From the archive, originally posted by: [ mmm ]
Iran exhibits anti-Jewish art
Iran mounts “Holocaust International Cartoon Contest” as reply to
Danish drawings of Prophet Muhammad.
By Michael Slackman
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Friday, August 25, 2006
TEHRAN, Iran — The title of the show is “Holocaust International
Cartoon Contest,” or “Holocust,” as the show’s organizers spell the
word in promotional material. But the content has little to do with
the events of World War II and Nazi Germany.
There is instead a drawing of a Jew with a large nose, a nose so large
it obscures his entire head. Across his chest is the word Holocaust.
Another drawing shows a vampire wearing a big Star of David drinking
the blood of Palestinians.
A third shows former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon dressed in a
Nazi uniform, emblazoned not with swastikas but with the Star of
The cartoons are among more than 200 on display in the Palestinian
Contemporary Art Museum in central Tehran in a show that opened this
month and is to run until the middle of September.
The exhibition is intended to expose what some Iranians see as Western
hypocrisy for invoking freedom of expression regarding the publication
of cartoons that lampooned the Prophet Muhammad while condemning
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran for questioning the Holocaust.
The cartoons of Muhammad, first published in September 2005 in a
Danish newspaper, were widely condemned by many Muslims as
They prompted protests and riots in several countries, which left some
people dead and several European embassies burned.
In February, the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri said it would challenge
Western concepts of freedom of expression by exploring one of the
West’s taboos and challenging accounts of the Holocaust in the
“It is not that we are against a specific religion,” said the show’s
curator, Seyed Massoud Shojaei, offering a distinction that visitors
to the show are certain to question. “We are against repression by the
Shojaei said more than 1,000 pictures from 61 countries had been
submitted, proving that “there is a new holocaust in Guantánamo Bay,
Abu Ghraib, Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The provocative theme might attract the attention of the West, but it
has gone little noticed in Tehran. Over a three-day period, the
gallery was virtually empty.
“Look, these cartoons are the reflections of U.S. and Israelis’ deeds,
but wouldn’t it have been better if they were put on display in the
U.S. or even in Israel?” said Ali Eezadi, 70, a retired industrial
engineer who visited the gallery Thursday afternoon.
“If this were the case,” Eezadi said, “certainly there would be a
rationale for it. But having this kind of exhibition in Iran does not
draw much attention. I mean, these things are said, written and
expressed in lots of ways; that makes people apathetic.”
Many of the visitors were art students who said they had visited to
examine artistic techniques. Many said they were happy to take away a
free poster: a photograph showing three military helmets piled up, two
with swastikas on the crown, a third with the Star of David.
“I came here to study the quality of the work,” said Hamid Derikvand,
27, who said he was an art student at the university across the street
from the gallery.
What did he think of the message? “I am not interested in politics,”
Shojaei said there were three reasons for holding the show.
The first is because in the West, it is all right to insult religion
but impermissible to question the Holocaust, he said.
The second is to ask why Palestinians must pay the price for the
atrocities of the Holocaust — which he, unlike Iran’s president,
And the third is to draw attention to what he called the creation of a
new holocaust against Muslims, primarily Palestinians.
“We have been accused of being advocates for neo-Nazis,” Shojaei said,
speaking in Persian through an interpreter. “This is not true.”
The show took up three floors of the gallery, and Shojaei was on the
third floor, surrounded by images that at most used the Holocaust as a
subtext: a dove chained to a Star of David; President Bush seated at a
desk swatting doves; a Jew, or Israeli, asleep with three Arab heads
mounted to the wall above his bed.
“We are not saying the Holocaust is a myth,” he said. “We are saying
that by this excuse. Israelis are repressing other people.”
Shojaei said none of the images were intended as anti-Jewish, only
anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli — and of course, anti-American and
As evidence, he said that Iranians lived peacefully with Iran’s Jewish
But Morris Motamed, the one Jewish member of Iran’s parliament, said
he hadn’t gone to the show because “it was in line with anti-Semitism
and aimed at insulting Jews.”
Motamed added, “I felt if I went, I would get insulted and get hurt.”