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HomeMiddle EastOpen Source: Israel’s Cartoon Diplomacy Equates Iran and Islamic State

Open Source: Israel’s Cartoon Diplomacy Equates Iran and Islamic State

Open Source

By ROBERT MACKEY

Apparently undeterred by the backlash over its last venture into cartoon diplomacy, Israel’s government released an animated video on Tuesday that equates the threat from Islamic State militants to that of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The 28-second animation, uploaded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official accounts on social networks, attempts to erase the distinction between the Sunni Muslim extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and their sworn enemies, the Shiite Muslim clerics who rule the Islamic Republic of Iran. To that end, Iran is referred to not by its proper name but as “the Islamic State of Iran.”

[Video: An animated video equating Iran to the Islamic State militant group. Watch on YouTube.]

An animated video equating Iran to the Islamic State militant group.

Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, via YouTube

The video identifies the victims of Islamic State militants as Americans, Christians, gays and Israelis — and suggests that Iran has the same enemies — but makes no mention of the Shiites slaughtered by the group, or the fact that Iranian-trained Shiite militias are battling the Sunni extremists in both Iraq and Syria.

Mr. Netanyahu has been working to blur the distinction between Iran and the Islamic State for months, as he fights a rear-guard action against the efforts of six world powers to strike a deal to permit Iran to use nuclear energy but block its path to nuclear weapons. In his address to Congress in March, Mr. Netanyahu depicted the militant group, also known as ISIS, and Iran as rivals with similar aims despite their sectarian differences:

Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire first on the region and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire.

He made the same point again on Tuesday, telling reporters: “No one would dream of allowing the Islamic State of ISIS to have nuclear weapons. Why would anyone consider giving the Islamic State of Iran — which is a lot more powerful than ISIS and acts with much greater power than ISIS — to have additional power of nuclear weapons?”

The new animation was released two weeks after Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs withdrew a similar cartoon from YouTube that mocked international media coverage of Gaza after it seemed to backfire by angering the press corps that diplomats need to win over.

The latest animation might also cause some offense, as it depicts the execution of Islamic State hostages in a cartoonish way — they are run over, splattering blood widely.

As the Israeli journalist Asher Schechter noted, “The irony of Israel’s new ‘Iran=ISIS’ cartoon is that Iran and Israel share a similar passion for anti-ISIS cartoons.” Last month, Iran staged an international cartoon competition calling for images “to show the true heinous nature” of the Islamic State, also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh.

The call for entries to that competition, from Iran’s officially sanctioned House of Cartoons, described the Islamic State as a “group of mercenaries” sponsored by Western powers, a conspiracy theory popular across the Middle East. “We also want to denounce its supporters, the Westerners, the Zionists and the United States,” Masoud Shojai-Tabatabai, the chairman of the organizing committee, told Agence France-Presse at the awards ceremony in Tehran.

The same official said that another planned cartoon competition, for illustrations mocking the Holocaust — a common subject in Iran — had been suspended because of “budget” problems.

It did not escape notice in Israel that one of the cartoons, which was awarded second prize, depicted the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with a beard made of bloody daggers against a backdrop featuring the Star of David.

By contrast, the counterintuitive theory that the Islamic State is under the control of Iran has been a subject of political cartoons in the Saudi daily Al Watan, despite the fact that the group claimed responsibility last week for a massacre of Shiite worshipers at a mosque in Kuwait by a Sunni jihadist from Saudi Arabia.

As an Iranian journalist, Ali Alimadadi, observed, anti-Israel messages have also appeared in cartoons in the Iranian press about the nuclear talks. One editorial cartoon published this month by the Fars News Agency, which is close to Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, even suggested that Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent bicycle accident during a break from the nuclear talks might have been an Israeli plot to disrupt the negotiations.

While cartoonists who support the government’s line in Iran are feted, Jonathan Guyer, an editor of the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, noted on his blog Oum Cartoon, “Atena Farghadani, a 28-year-old painter and activist, languishes in Iran’s Evin prison for a cartoon she drew.” Ms. Farghadani was recently sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for her activism, which included drawing a cartoon that depicted members of Parliament as animals as they voted for legislation that would restrict access to birth control in Iran.

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(via NY Times)