Moroccan wins Holocaust cartoon contest
Updated 11/1/2006 2:11 PM ET
From wire reports
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran awarded a Moroccan artist Wednesday the top prize in an exhibition of cartoons on the Holocaust that has received international condemnation, including from U.N. chief Kofi Annan.

Meant to be a response to the Danish cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed that sparked rage among Muslims around the world, the exhibit appears inspired by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tirades calling for Israel to be destroyed.

Tehran has several times announced plans to host a conference to examine the scientific evidence supporting the Holocaust, dismissing it as exaggerated. Its most recent announcement came in September during Annan’s visit to the Iranian capital, where he said he discussed the cartoon show with officials.

“The Holocaust is a myth and this issue has finally made waves thanks to the action of President Ahmadinejad in daring to express himself on the subject and break the Holocaust taboo,” Iranian Culture Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi said as he announced the cartoon winners.

Abdollah Derkaoui received $12,000 for his work depicting an Israeli crane piling large cement blocks on Israel’s security wall and gradually obscuring Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. A picture of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz concentration camp appears on the wall.

The mosque is Islam’s third holiest site.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Arts, next to the Palestinian Embassy, which was the Israeli diplomatic mission before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The exhibit curator, Masoud Shojai, said the contest will be an annual event.

“Actually, we will continue until the destruction of Israel,” he said.

The display, comprising 204 entries from Iran and abroad, opened in August.

Carlos Latuff from Brazil and A. Chard from France jointly won the second prize of $8,000 and Iran’s Shahram Rezai received $5,000 for third place.

None of the foreign winners were present at the award ceremony. Shojai blamed “political pressure” for their absence.

Many Muslims considered the cartoons published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten a violation of traditions prohibiting images of their prophet.

The Tehran daily Hamshahri, a co-sponsor of the exhibition, said it wanted to test the West’s tolerance for drawings about the Nazi killing of 6 million Jews in World War II. The entries on display came from nations including United States, Indonesia and Turkey.

Ahmadinejad has sparked a chorus of international criticism with a series of statements calling into question the massacre of millions of Jewish civilians by Nazi Germany during World War II.

During a visit to the United States in September, Iran’s former president, Mohammad Khatami, insisted Ahmadinejad did not mean to question the Holocaust itself but its use to defend the creation of a Jewish state on Palestinian land.

“I believe the Holocaust is the crime of Nazism,” Khatami told Time magazine.

“But it is possible that the Holocaust, which is an absolute fact, a historical fact, would be misused,” said Khatami, who was Ahmadinejad’s immediate predecessor. “The Holocaust should not be, in any way, an excuse for the suppression of Palestinian rights.”

“I personally believe that he (Ahmadinejad) really didn’t deny the existence of the Holocaust,” he added.

Contributing: Agence-France Presse; Associated Press