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November 12, 2006

Your Turn: The Iran Holocaust Cartoon


(click for full size)

Responding to last year’s firestorm over the depiction of Mohammed in the paper, Jyllands-Posten, the Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, has announced its winner of “the International Holocaust Cartoon Competition.”  Sidestepping the fact that the original Muhammed cartoons came out of Denmark, the theme of the Iranian contest was anti-Israeli, based specifically on the negation of the Holocaust.

I’ve been following the contest at Daryl Cagle’s blog.

The winner, a Moroccan cartoonist named Derkaoui, is one of the artists whose work is shown on Cagle’s well-known Cartoon Index.  Given the amount of discussion the Danish images stimulated here at The BAG (The Cartoon That Could End The World – link), I thought it worthwhile to discuss Derkaoui’s image; the extent to which his visual analogy makes sense; and whether the cartoon is consistent with his explanation of it.

On first pass, the cartoon poses Israel, or Israeli held territory, as a death camp for Palestinians (and equates Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the Nazi’s treatment of the Jews).  The rendering, however, can also been seen as more ambiguous than that, making other interpretations possible.

One reason for the ambiguity is because of the artist’s curious choice to include photography.

The level of realism (black-and-white, not withstanding) makes the wall function like a window or a mirror (more than an embedded symbol as if the death camp was drawn on the wall, like a billboard).  As a window, the implication is that the Jews, on their side of the wall (and in their relationship with the Palestinians) are either recreating or reliving their own experience of the death camps.  As a mirror, the concentration camp reflects back on the Palestinian side and the Palestinian consciousness, as if the Palestinians have either internalized the Jewish Holocaust experience, or are doing something to bring this perception upon themselves.  And, working both ways at once, it casts the same pox on both houses.

The geographic situation is also a bit ambiguous. It’s not exactly clear, for example, why the crane and the mosque are on the same side.  (Is the setting Jerusalem?  Does Israel control both sides?  Was it just a layout consideration?)  Also, because it’s an Iranian contest, could the wall actually be separating Israel from Iran?

And, one last thing.  Don’t those wall sections look a lot like the U.N. headquarters?

I invite you to also consider the image in terms of the author’s comments.  (Because Cagle’s blog doesn’t permalink, I am reproducing his email exchange with Derkaoui below.)

Dear Derkaoui,

I read today that you won the Holocaust denial cartoon contest in Iran. I wondered if you could send me an image of the winning cartoon along with your comments about your cartoon and the contest.

I’m sure you know that this contest was organized for the purpose of answering the perceived insult against Muslims from the Danish Muhammad cartoons with what would be considered a reciprocal insult in the form of cartoons that would be offensive to Jews (although the editors and cartoonists involved with the Danish cartoons were not Jewish.) This would be an opportunity for you to address criticism of the contest and your participation in the contest.

I hope to hear from you!

And the reply:

As you know, I won first place in the Iran cartoon contest which had the theme: “Why do the Palestinian people pay the price of butchery for the Holocaust?”

I took part in this contest to express my support for the Palestinian people and I did a drawing showing the Israeli wall isolating the Palestinian territories being lifted by an Israeli war machine; I added a photograph to the wall showing the Auschwitz concentration camp.

I want to express my total heartfelt sympathy with the millions of Jewish victims of the Holocaust who suffered the greatest crime against humanity under the Nazis. Nobody can deny that more than six million people were massacred during the second world war by the devil Hitler and his Nazi henchmen. But the question for me and for so many others is why the Palestinian people have suffered from so much pain, and massacres, and why they continue to suffer in the current situation.

As a citizen of Morocco it is my deepest conviction that Jews are my brothers; Jews have lived with us in peace and tolerance as fellow citizens in Morocco for 2000 years. I remember that in World War II, Morocco did not cooperate with the Vichy government of France when the King of Morocco stood up to the German demands and refused to send thousands of Moroccan Jews to the German concentration camps. I am proud of Morocco for taking this noble stand. I am proud of Morocco which has been and will be tomorrow, a place of tolerance between Jews and Muslims, who will live here together like brothers.

Reading these comments and studying the image, I wonder how much the cartoon actually satisfies the contest’s intention, which is to deny the Holocaust.  Does the cartoon convey that the Holocaust is solely a cultural myth or mental representation?  Or, does it actually give credence to the fact of the Holocaust, forcing the viewer to have to account for it in some manner, in the specific context of the people on either side of this barrier?

Because many sites deal with the politics of these images, but only one delves specifically into the images themselves, I respectfully ask that the discussion focus on, and not lose sight of the cartoon.


Update 5:28 CET: I wanted to address some confusion about the contest, the contest rules, and the extent to which the theme involved Holocaust denial.

