That Holocaust Cartoon Contest
The results of the infamous Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest are starting to come in.
The contest was launched earlier this month by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri in response to Jyllands Posten of Copenhagen and other Western newspapers that ran controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. (For background, click here.)
The intent of the contest, of course, is to expose what many Muslims see as a double standard. The newspaper contest explicitly asked, would Westerners defend the freedom to deliberately insult the memory of millions of European Jews killed by the Nazis?
On Wednesday, the Greater Kashmir Daily, a Muslim news site in the mountainous northern region of India, scorned the Western media's hypocrisy -- claiming to respect "religious sensibilities" at the same time that the media groups declare an "unfettered right to freedom of expression" and insist that Western "governments strongly defend their rights."
"These pompous claims melt before some laws in vogue in Europe," said the Kashmiri editors, echoing arguments throughout the Islamic world. "In France, Germany, Austria and other European nations it is forbidden by law to deny Jewish Holocaust or make anti-Semitic comments. Doesn't this show it is impermissible to make certain statements in European nations? Where does the phantom claim of the governments that they cannot control free speech hold its ground? Just display tomorrow the cartoon showing a chief rabbi wearing a bomb-shaped hat and feel the political and journalistic pulse!"
In short, the Hamshahri contest reflects a widespread feeling in the Muslim world.
The Western reaction has ranged from indignant to witty. In Germany, policymakers and political scientists called the Hamshahri contest a "despicable action," according to the Deutsche Welle news site.
"The target is not the Danish perpetrators of the original offence, but the Jews. Of course," wrote Tom Hyland of the Sunday Age in Australia. "Faith isn't mocked, but facts are. Hamshahri doesn't want jokes. Instead, entrants are urged to question 'alleged historical events like the Holocaust.'"
An Israeli cartoonist, Amitai Sandy, announced he was launching his own anti-Semitic cartoon contest: "We will show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published," he wrote on his website.
There is little doubt that many of the Hamshahri cartoons will be seen as anti-Semitic. One shows an Israeli with a stereotypically big nose drowning a Holocaust questioner in a sea marked "Freedom of Expression." Others trade in imagery of Jews as Satanic. Some are provocative and perhaps offensive but not necessarily anti-Semitic. One shows Jewish prisoners being lead to a Nazi crematorium and emerging as black clad suicide bombers.
Others, like the work of Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, reprinted here, make the Islamic world's point without resorting to anti-Semitic caricature (at right):
washingtonpost.com has chosen not to republish any of more explicit anti-Semitic images from Hamshahri, just as it did not publish or link directly to the controversial Muhammad cartoons that set off protests across Europe, the Middle East and South Asia.
In an op-ed this week, former cabinet secretary William J. Bennett and law professor Alan M. Dershowitz denounced The Post policy and the U.S. media in general for allegedly surrendering to an Islamic "war of intimidation." Whether Bennett and Dershowitz would support an American newspaper that published the cartoons published by Hamshahri in the name of free expression is an open question.
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