Background: Belgium: Catholic school supports teacher who won prize at Iran Holocaust-mocking cartoon contest
Cnaan Liphshiz writes @ JTA
Faculty at a Catholic high school in Belgium said they were proud of a senior teacher who won an award and a cash prize at Iran’s controversial cartoon contest about the Holocaust.read more
Luc Descheemaeker, who this summer retired from the Sint-Jozefs Institute high school in the city of Torhout, 60 miles west of Antwerp, accepted a “special prize” at the Second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest in Tehran in May for a drawing of the words “arbeit macht frei” over a wall with guard posts — presumably comparing Israel’s security barrier along the West Bank with the gates at Auschwitz.
The German sentence, which means “work sets you free,” was featured on a gate of the Nazi death camp in occupied Poland. Descheemaeker, who spoke at the competition via a video uplink from Belgium, won $1,000 for the cartoon, organizers said. The first-prize entry was a drawing of a cash register shaped like Auschwitz.
UNESCO, the United Nations educational organization, has condemned the cartoon contest — the second organized in Iran since 2006 — as aiming “at a mockery of the genocide of the Jewish people, a tragic page of humanity’s history.” [...]
Asked by JTA whether the school is proud specifically of Descheemaeker’s award, director Paul Vanthournout said Wednesday that the school had no position on the award [...]
won a royal distinction from Queen Paola of Belgium for staging a play about the Holocaust for children, an adaptation of Art Spiegelman’s award-winning graphic memoir “Maus.”
“I understand you find criticism on Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza unpleasant,” Vanthournout wrote to JTA, “but your consideration of it as anti-Semitic is exaggerated.”
According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – an intergovernmental organization with 31 member states, including Belgium – “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is an example of modern anti-Semitism.
Vanthournout said the school’s position is that the Holocaust, which he said “featured atrocities of hitherto unseen proportions,” cannot be compared or likened to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. But the Holocaust, he added, “cannot serve as an alibi to solving conflicts with violence.”
According to the Belgian school’s newsletter, which published an interview in June with Descheemaeker ahead of his retirement, the former teacher has accepted an offer to travel to Tehran to be a judge at the competition’s next edition.