As I understand it, the contest was co-sponsored by Iran’s Cartoon House and the Hamshahri newspaper, both of which are funded by the city government in Tehran.  The original contest question asked, “What is the limit of Western freedom of expression?”  In initially describing the contest, however, Masoud Shojai-Tabatabai, the head of Cartoon House, was quoted as follows: “We wanted to challenge European taboos. Why should questioning the Holocaust be a taboo?”

On one hand, the contest addresses the Holocaust in general, and the limits of Western expression on the subject.  At the same time, USA Today quotes Iranian Culture Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi, in his speech announcing the winners, as saying: “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.”

I would say I am incorrect above in stating the theme of the contest as the denial of the Holocaust.  (I am also suprised that Cagle, who runs the most visible and widely accessed cartoon site, would also frame the contest is such unqualified terms.)  On the other hand, when you read the statements of the organizers, and consider their close connections to the Iranian government, which frequently makes statements such as those I’ve quoted, its hard not to think that the organizers were playing it both ways.

(image: Derkaoui.  2006.  via

  • MichaelDG

    When I view this cartoon, I think the artist is trying to equate the situation in the occupied territories with those face by Jews, sitting behind walls surrounding ghettos and concentration camps during the Holocaust. This implies that the Israelis are carrying out a Holocaust in the occupied territories. In my view, rhetoric describing the plight of the Palestinians as a “Holocaust” or “genocide is indeed Holocaust denial. By definition, a genocide is when one group of people attempt to completely exterminate another group of people. Israel certainly has the ability to commit genocide upon the Palestinians, but clearly does not have this intention. In Poland and Lithuania, the heart of the Holocaust, the Nazis killed 98% of the Jewish population over 3 years. While the Palestinians are indeed in a dire situation, it is nothing like a Holocaust or genocide. The artist’s tolerant words, which almost no one will hear, are totally out of sinc with the inflammatory image, which will be viewed by tens of millions of people.

  • Tara

    “Reading these comments and studying the image, I wonder how much the cartoon actually satisfies the contest’s intention, which is to deny the Holocaust.”
    Ah, but that is NOT the contest’s intention. The contest’s intention is as the cartoonist articulates it: “Why do the Palestinian people pay the price of butchery for the Holocaust?” (i.e.: “Just because all those European Jews suffered and died, what does this have to do with the Palestinians? Why must the Palestinians now be oppressed?”) This is the point Ahmedinejad has been trying to make, even in the 60 Minutes interview — not a denial of the Holocaust itself. The US media loudly portrays it as “Holocaust denial.” When Ahmedinejad said that “some questions need to be asked” about the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust (which also killed a huge number of Roma and other minorities), he is coming from the exact same position as Norman Finkelstein (“The Holocaust Industry,” 2000:, whose parents survived Auschwitz, who finds the evolving death count to be highly suspect, and who questions why any criticism of Israel is immediately punished with charges of anti-Semitism (never mind that theArabs are Semitic too). Anyway, thanks for all of your excellent analysis on this site.

  • rob

    I think you missed the point (or an alternative interpretation) of the cartoon entirely.
    First of all, based on some of the cartoons I have seen, I’m not sure the point of the contest (or of some of the artists) was to insult Jewish people. Perhaps the intent was to insult Zionists, or the result was to insult Zionists.
    In any case, my initial viewing of this cartoon was that of the Zionist machine, using the Holocaust as a tool to build the wall, or conduct ethnic cleansing. By “tool”, I mean either Western guilt over the Holocaust, or the propaganda that Israelis can’t be both (historical) victims and oppressors at the same time.

  • ummabdulla

    Is there somewhere that says officially what the point of the contest is? Because we always hear “holocaust denial”, but that is very different from what the winning cartoonist says the theme was: “Why do the Palestinian people pay the price of butchery for the Holocaust?” That’s an idea that Ahmadinejad has talked about before, and it’s a valid question.
    As for the cartoon, I think it’s drawn well and incorporates a lot of important symbols. It’s not clear to me which side of the wall represents is “Palestine” and which is “Israel”, though, since the Dome of the Rock is a symbol of Palestine, a picture of which can be found in the home of just about any Palestinian anywhere in the world. (The Muslims, at least.)
    Or is the Dome of the Rock on the side that represents “Israel”? They do control access to it and often prohibit men from attending Friday prayers in the Al-Aqsa complex. Of course, in the view of Palestinians and many others, both sides are actually Palestine anyway.
    The sections of the wall do look like the UN building, but that actually is the shape of them, isn’t it?
    I guess it’s telling Israelis to look in that mirror and see that they’re acting like the Nazis.

