UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General Irina BokovaReuters

UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body, on Sunday strongly condemned the “Second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest”, which opened in Tehran over the weekend.

The contest features, among others, entries deriding Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his government's Middle East policies.

But the organizers of the exhibition have denied that it is meant to deny the Holocaust, and Iran’s government has distanced itself from the contest, which Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said was organized by a non-governmental organization without any support from the authorities.

Nevertheless, UNESCO chief Irina Bokova condemned the contest and said in a statement, "Such an initiative which aims at a mockery of the genocide of the Jewish people, a tragic page of humanity's history, can only foster hatred and incite to violence, racism and anger."

"This contest goes against the universal values of tolerance and respect, and runs counter to the action led by UNESCO to promote Holocaust education, to fight anti-Semitism and denial,” she continued. 

Iran has held Holocaust-denying cartoon exhibits before, notably last year when it announced the contest days after the terrorist attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine which had been attacked in the past over its caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

UNESCO has in the past condemned the contest, a fact which obviously has never prevented Iran from holding it again, nor has the condemnation prevented Iranian leaders from denying the Holocaust as part of their rhetoric against Israel.