(JTA) – The Anti-Defamation League condemned the actions of a former teacher at a prestigious Catholic school in Belgium whose caricature comparing Israel and the Nazis won a prize in Iran’s cartoon contest mocking the Holocaust. “Malice or ignorance” were the teacher’s “only possible explanations for comparing Israel to the Nazis and entering an Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement last Friday. UNESCO and the U.S. Department of State said the contest offered a platform to antisemitism.
Luc Descheemaeker, who is retired from the Sint-Jozefs Institute high school in the city of Torhout, in May received a $1,000 prize from Tehran and an honorable mention for a caricature featuring the words “arbeit macht frei” atop a wall representing Israel’s security barrier against Palestinian terrorists. The German-language phrase, which means “work sets you free,” appeared on a gate of the Birkenau-Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland.
School director Paul Vanthournout said that the school had no position on the award but that the school was proud of Descheemaeker’s work within the institution. Vanthournout declined to comment on other caricatures that Descheemaeker drew and published on his blog – including one featuring a stereotypical Orthodox Jew waiting to bludgeon an Arab mother and her baby with a giant Star of David, while the boy holds a balloon emblazoned with a dove holding an olive branch. Descheemaeker is currently the subject of a complaint for hate speech filed to a federal office on discrimination retired last year.
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 antisemitism.