Photo Credit: Kobi Richter/TPS

Israel and an anti-Semitism watchdog have condemned the Islamic Republic of Iran for launching an international cartoon contest on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that featured anti-Semitic and anti-Israel cartoons.

The Tehran Times reported last week that Iran’s “We Defeat Coronavirus International Cartoon Contest” has received 4,200 submissions from cartoonists from 88 countries.

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“Out of all the submissions, about 2,000 cartoons were showcased for 28 days at irancartoon.ir, which has been visited by 1,340,000 people,” said Masud Shojaei-Tabatabai, the director of Iran’s Art Bureau’s Visual Arts Office that launched the competition.

Shojaei-Tabatabai has [previously curated anti-Semitic and anti-Israel cartoon contests.

“Why is Iran’s Health Ministry promoting hatred and anti-Semitism via a cartoon contest it sponsored on COVID-19?” Israel Foreign Ministry tweeted.

“It should focus on saving Iranians, not promoting hatred of Jews,” it added.

One cartoon depicts Israeli scientists as fiendish characters spreading the virus and others blame the US and the Jews for the spread of the virus.

Yuval Rotem, Director General of the Foreign Ministry, further noted that it is “not surprising that the Iranian regime once again promotes hatred, anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories, rather than face the tough reality: The regime’s cruel mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis has cost the lives of thousands in Iran and across the region.”

Iran has registered 80,868 Coronavirus cases and over 5,000 deaths. The number of deaths may be far higher.

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Senior Vice President for International Affairs Sharon Nazarian stated that “at a time when it should be focused on saving lives, Iran’s health ministry sponsored a cartoon contest on COVID-19. As you could imagine, some of the submissions we found were horrifically and sadly unsurprisingly antisemitic.”

The Iranian regime has a long history of promoting anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and has hosted several international cartoon contests promoting these themes.

A 2015 contest equated Israel and the US with the Islamic State (ISIS) terror organization.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.