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UNESCO condemns Iran’s Holocaust cartoon contest

Head of UN body says event ‘can only foster hatred and incite to violence, racism and anger’

An Iranian man looks at a cartoon showing late German dictator Hilter at the second international exhibition of drawing and cartoons on the Holocaust in Tehran on May 14, 2016. (AFP / ATTA KENARE)
An Iranian man looks at a cartoon showing late German dictator Hilter at the second international exhibition of drawing and cartoons on the Holocaust in Tehran on May 14, 2016. (AFP / ATTA KENARE)

The United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, condemned a state-sponsored Holocaust-themed cartoon contest taking place in Iran.

The Second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest opened Saturday and was set 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.”

Some 150 works from 50 countries are on display in the contest, which is organized by nongovernmental bodies in Iran with support from the government. Most of the works criticize Israel for using the Holocaust to distract the international community from its treatment of the Palestinians.

The chief of the UN's education and culture agency, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, gestures during an interview with The Associated Press at the Global Forum for Youth, Peace and Security, in Madaba, Jordan, Friday, Aug. 21, 2015. (AP/Raad Adayleh)
The chief of the UN’s education and culture agency, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria (AP/Raad Adayleh)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday also criticized the event.

“It is not just its policy of subversion and aggression in the region; it is the values on which it is based,” Netanyahu said of Iran. “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.”

The Israeli leader added that he conveyed this message to US Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation on Saturday night. Kerry is traveling in Saudi Arabia.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner, who is traveling with Kerry, said in a briefing to reporters that the United States was concerned the contest could “be used as a platform for Holocaust denial and revisionism and egregiously anti-Semitic speech, as it has in the past,” The Associated Press reported.

“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.”

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