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November 1, 2006

Iran Holocaust Cartoon Contest Winners

The Moroccan cartooniost Abdellah Derkaoui won Iran's Holocaust Cartoon contest, various wire services are reporting. Derkaoui is a verteran of interational cartooning competitions; you can see an entry for which he won a citation of excellence in a Canadian contest here. Second place was a tie between a French cartoonist and a Brazilian. Third prize went to an Iranian. The first place prize was worth $12,000 and the second $8,000 -- officials denied the government sponsored the awards, but would not say who was.

A description of the winner can be found at Persian Journal:

Derkaoui's cartoon shows a crane with a Star of David sign, putting up blocks making a wall separating the Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, from Jerusalem. The wall has a gate, shown in the distance, that looks like one at the Auschwitz concentration camp, where Jews were incarcerated and killed.

The story here isn't the contest itself, but the shifting rationale behind the awards. Other than a few official UN folks squawking about it, and some press coverage from those of us invested in the wider story of Muhammed protests earlier this year, Iran's contest mostly bored the shit out of those few people in the world that have cared to acknowledge it exists. And because the contest's purpose was initially announced as exposing hypocrisy in the West's position against cartoons that blaspheme -- "You don't think cartoons against Muhammed are a big deal but I bet you'll flip out if we assemble cartoons about the Holocaust" -- I don't see any way to look at these awards except as an embarassment and failure for its organizers.

The spin, though, that only started to emerge when this show opened, is that this is a taboo-breaking exhibition and a victory for those who wish to criticize current Israeli politics (as many of the entries, including Derkaoui's, did) or question the Holocaust itself without censure. Nice save, but the worldwide reaction of shrugged shoulders and yawning indicates that if there was some line to be crossed, this show that was even poorly attended by locals sure wasn't the agent to do it. Reading the wire reports, I found myself saying "Oh, shut up" out loud to every quote provided. Not in a "Damn you, truth-teller" way, but the way you talk to a person at the conference table babbling incoherently.

And because the world press finds any and all potentially upsetting depictions taboo, the art can't even speak for itself.
posted 8:06 pm PST | Permalink

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