  • lytom

    Israeli’s justification of building the Wall points to the Osvetim, and imposes the condition of loss of freedom on the Palestinians.
    The machinery, blind to the suffering of Palestinians is always ready to come with images of more than 50 years old.
    The machinery is “made in USA” and ghetto behind the wall is Jerusalem, which represents also Gaza and West Bank populations behind the Wall.
    Can we compare the concentration camps to isolation of Gaza from the world?
    We can look at the statistics of the military raids by Israeli army on Gaza, at missiles fired on cities in Gaza, the blockade of the borders, the checkpoints, lack of food, medicine, electricity, and water, and extremely controlled and restricted movement of the population behind the wall. Is this not a ghetto? How much freedom is there?
    The wall sanitizes the vision, which we, on the outside, cannot experience and very little of what goes on behind the wall comes to light. The scattered reports do not seem to awake the rest of the world, who has become acostumbred to the described terrors facing the population locked behind the wall.
    Imaginery: the size of the mosque is small compared to the Wall. The Izraeli population is made to see the Osvetim mirage to justify the Wall. The picture on the Wall is the picture of the past reminding the world of the unseen loss of freedom on the other side.
    How ironic. Everything is quiet and leading to nowhere. Would the dead repudiate the Izrael for the Wall?

  • Rafael

    The Holocaust is the wall!
    What are walls for?
    They contain, like prison walls.
    They separate, like border fences.
    They protect, like the castle walls.
    The question(s) that the author presents is thus, why should this horrible event be used to shield the Isareli goverment from their actions against the Palestians?
    The wall also represents the line between victim and attacker. The nation of Israel (both in its physical as well as mythological/cultural sense) has been long opressed, from slavery in Egypt, to the Roman Diaspora, the Russian progroms and of course genocide at the hands of the Nazis. Yet somewhere between 1973 and 1982 (many would argue sooner, others latter), Israel stoped been the victim and became the agressor, while still wearing the mantle of past martyrs. Thus both sides justify their positions as victims in either pre- (Israelis) and post (Palestinians and Israeli Arabs) holocaust, while ignoring it.
    That time has come to see the holocaust and its aftermath, not inly as an event in the long history of the Jewish nation, but also in the history of the world, then and now.

  • jt from BC

    DarylCagle’s blog says
    The exhibit curator, Masoud Shojai, said the contest will be an annual event and added: *”Actually, we will continue until the destruction of Israel.” Iran’s President Ahmedinejad has called for Israel to be “erased from the map”*
    Again *this old chestnut* and for those are not familiar with Juan Cole I’ll re-post again on The BAG, this important item:
    The phrase he then used as I read it is “The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] from the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad).”
    Ahmadinejad was not making a threat, he was quoting a saying of Khomeini and urging that pro-Palestinian activists in Iran not give up hope– that the occupation of Jerusalem was no more a continued inevitability than had been the hegemony of the Shah’s government.
    Whatever this quotation from a decades-old speech of Khomeini may have meant, Ahmadinejad did not say that “Israel must be wiped off the map” with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people. He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time. scroll down

  • The BAG

    Thanks for your comment. I just added an update to the post dealing with your comment (and Ummabdulla’s question) about the contest rules. I can’t say its the last word on the subject, but I think it gets closer to a more accurate treatment.

  • Stephen McArthur

    “Nobody can deny that more than six million people were massacred during the second world war by the devil Hitler and his Nazi henchmen,” says cartoonist Derkaoui. Somehow he is unaware of the school textbooks through many Muslim countries that do just that, especially textbooks on the West Bank in the Gaza Strip, and especially those published by Hezbollah, Hamas, and other leading Palestinian groups.
    Derkaoui also asks why have “…the Palestinian people … suffered from so much pain, and massacres, and why they continue to suffer in the current situation.” As in most cases of feigned ignorance and crocodile tears, a persistent, almost 60-year-long rejectionism of Israel’s very existence by the leading Palestinian organizations (Hamas, Hezbollah, PLO, and others) is ignored, and worse, the accountability they own for the miserable lives of the Palestinian people.
    Reasonable people disagree about the extent to which Israel ought to go to protect itself, but drawing some kind of vague moral equivalence between The Holocaust and the Israeli wall creative, at best, reprehensible, at worst. Moreover, it only serves to further promote the rejectionism and self-destructiveness among Palestinians.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    i agree, BAGman, the ambiguity = reflection is the most interesting aspect of this image; without it we have simply “Palestine Ghetto Wall = moral equivalent to Concentration Camp icon” or somesuch, and imho that is obvious to the point of banal.
    whether the artist intended to trigger this what, higher level of interpretation? or is simply a, how should we say ~ primitive cartoonist (?) unaccustomed to the introspection of art/image interpretation, perhaps more prevalent in the West (?) is moot : for we are bound to perceive his image differently from our own cultural Point of View, than he or his audience
    …which, i presume ~ is more likely to simply absorb the obvious image intent at face value ~ Black & White; again, i say this never rises above the banal : only when we consider the possibilities of Self-Reference, reflection and conscience, does his cartoon become clever :
    Conscience is a moral faculty that leads to feelings of remorse when we do things that go against our moral precepts. Such feelings are not intellectually reached, though they may cause us to ‘examine our conscience‘ and review those moral precepts, or perhaps resolve to avoid repeating the behaviour.
    From this different, i daresay higher plane, the artist is no longer making a simple statement; rather he is asking a question : Why would the Jews re-create, within their own HomeLand ~ the hideous walls and mechanisms of disenfranchisement that they, themselves suffered so greatly at the hands of their own persecutors ?

