Sweden 1: The killer as Snow White

January 19, 2004

CONTENTS

1. "Israeli 'art vandal envoy' condemned" (Pakistan Tribune, Jan. 19, 2004)
2. "Swedish envoy: We cannot constitutionally remove exhibit" (Ha'aretz, Jan. 19, 2004)
3. "Freedom of expression for all" (Ha'aretz editorial, Jan. 19, 2004)
4. "PM, FM charge anti-Semitism in Stockholm art flap" (Ha'aretz, Jan. 19, 2004)
5. "Sharon backs art-wrecking ambassador" (Independent, Jan. 19, 2004)


[All notes below by Tom Gross]

This newsletter is divided into two parts for space reasons. This email should be read first. The second part can be read here. A third part can be read here.

As this has not been adequately covered in many newspapers internationally, and particularly in America, here are various developments pertaining to the current Israeli-Swedish controversy.

 

THE MURDERER AS SNOW WHITE

On Saturday night, the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, damaged an "art exhibit" glorifying a Palestinian terrorist at the Stockholm's Historical Museum. The ambassador dismantled the electrical cables connecting the spotlights and threw one of them into some water.

Titled "Snow White and the Madness of Truth," the exhibit consisted of a small ship carrying a picture of Islamic Jihad bomber Hanadi Jaradat (who was a lawyer and mother of two) sailing, "with the smile of an angel," in a rectangular pool filled with red-colored water. Jaradat killed herself and 22 others, including Israeli Arabs and a number of Israeli Jewish children, in a suicide bombing on October 4, 2003, at Maxim's jointly-owned Jewish-Arab restaurant in Haifa, Israel.

As background music to his exhibit, the "artist," Dror Feiler, mixed music from Bach's 199 Cantata "My Heart Swims in Blood." Tel Aviv-born Feiler is well-known as a self-hating Israeli active in radical circles in Sweden where he lives. His Swedish wife Gunilla Skoeld Feiler, helped create the instillation.

 

SWEDISH GOVERNMENT DEFENDS EXHIBIT, SUMMONS AMBASSADOR

The Swedish government has summoned Mazel to be reprimanded at the Swedish Foreign Ministry today.

 

VIOLATION OF GENOCIDE CONFERENCE AGREEMENT

The exhibit forms part of a three-day "International conference on preventing genocide," which opens on January 26. The conference will be hosted by the Swedish government and include representatives from 60 governments.

The work violates a prior agreement with the Israeli government that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would form part of the conference. As a result Israel says it is considering withdrawing from the conference.

 

THE AMBASSADOR EXPLAINS

Zvi Mazel is unrepentant about his actions. "My wife and I stood there and began to tremble," he told the Israeli Ynet Internet site. "There was the terrorist, wearing perfect makeup and sailing placidly along the rivers of blood of my brothers and the families that were murdered. My whole body trembled when I saw a female terrorist like Snow White in the exhibition."

"Today we have almost daily incidents of anti-Semitism in Sweden. The anti-Semitism in Sweden is severe, unprecedented.. It is not a piece of work, it is a political call to kill Jewish people."

Mazel previously served as Israeli ambassador to Romania and Egypt.

 

THE "ARTIST" EXPLAINS

Dror Feiler told Israel Radio on Sunday that Mazel was "an intellectual midget, his actions were similar to those of a stall owner in a third world country."

When Mazel pulled the plugs on the installation on Saturday night, Feiler approached him angrily, shouting in Hebrew, "You're doing exactly what you do in Nablus. This is a free country and I can say what I want to say here, not like you in your apartheid country."

 

PRESS REACTION IN ISRAEL

Ben Caspit, a leading political commentator, for the newspaper Ma'ariv, writes: "Mazel ought not to have done it, but it is hard to be angry with him. His hand, which pulled out the plug, was the hand of all of us."

 

REACTION OF THE TERRORIST'S VICTIMS

Tova Bahat, whose husband was killed and three-year-old son critically wounded in the Maxim suicide bomb, said: "I'm sorry the artist was not sitting in the restaurant when the bomb exploded."

Ora Regev, whose son Nir was killed in the attack said Mazel "did exactly what needed to be done." "There is a limit to freedom of expression," she said, adding that Feiler has "no right to represent himself as an Israeli."

Orly Almog, who lost five family members in the suicide bombing, said Mazel's act was "100 percent justified."

 

POLITICAL REACTION IN ISRAEL

Minister for Diaspora Affairs Nathan Sharansky said the installation "plays into the hands of those that wish to destroy the Jewish people."

Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said that the Israeli ambassador should be awarded a citation for his action. "If there is a situation in which an ambassador should act in an undiplomatic manner, this is it... I am proud of the ambassador."

Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (Hadash Communist party) attacked the Israeli Foreign Ministry for defending what he called Mazel's "reprehensible act of bullying."

 

POLITICAL REACTION IN SWEDEN

Pär Nuder, who is a minister in the office of Göran Persson, the Swedish prime minister, and who will chair the genocide conference, said that the Swedish government could not and would not intervene to force the museum to withdraw the exhibit, saying freedom of expression was important for Sweden.

 

REACTION OF THE SWEDISH HISTORICAL MUSEUM

Historical Museum director Kristian Berg said the ambassador's attack "struck a discordant note with the theme of the conference." He confirmed that the museum "would absolutely continue to exhibit the piece."

"You can have your own view of what this piece of art is all about, but using violence is never, ever allowed, and it is never allowed to try to silence the artist," he said.

Berg told Agence France-Presse that he did not consider the exhibit to be offensive.

 

REACTION OF ISRAEL'S SUPPORTERS IN SWEDEN

S. Lejderman, of Gothenburg, Sweden, said: "I find it very interesting that the Swedish media is outraged over Mazel's behavior but seemingly not at all upset at the female suicide/homicide bomber who murdered four Jews before the Sabbath. She was called a "fighter," Mazel is called a crazed vandal and was booed by the hundreds of people at the installation."

 

ISRAELI EMBASSY THREATENED

Israel Radio reports today that Israel would be vacating the building that has housed its embassy in Stockholm for the last 50 years. The building's owners have demanded that Israel leave after bomb threats were made yesterday.

 

BBC MISINFORMATION AS USUAL

As usual, the BBC gets its facts wrong to Israel's detriment. BBC Online today reports that 19 Israelis died in the Maxim attack, when in fact 22 Israelis died.

 

THE OBSERVER NEWSPAPER SUGGESTS MAZEL IS THE KILLER

The websites HonestReporting.com and LGF.com (Little Green Footballs) add:

The (UK) Observer spun the story 180-degrees, presenting Mazel – not the Palestinian – as the killer: Peaceful Swedes were nearly killed when "an ambassador erupted in violent protest... [Mazel] ripped out electrical wires, grabbed a spotlight and hurled it into a fountain, causing it to short circuit and become a potential death trap."

Dutch television has actual film of Mazel, calmly walking around the exhibit, unplugging the spotlights, and pushing one of the (unplugged) lights into the water. Streaming video is available online ― the segment is about 11 minutes into the show (3/4 through).

 

GREEK "ART"

The idea of glorifying suicide bombers "artistically" is not new. As noted on this email list last year, an exhibition was held in Athens last summer glorifying, in pink lace, an Arab woman, Ayat Al Akra, who blew up Israelis in a Jerusalem supermarket in March 2002.

The "artist" in that case was Alexandros Psychoulis, described in the Greek press as "the distinguished Greek artistic creator and assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture at the University of Thessaly." He said his work was a personal tribute to the bomber's "protest" and was not "meant to be political." The piece was titled "Body Milk." The exhibit was hosted at the A. Antonopoulou Art Gallery.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

I attach five news reports from different countries, with summaries first:

1. "Israeli 'art vandal envoy' condemned" (Pakistan Tribune, January 19, 2004). "The Israeli ambassador to Sweden's angry response to an art exhibit touching on the delicate issue of Palestinian suicide bombers has made the headlines over the weekend. It also triggered a wave of condemnation in the Scandinavian country. A security camera on Friday captured Israeli ambassador to Sweden Zvi Mazel throwing a mounted spotlight at the exhibit in Stockholm's Museum of National Antiquities. Mazel was subsequently asked to leave the premises."

 

2. "Swedish envoy: We cannot constitutionally remove exhibit" (By Yossi Melman, Ha'aretz, January 19, 2004). "The Swedish government is considering issuing a conciliatory note to bring to an end the crisis in relations between the two countries resulting form the controversial art exhibit in Stockholm, according to sources in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and hints offered by Swedish Ambassador Robert Rydberg... Rydberg emphasized that his government had no legal recourse to get the installation removed from exhibit, due to stringent freedom of expression laws in Sweden... Rydberg expressed regret about the incident and hope that Israel does not boycott the event, and called the affair a "misunderstanding."

