Iran’s Antisemitic Cartoon Contest and the Hypocrisy of the Labour Party | Wasiq Wasiq

Whenever Jewish communities are under attack, be it from Hezbollah and Hamas in Palestine, or conspiracy theories from far-right nationalists’ groups, you can always expect the regressive Left in the Labour Party to be silent against the perpetrators and show no ounce of solidarity to the victims. A case in point is the recent antisemitic coronavirus cartoon contest held by the Iranian Health Ministry.

Dubbed “We Defeat Coronavirus” the international cartoon contest received over 4200 entries with around 2000 being showcased on the official website Furthermore, it has been reported that the site has been visited by over 1.3 million people to date. Iran, as well India, Indonesia, Russia and Turkey all participated in the contest organised by Iran’s Art Bureau and the Health Ministry.

Given that Iran is currently facing one of the greatest challenges it has ever faced with the coronavirus, it is perhaps a bizarre event to put on. But what I find not so surprising, is that the cartoon contest attracted antisemites and anti-western sentiments – and this was displayed in the entries for the contest.

The gallery of all the entries has some quite interesting and creative pieces. For example, I quite liked this one which shows what looks like a “Men in Black” type character with a tape measure as a gun shouting “2m”. But as I scrolled further, I began to see a theme developing, one that is opposed to Israel, America and the West in general. This very theme was also picked up by others.

The vice-president for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Sharon S. Nazarian heavily criticised not only the contest, but also the seemingly obvious antisemitic and anti-western entries. She displayed her frustrations on Twitter by saying:

“At a time when it should be focused on saving lives, #Iran’s health ministry sponsored a cartoon contest on #COVID19.  As you could imagine, some of the submissions we found were horrifically and sadly unsurprisingly antisemitic.”

Nazarian included three entries in her tweet. The first was the coronavirus dancing on a top hat which has the Star of David. The second was an image of the virus being linked to a shoe with the American flag. Finally – the third has three crazed scientists with one of them having the Menorah on his lab coat. Any reasonable person looking at these images would not only find them abhorrent, disrespectful and racist, but would also call them out for what they are, antisemitic. However, this reasoned position doesn’t appear to be one that is ever taken by the regressive Left within the Labour Party.

The Labour Party which is currently under investigation by the Equality and Human Right Commission for its disastrous record and inability to tackle antisemitism within its rank and file – have yet to release an official response condemning the cartoon contest. But it appears that this is something they cannot bring themselves to do. Even a symbolic gesture like this, could potentially go a long way to rebuilding the many bridges they have burned and destroyed under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. But as ever and predictably so, it is an opportunity they have missed. However, they are not always so blind to opportunities – so long as it serves them well.

Take for example the suspension of Trevor Philips, the lifelong anti-racist campaigner and ex-chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The suspension was to do with comments made by Phillips a few years ago in which he is reported to made “Islamophobic comments.” If the Labour Party were so quick to take issue with Phillips over alleged “Islamophobia”, then why doesn’t is show the same seriousness when Iran puts on competitions that contain antisemitic tropes? Perhaps for the Labour Party, not all victims are victims and some of them deserve what they get?

For any reasonable observer, what should be quite clear is that when the victims of an alleged crime are Jewish communities or the west, then you can expect the regressive Left in the Labour Party to be silent. It is either not a fight they believe is worth getting involved in, or they do not believe Jewish communities can ever be the victims. If this is the case, then I welcome the investigation into the Party and hope it rids them of this virus that has eroded the Party away.

The hypocrisy of the regressive Left within the Labour Party shows no bounds and this is just another example of their incompetence. Many Labour members and others are crying out for the Party to once again be a credible opposition and eventually get into power, but that is a long way away if they cannot, at least be consistent against racism.

Wasiq is an academic specialising in academia, law and terrorism. You can follow him on Twitter

Photo by Franz Wender on Unsplash.

You may also like...