The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is condemning the actions of a former teacher at a prestigious Catholic school in Belgium whose caricature comparing Israel and the Nazis won a prize in Iran’s cartoon contest mocking the Holocaust.
“Malice or ignorance” were the teacher’s “only possible explanations for comparing Israel to the Nazis and entering an Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement quoted by JTA.
Luc Descheemaeker, who is retired from the Sint-Jozefs Institute high school in the city of Torhout, in May received a $1,000 prize from Tehran and an honorable mention for a caricature featuring the words “arbeit macht frei” atop a wall representing Israel’s security barrier against Palestinian Arab terrorists.
The German-language phrase, which means “work sets you free,” appeared on a gate of the Auschwitz- Birkenau Nazi death camp in Poland.
The caricature and the announcement about Luc Descheemaeker’s winning the prize were removed from his blog following the JTA’s publication of an article on the prize Thursday.
Iran regularly holds these cartoon contests, which UNESCO and the U.S. Department of State have said offer a platform to anti-Semitism.
One such contest was announced last year days after the terrorist attack on the Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine which had been attacked in the past over its caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.
Paul Vanthournout, director of Descheemaeker’s, has said the school had no position on the award but was proud of Descheemaeker’s work within the institution, according to JTA.
Vanthournout declined to comment on other caricatures that Descheemaeker drew and published on his blog – including one featuring a stereotypical Orthodox Jew waiting to bludgeon an Arab mother and her baby with a giant Star of David, while the boy holds a balloon emblazoned with a dove holding an olive branch.
Another one features an Orthodox Jew waiting around a corner for a Muslim woman who wears an explosive vest, perhaps to jolt her into triggering the explosives.
“Either Descheemaeker intended to demonize Israel and trivialize the Holocaust or he is absolutely clueless about the Palestinian situation and the Iranian regime. In either case, it’s good that he is no longer teaching children,” added Greenblatt, according to JTA.
Descheemaeker, currently the subject of a complaint for hate speech filed to a federal office on discrimination, retired last year. He did not reply to JTA’s requests for an interview.
Vanthournout told JTA that Descheemaeker “is not an anti-Semite.”