(CNSNews.com) – As Iran’s controversial Holocaust-themed cartoon contest ended this week, the organizer disclosed that he had received a call of congratulations from the office of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Massoud Shojai-Tabatabai said Monday Khamenei’s office told him in a phone call that the event “was appreciated,” and described it as “excellent.”
Two months ago, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, in a message aimed an American audience, tried to distance the regime from the contest. He told the New Yorker it was organized by non-governmental groups and was neither “controlled” nor “endorsed” by the government.
Contesting Zarif’s claims, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum noted that organizations associated with the contest were “sponsored or supported by government entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of [Culture and] Islamic Guidance.”
At the event’s closing ceremony in Tehran on Monday, guests included an official from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance’s Visual Arts Division.
The ceremony also announced the contest winners. In first place in the “Cartoon” division was a French cartoonist calling himself Zeon, who faced criminal complaints in France last year for cartoons viewed by critics as anti-Semitic.
His entry depicted an old-fashioned cash register, designed to include the façade of the entrance to Auschwitz, and bearing the words “Shoah Business.” Filled with banknotes, the cash register has rung up the figure 6,000,000 – a reference to the number of Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II. Zeon was awarded a cash prize of $12,000.
First place in the “Caricature” section went to Iranian cartoonist Arash Forughi, who won $7,000 for his grotesque caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with a crocodile around his neck, a Palestinian flag clenched in its jaws.
A theme common to many of the more than 150 entries in the “Second International Holocaust Cartoon and Caricature Contest exhibition” – and one encouraged by the organizers – was an attempt to equate the Nazis and Israel.
Netanyahu featured in many, in one case wearing bloodstained Nazi-type uniform and devil’s horns and giving a Nazi salute. Swastikas and Stars of David were common.
“One of the subjects we asked cartoonists to focus on was why the Western countries arrest any scholar who doubts the Holocaust while they put no limit on freedom of speech in other categories,” Shojai-Tabatabai said during the ceremony.
“The other subject was why Palestinians should pay for the Holocaust,” he said. “We are concerned about the modern holocaust that is being sought by the Zionist regime, which is known as a child killer government.”
Shojai-Tabatabai has repeatedly said the aim of the contest is not to deny the Holocaust.
In 2014, Khamenei in a new year’s speech described the Holocaust as “an event whose reality is uncertain and, if it happened, it’s uncertain how it happened.”
Khamenei’s official website has drawn attention to those words on occasions since, most recently on Holocaust Memorial Day this year.
Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the Holocaust a “myth,” used by Jews as justification for the establishment of the state of Israel.
Iran’s first cartoon competition with a Holocaust theme was held in 2006, supposedly in response to the publication by European newspapers of cartoons lampooning Mohammed.
Meanwhile plans for a new Iranian cartoon contest, entitled “Zionist Caliphate,” were announced Tuesday. Organizers say themes include “Zionism, terrorism and racism” and – in reference to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) – “ISIL terrorism and genocide in the name of religion and to the benefit of the Zionists.”
In 2014-15, a cartoon competition entitled “Down With America” was organized, with sub-themes including the U.S. and Oppression, Islamophobia, Iranophobia and Global Zionism.