Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. (AP/Richard Drew) (AP/Richard Drew)
Irina Bokova

 

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova on Monday strongly condemned Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoon Contest in Tehran, saying it is a mockery of the Holocaust and fosters hatred.

“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,” Bokova said in a statement.

“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,” she added.

The organization of an “International Holocaust Cartoon Contest” also runs against the spirit of openness of the rich Persian Culture, and to the values that guided the Islamic Republic of Iran in its initiative for the 2010 International Year for the Rapprochement of Culture, the statement said.

Bokova relayed her concerns to the Iranian government in a letter addressed to the Ambassador of the Republic Islamic of Iran to UNESCO on February 13.

She has repeatedly voiced UNESCO’s concern at the rise of new forms of anti-Semitism, “drawing on distorted visions of culture and history, taking also the form of mockery or systematic delegitmization of the State of Israel.”

“We must redouble all efforts to teach young generations about the history of the Holocaust to combat all forms of anti-Semitism and denial today,” Bokova stated on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We must join forces in teaching about the history of all cultures and all religions. We must encourage freedom of expression and promote cultural diversity, in a spirit of mutual respect for others and for human rights.”

The exhibit featured some 150 works from 50 countries, with many portraying Israel as using the Holocaust to distract from the alleged suffering of the Palestinians. Others depicted Palestinian prisoners standing behind concentration camp-style barbed wire fences, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likened to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and a Jerusalem mosque behind a gate bearing the motto “Arbeit Macht Frei” that appeared at the entrance to the Auschwitz death camp.

The contest was organized by non-governmental bodies, but there are report of governmental support for it. A previous contest in 2006 got a boost from then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who referred to the Holocaust as a “myth” and repeatedly predicted Israel’s demise.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel