Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the regime’s decision to host a cartoon festival on the Holocaust in June 2016 by drawing a parallel with the existance of hate groups in the United States of America.
In an interview with the New Yorker published on Monday, Zarif insisted that the 11th Tehran International Cartoon Biennial was not endorsed by the Iranian government, comparing it to the U.S. allowing the KKK to exist.
“Why does the United States have the Ku Klux Klan?” Zarif asked rhetorically. “Is the government of the United States responsible for the fact that there are racially hateful organizations in the United States? Don’t consider Iran a monolith. The Iranian government does not support, nor does it organize, any cartoon festival of the nature that you’re talking about.”
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum strongly condemned the Iranians for hosting the international contest. “The contest is part of an alarming trend by the Iranian government. It continues its pattern of holding contests soliciting cartoons promoting Holocaust denial and antisemitism,” the museum said in a statement back in January. “More importantly, Iran’s top leaders have repeatedly employed genocidal language against Israel and inflammatory speech to incite violence. We call on world leaders to join the Museum in denouncing this unacceptable behavior and all forms of Holocaust denial and antisemitism.”
Ira Forman, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy to combat and monitor anti-Semitism, told JNS.org it’s critical that the U.S. speak out against any type of government-sponsored anti-Semitism. “We’re really concerned this contest is used as a platform for Holocaust denial…and anti-Semitic speech,” Forman said.
But according to Zarif, “When you stop your own organizations from doing things, then you can ask others to do likewise.”
Zarif said President Hassan Rouhani and government officials will not attend the festival’s opening ceremony after he was reminded by the New Yorker that, “You and the President have both wished Jews around the world Happy New Year.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told Bloomberg Views’s Eli Lake that Zarif was the “master of double-speak.” When asked for his reaction to Zarif’s claims about the Holocaust cartoon contest, Greenblatt said: “The idea that they don’t control this contest is farcical. This is a country where you can be put in prison for liking something of Facebook, where the intelligence ministry monitors every tweet and every blog.”
In the interview, Zarif also reflected on the implementation of the nuclear deal and America’s concerns about Iran’s recent activities. “We have a saying in Farsi: ‘First, prove your brotherhood, and then ask for inheritance.’ The United States needs to first show that it is implementing the JCPOA. No one is asking whether Iran is implementing the JCPOA. And almost every Iranian official believes that the United States hasn’t implemented it,” he said. “So you’ve got to prove your brotherhood first, or sisterhood, and then we talk about the inheritance. The dividends of a successful implementation of the nuclear agreement will come, but once it is successfully implemented.”
Zarif complained that European banks are still hesitant of doing business with Iran out of fear of retaliation by the United States. “The United States needs to do way more,” he said. “They have to send a message that doing business with Iran will not cost them. Period. No ifs and buts.”