranians hurled stones, and sometimes gasoline bombs, at the Danish and Austrian embassies in Tehran in protest against the cartoons Monday. Austria currently holds the European Union presidency.
The newspaper said the contest would be launched Monday and co-sponsored by the House of Caricatures, a Tehran exhibition center for cartoons. The paper and the cartoon center are owned by the Tehran Municipality, which is dominated by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, well-known for his opposition to Israel.
Ahmadinejad, who was Tehran's mayor until being elected president in June, provoked outcries last year when he said on separate occasions that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and the Holocaust was a "myth."
Iran said last month it would sponsor a conference to examine the scientific evidence supporting the Holocaust, an apparent attempt to give voice to Holocaust deniers.
Hamshahri invited foreign cartoonists to enter the competition.
"Does the West extend freedom of expression to the crimes committed by the United States and Israel, or an event such as the Holocaust? Or is its freedom only for insulting religious sanctities?" Hamshahri wrote, referring to the Prophet Muhammad cartoons.
My second reaction, though, was a bit of amusement. By announcing this contest, the Iranians seem to be implying that the Jews control Denmark, that they must think that it had to be the eeeeviillll Jews that were responsible for the publication of the cartoons. Otherwise, why not a contest for cartoons making fun of Christianity? Or a contest for cartoons making fun of, say, Buddhism or Hinduism (sacred cows, anyone)? Heck, why not a contest making fun of atheists, given how secular Denmark and much of Europe is? But, no. It has to be a contest for cartoons making fun of the Holocaust, a contest to attack Jews. (Of course, anti-Semitic cartoons are not unknown in Europe.) Besides revealing Iranian anti-Semitism, it's a transparent ploy. I can see it now. When the "winning" cartoons are published, Iran will "challenge" European papers to show their support for "freedom of speech" and republish them, as they did the Danish cartoons. When European nations refuse to play their game and republish such garbage, Iran will most likely gloat about a European double standard. Clearly the irony of Iranian media making such a charge against anyone is completely lost on them.
In fact, historian Deborah Lipstadt is preparing to enter the contest, with her collection of anti-Semitic cartoons from Arab and Muslim nations that she's been collecting over the years. She even has an idea for prizes for the winners:
1st Prize: One week in Teheran with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (the Holocaust-denying President of Iran)
2nd Prize: Two weeks in Teheran with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
3rd Prize: 450 days in the former American embassy with those nice hostage takers.
One thing's almost certain, though. There won't be any mass rioting, threats of beheading and murder, or bombings by Jews upset over Iran's pointless "retaliation."