Iran Paper Holds Holocaust Cartoon Contest

Tehran, Iran - An Iranian newspaper's contest for Holocaust-related cartoons has drawn entries from 200 people, with some drawings mocking the World War II slaughter: One entry shows Jews going into a gas pipeline.

Most contest entrants are Iranian, but six are Americans, and a few cartoons have been submitted from as far away as Indonesia and Brazil, according to the Hamshahri newspaper. A few of the drawings have been posted online.

Hamshahri began the contest last month as a test of the West's readiness to print cartoons about the Nazi killing of 6 million Jews in World War II. The contest, which runs through May 15, comes in response to caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that sparked protests across much of the Muslim world.

One submission reflects the opinion of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who drew international outrage last year when he said the Holocaust was a myth.

The cartoon, by Iranian Firouzeh Mozafari, shows a circle of nine Jewish men entering and leaving a gas chamber that shows a counter reading "5,999,999," implying that Jews have inflated the number of Holocaust victims.

American cartoonist Mike Flugennock's cartoon asks: "What has Ariel Sharon learned from the Holocaust?" It shows bulldozers razing Palestinian homes and an Israeli soldier pointing a gun at a Palestinian protester's head, above Flugennock's answer to his own question: "Humiliation, tyranny, brutality and murder."

Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, remains in a coma after a stroke on Jan. 4.

Flugennock, of Washington, D.C., insisted his entry is not anti-Semitic but legitimate political criticism — because it criticizes not the Jewish people or their religion but Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

"It specifically addresses policies of the Israeli state with regard to its behavior in Palestine, and their similarities to the strategies employed by the Nazi regime in Warsaw and elsewhere," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Flugennock said he saw the contest as a chance to tell the world "that there is 'another America' that sees through the policies of the Israeli state and isn't afraid of reactionaries' trying to tar them with the epithet 'anti-Semite.' "

Farid Mortazavi, who is managing the contest for Hamshahri, said he has received about 700 cartoons from some 200 artists. A Web site run by contest organizers says entries have come in from 35 countries.

The newspaper is offering prizes of up to $12,000.

"We still expect more American cartoonists to send their caricatures to the contest," Mortazavi said.

Other submissions, some of which were posted online, address the Palestinians' situation rather than the Holocaust.

One, by a Brazilian artist, shows a carefree, whistling Israeli man turning his back on a crowded Palestinian slum from which an apparent suicide bomber tries to get his attention.

Another American cartoonist depicted the Statue of Liberty with its torch extinguished and its eyes and mouth sealed with metal plates and a sign reading, "Closed until further notice. Bushco Demolitions."

The Muhammad cartoons, which included one showing the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, were first published in September by a Danish newspaper that solicited the drawings in what it said was a test of freedom of expression. The cartoons later were reprinted in other newspapers, mostly in Europe.

Islamic tradition generally bars even respectful depictions of the Prophet Muhammad because of fears they could lead to idolatry.