  • ummabdulla

    Juan Cole keeps explaining that the “erased from the map” line was mistranslated, and jt has mentioned it here before, but it keeps being repeated.
    Anyway, in at least part of the Arab world – I don’t know about Iran – Israel isn’t even on the maps, so they don’t have to worry about erasing it.

  • ummabdulla

    Stephen, did you see any reports about the 18 members of an extended family who were killed while sleeping in their beds, in Beit Hanoun a few days ago? Women and children included? Gee, why are those people so self-destructive?

  • Stan

    Don’t know the “definitive” intent, or rules concerning the actual contest, but ultimately it is as Monsieur Gonzo states (and I paraphrase)- why incorporate even part of that odious history?

  • steve talbert

    it is difficult to really know what the cartoon is supposed to mean from the Iranian perspective,,, just as most americans probably think Iran is Arab, there are Iranians who think that the US and Israel are indistinguishable… As a political ‘cartoon’ at least the Danish ones had some elements of humor with the horror. this drawing just makes me think how horrible that they feel that this is what the west is doing. no one is going to riot because it isn’t mocking as the Danish ones could be taken. This doesn’t deny the Holocost occurred, what this does is acknowledge that the current situation in the middle east could get as bad if it continues.

  • Dick Durata

    I agree with Tara’s interpretation. Also, the mosque might represent Jerusalem and the wall, using the Holocaust as its surface, bars the Palestinians from entering.
    Excellent cartoon, and a most moving comment from the author, thanks!

  • readytoblowagasket

    First of all, seeing this image as “denying the Holocaust” would require a trick of looking that I can’t comprehend, considering the photo image of Auschwitz is the most arresting and readily identifiable part of the illustration. By using a photograph, the illustrator appears to present the Holocaust as an undeniable fact. So, if this illustration is the contest WINNER, doesn’t that say something entirely different about the contest itself from the *press* it’s been given? It’s not like the illustrator awarded himself first prize.
    So what’s there to quibble about rules and intent? Just LOOK.

  • steve talbert

    I didn’t want too long a comment..
    I also think this drawing is saying that Israel is putting up a wall between itself and the Arab world by only seeing the holocost as the intention of the mosque. The temple on the mount is a muslim religious site sitting on top of a jewish religious site. historically it was meant as a political metaphor of jewish subjugation. i don’t think the blocks are meant to look like the UN building. They look like the cement road barriers that are put in place to form the actual walls like what we have at road construction projects.

  • nihilix

    I think the realism of the concentration camp makes a strong statement that the Holocaust was real – and this is definitely the artist’s thinking.
    The style of the art – a kind of ‘kids book realism’ that’s clean and iconic – makes the statement to me that this – the partition and land grab that is the wall – is real as well.
    I find the comparison of the pain of the Jews under the Nazi regime to the Palesineans under the Israeli occupation to be a little tiresome. Yes, far more Jews were killed. Yes, the Israelis are not gassing Palestineans in mechanized death camps. But the continued deadly oppression of the Palestineans is made no less real because of this historical fact.
    The cruel irony of Israel oppressing others in turn is deep and enduring. I find this cartoon – with the artist’s commentary – very apt. His statements about the situation in Morocco (which I didn’t know about) are enlightening.
    The moon – which is waning – is a nice connection to the moon on the mosque. I wish I remembered if the waning moon is up during mornings or evenings – because the darkening sky indicates night is falling to me.

  • margaret

    I think the photographically-rendered image on the fence is a very simple reminder to the Israeli’s of their history during the Holocaust. It points out the current lack of moral high ground they can claim because of it (their history) in relation to what they are inflicting on the Palestinians, who had nothing to do with the Holocaust. It is simple, non-antagonistic, and very strong. How can anyone argue with the content of it?
    And, oh, why can’t they come together and reach an understanding of their common humanity.

