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Iran Drags Jews Into Cartoon Row

Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Iran Drags Jews Into Cartoon Row

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Iran is not only protesting cartoon caricatures of the prophet Mohammed; it's now dragging the Jewish people and the Holocaust into the Muslim-European fray.

Israel's Foreign Ministry so far has declined comment on the turbulence in the Muslim world over the cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper and later reprinted in other European papers.

But Jewish groups are expressing dismay at the shift in focus toward the Holocaust and the Jews.

The Iranian Persian-language daily Hamshahri announced on Monday that it would hold an international competition for cartoons about the Holocaust.

Farid Mortazavi, graphics editor for Hamshahri, said the point of the contest was to challenge the idea that newspapers can publish what they want and call it freedom of expression.

The Western papers published sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, Mortazavi was quoted as saying. "Let's see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons."

The Danish paper Jyllands-Posten published the12 original caricatures of Mohammed in September, saying it did so to test freedom of expression.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," angered Israel and the Western world last year when he said the Holocaust was a "myth" and suggested that a European country should give up land for a Jewish state.

Iran also said it plans to host an academic conference to investigate the claims of the Holocaust. "Experts" invited to the conference are Holocaust deniers.

Iris Rosenberg, spokesperson for Yad VaShem, Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, said the fact that an Iranian newspaper is now holding a competition for cartoons about the Holocaust unmasks their intentions about the conference.

"This is part of the ongoing Holocaust denial in Iran and exposes the truth behind the so-called historical investigation in which their previous Holocaust-denial statements had been cloaked," Rosenberg said.

The Anti-Defamation League said it was troubled by the "double standard" expressed in such a contest.

"We condemn this sort of double standard that we are seeing in the Muslim world," said Arieh O'Sullivan, director of communications that the ADL in Jerusalem. "Despicable anti-Semitic caricatures appear in the [Arab and Muslim] press daily."

Freedom of expression cannot be used as a "license to foster hatred," O'Sullivan said. "The incident is [being] used by the Arab and Muslim world to attack the Jews."

Over the weekend, the Belgian-Dutch Islamic political organization AEL was the first to adopt an anti-Jewish theme in retaliation for the caricatures of Mohammed. The cartoons included one of teenage Holocaust victim Anne Frank in bed with German dictator Adolph Hitler.

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