This morning's Washington Post features a Reuters wire service story by one Parisa Hafezi about the Iranian Holocaust Cartoon exhibition that just opened in Teheran ("Iranian Exhibit Takes On the Holocaust"). The reporter gives the idea that the competition and exhibit are all about challenging the Holocaust and testing free speech.
"This is a test of the boundaries of free speech espoused by Western countries," Masoud Shojai, head of the Cartoon House, which helped organize the exhibition, said as he stood next to the Statue of Liberty drawing.
In fact. almost all the cartoons equate Israel or the US with the Nazis, as part of Teheran's ongoing propaganda war against the Jews. The point isn't to question the Holocaust - the point is to deligitimize Israel. In fact, most of the cartoon implicitly accept the Holocaust as true, otherwise the comparisons of Sharon to Hitler wouldn't make any sense.
Iran's best-selling newspaper, Hamshahri, launched a competition in February to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust, in retaliation for the September publication of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish paper and later in other European publications.
Those cartoons sparked attacks on European embassies in Muslim nations, including missions in Iran.
If you remember, it wasn't just those cartoons that caused the riots. In order to get people truly righteously angry, the local imams had to include photos that never went into the paper, and to mislabel them as well. In particular, the "dossier" included a photo of a man at a French hog-calling contest, dressed up as a pig, captioned as though he were impersonating Mohammed. Such a photo was never published or submitted, but was an invention from whole cloth by the Imams who wanted the riots.
It is a crime in European countries such as Germany and Austria to deny the Holocaust. The initial plans for a contest about the Holocaust provoked a storm of condemnation and revulsion in some countries, including the United States, which called the idea "outrageous."
The newspaper broadened the rules to include any caricature that tests "freedom of expression."
As mentioned, most of the cartoons I could make out don't actually question the Holocaust at all. And if the newspaper really wanted to test "freedom of expression," it could have solicited caricatures of Ahmedinejad.
The contest was welcomed by some visitors at the exhibition on Wednesday, two days after it opened.
"After the Holocaust was questioned by the president, now I have real doubts about it," said Maryam Zadkani, 23, a graphic artist. "I came here to see what other cartoonists around the world think about the Holocaust."
Freedom of expression, no doubt, prevented others from expressing their reservations.
One last corroborative detail:
Another [cartoon] showed a turtle with a U.S. emblem laying eggs carrying the Star of David.
Except that it was the British flag, not the US flag, on the turtle's shell. It's inconceivable that a reporter for a British wire service doesn't know the difference. Either they got it wrong on purpose, to emphasize the US's culpability in - whatever -, or they're completely incompetent to be a foreign correspondent.
Even if Reuters hasn't learned the dangers of using local stringers to write their reports, you'd think that the Washington Post would fact-check their reports before putting them in the paper, and writing headlines around them.
Pictures of some of the cartoons, including the one with the turtle, can be found here.