  • Realist

    “And, oh, why can’t they come together and reach an understanding of their common humanity.”
    Well, maybe because all the land that present-day “Israel” is living on belongs to the Palestinians who were forced off of it at gunpoint and made to live in squalid refugee tent cities? If you had grown up in one and listened to tales from your grandparents about how your family used to actually have a house with walls and a roof and their own little plot of land until the Zionist bastards stole it at gunpoint, I don’t think you would be too interested in “coming together” to find “common ground” with your oppressor. The “Israelis” don’t CURRENTLY have the “moral high ground” because they NEVER did, not since their atrocities that began this mess back in 1948. The two sides are NOT by any means of equal righteousness; rather there are those who are in the right (Palestinians) and are entitled to use WHATEVER means they choose to try to regain what was stolen from them; and there are those in the wrong (Zionists/”Israelis”). Please do not attempt to equate the robbery victim with the robber or the rape victim with the rapist.

  • MichaelDG

    Does all of world history appear to you in black and white? Aren’t there any shades of grey?

  • GeorgeF

    Sorry “Realist”. First the Jews didn’t steal the land, they simply bought it it from the palestinian land-owners. Up until ‘48 there was enough space for both, the indigenous Arabs and the Jews. Second, being myself a refugee from a country, which my folks had owned and cultivated for some 7oo years, but which by now is part of Russia, being one out of some 12 Millions of refugees, who made their fortune in a comparatively small part of the country I simply say, why did those countries, which took up just 600.000 refugees from Palestine in ‘48 kept them deliberately in refugee-camps, instead of integrating them into their society?
    History cannot be changed and turned back, facts should be accepted and solutions on the base of facts should be made.
    And the cartoon? It does not show the UN-building but the Berlin-wall segments. There is some truth, reminding to the fact that Auschwitz is part of the self-understanding of Israel. The cartoon leaves many quesions open, in fact it points to many controversional questions – and that makes it an excellent cartoon.

  • limapup

    It is an exel cartoon – it provokes.
    For me, it revives feelings of alienation – the eternal theme.

  • Lightkeeper

    Hmmm. Tres interesting.
    When I first looked at the cartoon, it left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. What, no collective vilifying of the Jewish people? No sight of a zionist being portrayed as a dirty filthy pig? Come on, crazy jew-hating wanting-to-wipe-Israel-off-the-map Arabs! You can do better than that!
    Kidding aside, I think this image is very interesting, at least from an interperation point of view. Admittedly, it isn’t all that aesthetically plaeasing (not that it should be), and I agree with Monsieur Gonzo that it almost looks primitive (although I hate using that ridiculously ethnocentric word). However, I think the cartoonist is trying to tell us a story here – rather than give us a static image of what the Israeli’s are doing and what, if any, are the points of analogy between the Holocaust and Palestinian suffering.
    First, of course, is the fact that he uses a photograph to portray the holocaust. As Susan Sontag would tell us, photographs have replaced (displaced?) the written word as witnesses to history in many people’s minds. Hence, the photograph becomes the most important historical record we can access – and as such, the fact that the artist intentionally uses a historical photograph in stark contrast to the cartoonery surrounding it should dispel any notion that this cartoon is supposed to negate the Jewish holocaust. In fact, the real question should be: why is the Jewish holocaust portrayed as *historical* whereas the construction of the wall is portrayed – again, strikingly – as a cartoon? To anyone who still maintains Israel’s innocence, the answer is impossible to comprehend (not least because they are unable to ask that question in the first place). I would argue that the artist is saying – again, explicitly – that the Palestinian’s suffering remains cartoonish – read: *not* real – whereas even the most verocious denials of the holocaust do not disqualify it from being a historical event in most people’s minds.
    Question for The BAG: You write that “As a window, the implication is that the Jews, on their side of the wall (and in their relationship with the Palestinians) are either recreating or reliving their own experience of the death camps.” What would happen if we add an e to *reliving* to make it *relieving* ? In other words, what if, unconsciously of course, the Jewish people are allowing such monumental Palestinian suffering as a way to relieve themselves of the burden of the most monumental suffering in recorded human history? Perhaps the word I am using here is incorrect, because surely there is no way to relieve one’s self from such suffering – or is there?
    I think this is an interesting quote regarding this question:
    ‘Iris Murdoch, the Oxford moral philosopher and novelist, thought suffering was not necessarily redemptive; it did not always improve us either morally or spiritually.
    Taking her cue from Plato, she argued that while suffering might well be a constituent of the moral life, it must never be an end in itself. Moreover, evil, which she often characterized as the good degenerating into egotism, could corrupt its innocent victims.’
    I would love to know what people think about this…
    MichaelDG, you argue that because the Palestinians aren’t being collectively gassed in concentration camps that a genocide is not taking place inside the open-air prisons we like to call Gaza and the West Bank. Of course, it is impossible to make accurate historical analogies, especially between two such disparate events as the Holocaust and the Palestinians post-1948. And I would even argue that the Palestinians and all those speaking in solidarity with them are doing a disservice to the Palestinians by equating Palestinian suffering with the Holocaust. However, this still does not mean that ethnic cleansing is not taking place within the occupied territories. In fact, I think it is precisely because the Palestinians have been suffering for so long, and with such little acknowledgement (if that) from the outside world, that people reach for such simplistic notions of historical suffering and make such simplistic historical analogies. Perhaps if more of us opened our eyes to what is really going on there, none of us would be tempted to reduce complex historiographies to emphasize the gravity of the suffering the Palestinians are facing at the hands of their Israeli (and American) masters…
    Finally, I can’t help asking: would The BAG – or the West, for that matter – be as concerned with peripheral comments made about the contest rather than the contest stipulations themselves if this was organized by ‘us’?
    Frankly, I don’t remember anyone framing the discourse of the Danish cartoons as meant to provoke outrage among Muslims – even though I am sure we are all aware that that was the *stated* intention of the editors at Jyllands-Posten.
    BTW, thanks for that link jt from bc. Although Christopher Hitchens continues to irritate me as much as the next Israeli ‘apologist’ (to use his word), that article contains some revealing logical insufficiencies in his thinking…

