Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already stirred international anger by dismissing the Holocaust as a "myth," and now Iran is drumming up further anti-Israel rhetoric by staging the "International Holocaust Cartoon Contest."
The month-long competition opened on Monday in the Palestine Contemporary Art Museum, a recently renovated two-story house in downtown Tehran.
Visitors are greeted by a poster and the word "Holocust" in huge letters, with no explanation offered for the misspelling.
The poster also depicts a World War II German helmet emblazoned with the Jewish Star of David, equating the Nazis with "the Zionists" -- the term used by Iranian officials to refer to Israel.
On Tuesday the museum was packed with art students clutching invitations from the organizers, and also with ordinary people who had heard about the exhibition from television or read about it in Tehran's newspapers.
The contest was jointly arranged by Iran Cartoon, the country's caricature association, and the nation's largest-circulation newspaper Hamshahri, which is published by Tehran's conservative municipality.
It was staged in response to the publication in the Western press last September of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that were first printed in Denmark and then picked up and published throughout the world.
The cartoons enraged Muslims, and the Holocaust cartoon contest was announced in February in a tit-for-tat move, the organizers said.
"We staged this fair to explore the limits of freedom Westerners believe in," said Masoud Shojai, the head of Iran Cartoon.
"They can freely write anything they like about our prophet, but if one raises doubts about the Holocaust he is either fined or sent to prison," he told reporters.
"Though we do not deny that fact that Jews were killed in the war, why should the Palestinians pay for it?" said Shojai, 43, who holds a masters degree in graphics.
"Since the president had spoken about the Holocaust, I was curious to know more and I think some of the cartoons have taught me something," teenage visitor Toktam told reporters.
"The cartoons are diverse, and not all of them are about the Holocaust. I personally think that the matter is exaggerated," civil servant Hossein said.
Pinocchio's long nose, which grows longer when he tells lies, was a common motif among entries to the contest, as were the supposedly large noses of Jews.
The inability of the UN to secure the implementation of most of its resolutions concerning Israel also featured strongly, as did the US Statue of Liberty transformed into a skull.
The Nazi swastika turning into a barbed wire Star of David to strangle Palestinians -- and even depictions of Adolf Hitler ordering current Israeli leaders to launch a holocaust -- were also evident.
Shojai said that the top three cartoons will be announced on Sept. 2, with the winners awarded prizes of US$12,000, US$8,000 and US$5,000 respectively.
He did not elaborate on the source of the prize money, but said that it did not come from any governmental body.
Shojai dodged the question of who the three winners might be, but said a jury of five "famous" Iranian cartoonists had judged more than 1,100 entries submitted from over 60 countries.
Two hundred entries have been put on display for the exhibition.