WASHINGTON (JTA) – The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum challenged a claim by the Iranian foreign minister that Iranian government authorities had nothing to do with a Holocaust cartoon contest.
“The organizations associated with the contest are sponsored or supported by government entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Tehran Municipality, and the Ministry of Islamic Guidance,” the museum said Friday in a statement.
“Previous contests in 2006 and 2015 have had the endorsement and support of government officials and agencies,” the museum said. “There are reports in the Iranian press that the Ministry of Culture is asserting its support for the upcoming contest.”
Javad Zarif last week told the New Yorker that his government “does not support, nor does it organize, any cartoon festival of the nature that you’re talking about.”
He said the festival is organized by a non-governmental organization “that is not controlled by the Iranian government.”
Zarif likened those organizing the cartoon festival, which solicits cartoons denying the Holocaust or questioning its importance in recent Western history, to the Ku Klux Klan.
“Why does the United States have the Ku Klux Klan?” he said when asked why the government allows the festival to go ahead. “Is the government of the United States responsible for the fact that there are racially hateful organizations in the United States?”
Zarif said the government’s role in this case is limited to issuing visas for those who attend.
“We take into consideration that people who have preached racial hatred and violence will not be invited,” he said. He also said that he and President Hassan Rouhani, who have both issued Jewish holiday greetings in the past, would not attend.
In its statement, the Holocaust museum said it “urges global leaders to hold the Iranian government to Foreign Minister Zarif’s promise to deny visas to some contest participants and that neither he nor President Rouhani would attend the contest.”