  • Aspsusa

    The cartoon reminds me of the title of an old, ca 1985, article by a Swedish (jewish) journalist “Israel – is the victim starting to resemble her butcher?”.
    I find it interesting that there doesn’t seem to be agreement on which side of the wall is Palestine and which is Israel.
    My own immediate interpretation is that the wall is fencing off Jerusalem from the Palestinians and the concentration-camp photo is a either a “nana-naNA, we are the victims, that’s why we can do this!” to the people robbed of their capital and holy places, or a stern warning “Shut up and go away, or this will be your future”.
    OR, if we think it’s the other way around, that Israel is the part facing the photograph: The photograph could be either a reminder to the Israeli critics of the wall (& other repressive tactics), “Look, we HAVE TO do this, don’t you remember WE are the opressed?”, or scare-tactics aimed at the eretz-israel crowd: “Yeah, we’ll give them some land, stop moaning, do you want THIS again?”
    Any way you look at it, or really the fact that you can look at it so many ways, it is a powerful pictures that incorporates both the issues of today and the holocaust.
    It is a very hopeful sign IMHO that this was the winning entry.

  • momly

    I had no idea what this cartoon was about until I read the explanation underneath it.
    My first thought was, “Who’s rebuilding the (Berlin) Wall?”

  • KansasKowboy

    I don’t think the Cartoonist succeeded in communitcating the idea that he explained in his email. he said the crane represented the Israeli War machine lifting up the wall. But it is actually lowering the wall. Anyway I get no idea of respect for the holocaust from the image. To me, the image I get from the cartoon is that the cartoonist is saying that Isreal is creating a new deathcamp in the muslim world (with the mosk representing the muslim world). That is the only way that I can read it.

  • KansasKowboy

    I just had another thought. Perhaps the wall being put up by Israel represents a “mental block” that the holocaust has left on the psychy of the Jew, that prevents them from reaching any kind of comprimise with the muslims or anyone else that the Israels may think wants to do harm to them or the nation of Israel.
    Paranoia runs deep.

  • Noname

    It’s interesting that my is initial reaction to the image was that the crane was dismantling, rather than assembling the wall. Typically (viz the Berlin wall) the image gets on the wall after, rather than before it’s assembled.
    Similarly, the notion of the wall as a reflection or window seems to be denied by the break in the visual lines on the suspended segment. Suggesting that the image is on the wall, rather that the wall as a direct window or reflection.
    It’s very interesting to me that the image on the wall is the entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the train tracks converging on the gate, and that the missing segment is completing both the gatehouse, and one of the sets of train tracks, suggesting that the wall is building towards the inevitable.
    The image creates a very strong contrast between a present which is a bit fuzzy, dynamic, and in bright colors and a past which is black and white, sharp, and static (except for the present’s manipulation of the image).
    It’s interesting how ambiguous the image really is. Is it meant to represent Israel painting it’s actions in the Holocaust in order to justify them? Is the wall a modern reflection of the Holocaust (really, a ghetto wall would be more apropos if less well known)? Is framing Auschwitz-Birkenau with crescent moons and the Star of David meant to comment on the Holocaust as a religeous symbol? For that matter, is this Holocaust wall meant to represent some sort of ironic bridge between the machinations of Isreal represented by the crane and Palestine? Does the fact that Auschwitz-Birkenau is in Poland and not Germany have any meaning here?

