Iranian cartoonist Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei, who has organized two Holocaust cartoon festivals, spoke about the reasons behind the exhibits in an interview that aired on Channel 4 (Iran) on September 9, 2021. He said that the festivals were held in reactions to events such as the bombing of Gaza and the cartoons of Muhammad, adding: "Whenever they attacked, we immediately launched a counter-attack." Tabtabaei said that the Holocaust is the "Achilles' heel" of the Zionists, and that the Israelis have benefited from the Holocaust. He continued to say that it is the Zionists who benefited from the Holocaust and that the figure of six million Jewish victims is "very exaggerated." He then added that anyone who casts doubts on the Holocaust is persecuted and gave the examples of Holocaust deniers David Irving and Roger Garoudy.
Tabtabaei further explained that the goal of the Holocaust cartoon contest was to ask how come Western freedom of expression does not allow for even the "smallest of doubts" about the Holocaust, how come the Palestinians have to "pay the price of the Holocaust," and to raise concerns about "contemporary holocausts," such as those taking places in Syria, Iraq, or Yemen. Tabtabaei was asked by the interviewer how he defends himself against possible Israeli accusations that he is an antisemite or a supporter of Nazism. To this, he responded that the Zionists have been engaged in propaganda against the organizers of the contest, calling them neo-Nazis and antisemites, but because they have portrayed Netanyahu as Hitler, they cannot be accused of being neo-Nazis.
In June 2020, Tabtabaei organized an exhibition of anti-U.S. cartoons in Tehran titled "I Can't Breathe," following the killing of George Floyd in May of that year (see MEMRI Special Dispatch no. 8800 for more information). In May 2016, Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei organized a Holocaust cartoon contest in Tehran following the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, (see MEMRITV clip no. 5472 for more information). In September and August 2006, Iranian TV aired reports about Tabtabaei's Holocaust cartoon contest. In the report from September Tabtabaei said the contest was in response to the Danish cartoon of the Prophet, printed in the Jyllands-Posten in 2005, (for more information, see MEMRITV clip no. 1280), and in the report from August, he said that he had organized the contest in response to the war in Lebanon (for more information, see MEMRITV clip no. 1240).
Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei: "In the past six months, we held four big festivals in an international format. The first was [about] Gaza, which is obvious. We took a stand against the Zionists, and protested what was happening in Gaza... There was the issue of the Holocaust, which is the Zionists' Achilles' heel.
"Who has benefited from this [Holocaust]? In fact, it was the Zionists and the plundering Israeli regime."
Interviewer: "They have turned it into a pretext in order to present themselves as oppressed..."
Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei: "Yes, they talk about six million Jews... This is a very exaggerated figure."
Interviewer: "There wasn't even such a [big Jewish] community..."
Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei: "At that time, the entire [Jewish] population in Europe was 4.5 million people, so how could six million be killed? Why is it that when a doubt arises about this thing, extremely strict laws are legislated? For instance, the first law was legislated in France: A fine of 300,000 francs and at least two to three years imprisonment. This is entirely not in keep in with their claims about freedom of expression. Back then, because of 12 drawings that were offensive to the honorable Prophet of Islam, and were harmful to the apple of the eye of 1.5 billion Muslims, we held the [Holocaust] contest. Whenever they attacked, we immediately launched a counter-attack."
Interviewer: "So if they say: 'We have the liberty to offend your Prophet, you also want to have the liberty to raise a political issue."
Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei: "They have turned it into a taboo. Well said. Taboo is an accurate word here."
Interviewer: "And they say: Stay away from this..."
Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei: "Well said. You are not allowed to cast even the smallest of doubts about this. The slightest doubt might lead to the heaviest penalty. David Irving is now in prison. All that he did was to doubt the Holocaust. Roger Garaudy was tortured over this. He didn't do anything. All he did was to conduct a study, and according to his research, there were no gas chambers. When we raised the issue of the Holocaust [cartoon] contest, we had three serious questions. First of all, if you are right in saying that there is freedom of speech in the West, how is it when the issue of the Holocaust comes up, you have such strict laws and you throw people in jail? The second question was: Why do the oppressed Palestinians have to pay the price for the Holocaust? The third issue was that we were worried about contemporary holocausts – holocausts that are taking place in Syria, Iraq, or Yemen."
Interviewer: "From the perspective of the Israelis and the Zionists, you can be accused of supporting Nazism. After all, someone who holds a Holocaust festival may be labeled as a supporter of Zionism. How would you defend yourself and prove that is not true?"
Masoud Shojaei Tabtabaei: "The Zionists have engaged in serious propaganda in this regard. They called us neo-Nazis and antisemites, and raised the flag of antisemitism. The caricatures that we received and were presented in the first contest – and this happened in the second contest as well... There were many caricatures: For example, Netanyahu stands in front of a mirror and sees Hitler. In other words, instead of his reflection, you had the reflection of Hitler. Therefore, we cannot be accused of being neo-Nazis."