AJC Transatlantic Institute Criticizes the European Parliament for Blocking Cartoon Exhibition on Iran

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AJC Transatlantic Institute Criticizes the European Parliament for Blocking Cartoon Exhibition on Iran

Brussels – 21 February 2018 – AJC deplores that the European Parliament barred a cross-party group of EU lawmakers from hosting a cartoon exhibition highlighting Tehran’s human rights violations.

Suppressed in its entirety by the British Liberal Quaestor Catherine Bearder on the grounds of being “controversial,” the four Members of Parliament co-hosting the exhibit—Lars Adaktusson (EPP), Péter Niedermüller (S&D), Anders Vistisen (ECR) and Petras Auštrevičius (ALDE)—had to relocate the installation ”Iran and Human Rights” to an adjacent venue. The exhibition features satirical cartoons by the The Israeli Cartoon Project, a group of artists who consider their work an act of solidarity with the Iranian people.

“Who would have imagined that an installation criticizing human rights violations would be deemed too “controversial” to be displayed in the European Parliament,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) EU office, the AJC Transatlantic Institute, at a press opening for the exhibition, which was also attended by Yair Lapid, head of Israel’s Yesh Atid Party, MEPs Vistisen and Niedermüller as well as members of the The Israeli Cartoon Project.

“It’s a decision that no doubt must have pleased the Majlis, that sham Iranian parliament, but it is no badge of honor for a Western parliament, particularly one that says that human rights, freedom of speech and the fight for democracy are among its main priorities,“ Schwammenthal said. "The exhibition, we were told, would have damaged Parliament’s ‘dignity.' With all due respect, I would argue that not this exhibition but its censorship is the real damage to Parliament’s dignity and image.”

“It would have been one thing for Parliament to block one or two of the cartoons. However, to suppress the installation in its entirety suggests it is not a legitimate argument over taste, but an attempt to silence a debate. In this context, I am reminded of Europe’s rather muted responses during the brutal crackdown of the Iran protests and Brussels’s failure to condemn Iran’s intrusion into Israeli airspace just last weekend. It appears that when it comes to Iran’s human rights violations and aggression in the region, there are some people in the EU who prefer not to speak up and would rather that others don’t either,” said Schwammenthal.

Yair Lapid remarked that "the European Union’s decision to reject the caricature exhibition turns the EU itself into a caricature. This exhibition will be displayed on schedule in Brussels, to remind the world of the simple truth: Iran is an Islamic terror dictatorship that believes in blood.” 

EU lawmakers Lars Adaktusson, Anders Vistisen, Peter Niedermüller and Petras Auštrevičius said in a joint statement that “freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, which needs to be cherished. We would like to point out that by censoring the exhibition, the EP reconfirms once again its passive stance towards the Iranian regime’s violence and aggression against its own people and neighbours.”