  • quax

    It strikes me as so very odd that everybody here seems to have such a hard time to read this cartoon. To me it makes the obvious point that the holocaust is used as a means to justify any measure Israel deems necessary to protect herself. It plays directly into the question why Arab people have to suffer for something that happened in Germany over half a century ago.
    Being German it makes me sick to my stomach to contemplate that the bloody sins of my forefathers are still generating so much bloodshed today – but there is no denying the causal relationship.

  • Wess

    Along with several other readers in the comments section I do not believe the Contests intention was to “deny the Holocaust”.
    I believe that what the reason for the contest was to try and point out, and to bring into the public eye, the Hypocrisy of the West (read, Israel and the USA’s alliance) in their treatment of the people of Palestine.
    The media in the West is constantly reporting negatively about Muslim and the Arab people.
    All the while, the same media rarely, if ever at all, report anything about the atrocities against Palestinian people.
    A large part of that wall was built ON Palestinian land, many Palestinians houses and entire villages were bulldozed so that the wall could be built. The wall was not built to “Stop Terrorists” it was built to contain and subjugate the people of Palestine. With checkpoints and gun towers the people of Palestine are under constant threat from this wall.
    Funded, in part (quite a large part in fact), by the US.
    This is the absolute Hypocrisy of the Israel the US (and the West generally) in their
    What American Government (read the Neo-cons) and so many others, including my own government and many of it’s citizens in Australia, do not seem or want to understand, is that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is at the very heart of all this so called “Terrorism”.
    We hear so often in the media that “these people” deny Israel the right to exist. Yet we do not hear the same cry that the Palestinians also have a right to “exist”.

  • Bullsmith

    To me the mosque is clearly the dome of the rock, hence Jerusalem. The geography is specific, the Palestinians are being walled off from Jerusalem.
    I also agree that this cartoon is in no way denying the holocaust. In this image, the holocaust is undeniable, it is a photographically proven truth. What’s up for debate is how is influencing the present.

  • KansasKowboy

    Quax, I like your explanation. It is similar to mine but yours is simple.
    I vote for Quax.

  • see you

    after USA veto protecting Israel…. let´s see again all
    The Results of Holocaust Cartoon Contest-2006

  • VAdem

    To me this is an excellent cartoon because it is open to so many interpretations. To me it seems to show that the wall is being created in part because the Isrealis cannot see the Palistinans as such because of their collective trauma during the Holocost – instead they see the Palisitinans as people who would commit Genocide. This in turn is causing many of the problems the Isrealis are having.

  • Shaun

    Nice to see that anti-Semitic apologetics are alive and well at the Bag, as usual. Though I admit I’m stilled amazed to watch how casually and carelessly you all engage the issues of holocaust revisionism and Mid-East politics simultaneously. Ummabdulla sums it up nicely with her pithy “Israel is acting like the Nazis.” However, that makes me wonder why Israel hasn’t already killed every single Palestinian man, woman and child? I’ll bet they could do it in under 48 hours if they studied up a little on Nazi ‘efficiency’…
    By the way, most contemporary definitions of “genocide” or “mass murder” tend to require that at least 50,000 civilians have actually been killed (See Final Solutions by Benjamin Valentino, etc). For this simple reason Israel-Palestine is never included in any serious studies of this very serious phenomenon. Pretending this is the Mid-East version of the holocaust is a smokescreen that does a mighty disservice to the victims of several real, ongoing genocides around the world including in Sudan, Algeria, etc. The further irony is that by encouraging this kind of hyperbolic symbolization of the Mid-East conflict you are playing into Ahmadinejad’s hands and increasing the odds of a very real incident of catastrophic mass violence in the Middle East…He knows this, why don’t you?
    It’s a common theme among cultured peoples to acknowledge that the horror of the holocaust is beyond symbolization and representation. That Iran officially sanctioned a cartoon competition to do so only further places them in a long tradition of backwards, anti-Semitic rednecks.
    Likewise, the usual suspects here at the Bag have merely revealed your own true colors by projecting your self-righteous, middle-class outlook onto the image. Thus, the most interesting thing to observe here is neither the image nor even the BAG’s commentary, but rather the pseudo-intellectual acrobatics you brats use to justify the overlap of your ‘liberal’ attitudes with those of holocaust deniers, dictators and perpetrators of actual genocides. Nothing like the Bag to renew my faith in the depths of human hypocrisy. Thanks guys.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Shaun said: “It’s a common theme among cultured peoples to acknowledge that the horror of the holocaust is beyond symbolization and representation.”
    I looked up “cultured peoples” on Wikipedia to learn what their “common themes” are, but alas, there was no entry. I remember reading about cultured peoples in assorted English novels, but I hesitate to use those sources because they were written in different centuries from our own (not to mention, *those* cultured peoples often turned out to be not very cultured at all). So one thing I’m curious about, Shaun, do “cultured peoples” call other people “brats”?
    I see you neglected to offer your interpretation of the illustration itself. Did you forget (as you often do) or do you simply not have one?

  • ummabdulla

    “It’s a common theme among cultured peoples to acknowledge that the horror of the holocaust is beyond symbolization and representation.”
    Aside from rtbag’s question about “cultured people”, What does that even mean? That there can be no representation of the Holocaust? How about books or novels or films, because there have been plenty? Are they all wrong, and their creators all uncultured? I’m guessing that you probably like them, since they’re sympathetic. Is even a photograph not allowed? You must hate those Holocaust museums, huh?
    In any case, if you’re saying that the Holocaust is so sacred that it can’t be represented, then maybe you should understand why Muslims see the Prophet Muhammad (and all prophets) as someone who shouldn’t be drawn; you’re confirming the hypocrisy that the cartoon contest was about in the first place.

  • janinsanfran

    This seems to me a straightforward visual presentation of the common understanding in Arab lands that Europe has made Palestinians pay for Europe’s sins in the Holocaust.
    Israel builds a wall (probably walling off Jerusalem from its Palestinian inhabitants) whose existence is justified by the fact of the Holocaust.
    That’s the common narrative in that part of the world — except among Zionists.

  • Dave Mac

    Tricky one.
    The machine and the dome (jerusalem) are INSIDE the wall, and according to the isrealis the wall is for their own protection, so they are on the inside. The image of the concentration camp is on the OUTSIDE.
    seen from the outside Israel has become a self-made concentration camp for israelis.
    So maybe the cartoon reads like this:
    “Go ahead and build your wall Israel, its YOU who are on the inside…, again…”,

  • MaxCat

    The wall is (obviously and actually in real life), intended to keep the Palestinians out of Israel.
    Just like the false fronts that are erected on many an older building here in America to give the appearence that they are something they really aren’t, the image of the death camp is emblazened on the Palestinian’s side of the wall by the Jews to justify the walls existance, their false front.
    In this regard the image of the death camp could easily be considered a false representation/front and by association the Holocaust as well.

  • quax

    the prolific equating of any critique of Israel with Anti-Semitism is not helpful and has gotten to the point were it is just perceived as crying wolf. In the same breath Jews who criticize Israel are then usually described as “self-loathing”.
    Ummabdulla certainly engages in hyperbole when she says “Israel acts like Nazis” but does that make her an Anti-Semite? Maybe she is one but this statement was about Israel’s policies not about Jewish people. It is like arguing that you are a racist when you call Robert Mugabe a Nazi. This is certainly a point that Mugabe would try to make but I think in this case it is pretty clear to anybody what an absurd notion that is – and no I don’t try to compare Israel to Zimbabwe but only point out the similarity of the rhetoric device employed in both cases to muddy the water. In both cases you should be able to criticize the state’s policies – even use hyperbole – without immediately having your motivation questioned. Doing so just looks like an attempt to suppress any dissent and in the long run this can not work in open societies.
    The intent of Iran’s cartoon competition very much appears to have been Anti-Semitic. How refreshing that in the end a cartoonist won who claims – fairly convincingly in my book – to feel no ill will towards Jews. If my reading of the cartoon is correct he actually manages to make a good point without any inflammatory imagery. Therefore this cartoon could actually help to have a meaningful dialog about the Palestinian situation rather than to engage in more empty rhetoric and real world brutality on the ground (on either side of the fence).
    Freedom of expression is a fundamental value and an underpinning of our modern Western civilization. Yet, it is spinning empty if it does not generate a dialog. This cartoon competition was designed to denigrate this value. By denying the opportunity to engage in a meaningful dialog about this cartoon you manage to play into the hands of the enemies of this freedom.

  • LanceThruster

    GeorgeF – You might want to read the link in regards to your assertion that Israel paid for the land in its possession. Even if properties were vacated for less than a day, they were considered “abandoned” and “rightfully” acquired.
    I think the cartoons ambiguity works on several levels as already pointed out. One is that Israel uses the Holocaust as their basis for any number of appeals to exceptionalism. Secondly, Israel’s creation of Palestinian ghettos obviously has a historical parallel. For all the talk of Israel in fear of being wiped off the map; it seems the Palestinians are the only ones currently in any real danger of disappearing. But then according to some posters, it’s not genocide/ethnic cleansing if there are any left. How very convenient.

  • naj

    May I borrow this post and re-publish it with due credit to you on Stop the second Holocaust

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