...Despite the blunt statements of support from the prime minister and foreign minister, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem Sunday were not happy with what they called "the festival of support" for Mazel and his action. The sources said they worried Israeli diplomatic efforts to defend the government's policies toward the Palestinians and territories were adopting a strategy of "losing control," with diplomats dropping diplomatic niceties to adopt unusual and unconventional methods of protest that could harm the reputations of Israeli diplomats."

 

3. "Freedom of expression for all" (Ha'aretz editorial, January 19, 2004). "Zvi Mazel, Israel's ambassador to Sweden, exceeded the bounds of diplomatic ceremony when he unplugged the three floodlights around the work of artists Dror and Gunilla Skoeld Feiler, "Snow White and the Madness of Truth," at the Stockholm Historical Museum... What happened in Stockholm should move the government of Israel to reconsider its participation in the conference on genocide that is to take place in Stockholm. A conference initiated by the Swedish prime minister to take stock of the lessons of the Holocaust should not become a stage for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment of the type presented in the exhibit."

 

4. "PM, FM charge anti-Semitism in Stockholm art flap" (By Gideon Alon, Ha'aretz, January 19, 2004). "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom yesterday expressed "complete support" for Ambassador Zvi Mazel's outburst at a Stockholm Museum art installation, which he believed glorified a woman who blew herself up in a popular Haifa restaurant last fall, killing 22 people. The prime minister said the ambassador had responded appropriately against anti-Semitism.

...Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said, "It is unreasonable that an exhibition meant to deal with preventing genocide would include an installation that identifies with a woman who murdered dozens of Israelis... Ambassador Mazel's actions must be understood as an outcry from all of us. If it enabled the ambassador to draw attention to the issue of double standards held against Israel and the indifference to the suffering of Israeli citizens from Palestinian terror, that is good." Shalom said the exhibit was a "gross violation" of a prior agreement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not be included as part of the conference discussions."

 

5. "Sharon backs art-wrecking ambassador" (The Independent, UK, By Eric Silver in Jerusalem, January 19, 2004). "...Zvi Mazel, a career diplomat, shouted at the artist Dror Feiler: "This is praise of a suicide terrorist and the whole institution of suicide. Shame on you! You are a clear hater of Israel and dedicate your time to a terror attack and bad-mouthing Israel."

He told Israeli reporters later: "I could not breathe when I saw the photograph of the terrorist, who was represented as Snow White with an angelic smile, sailing on the blood of our children, our families that she murdered. I felt I had to do it because it is the continuation of a succession of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli acts that are taking place here almost every day. As far as I am concerned, Feiler is an extremist and not an Israeli."

Mr Feiler, an Israeli who has lived in Sweden for 30 years, insisted that the sculpture was against violence. He said: "The ambassador caused diplomatic and political damage to the state of Israel by being an intellectual dwarf and behaving like a street peddler."


FULL ARTICLES

ISRAELI "ART VANDAL ENVOY" CONDEMNED

Israeli 'art vandal envoy' condemned
Pakistan Tribune
January 19, 2004

The Israeli ambassador to Sweden's angry response to an art exhibit touching on the delicate issue of Palestinian suicide bombers has made the headlines over the weekend. It also triggered a wave of condemnation in the Scandinavian country.

A security camera on Friday captured Israeli ambassador to Sweden Zvi Mazel throwing a mounted spotlight at the exhibit in Stockholm's Museum of National Antiquities. Mazel was subsequently asked to leave the premises.

Titled Snow White and the Madness of Truth, the exhibit consisted of a small ship carrying a picture of Islamic Jihad bomber Hanadi Jaradat sailing in a rectangular pool filled with red-colored water. Jaradat killed herself and 21 bystanders in an October 4 suicide bombing in Haifa, Israel.

Creator outraged

Dror Feiler, the Israeli-born artist who created Snow White and the Madness of Truth, said it was supposed to call attention to how weak, lonely people can be capable of horrible things.

On Sunday, he explained his point of view to a group of Jewish students from various countries.

"I was very outraged and disappointed because these kind of acts, he was trying to hinder freedom of speech and hinder democratic rules in Sweden. He is a guest in our country and if he doesn't like it he can go away, I think this is the most important thing," said Dror.

Call for debate

While most of the students disagreed with the installation, they pointed out that the ambassador's way of dealing with it was way out of line.

Michal Okret, an 18-year-old born in Sweden of Israeli parents, said that starting a debate would have been a better way of drawing attention to the subject.

18-year-old Martin Szydlowski, from Poland, agreed with her. "I think the ambassador could have made his point clear in another way than destroying the art," she said.

Discordant note

However, in Israel, Mazel's vadalic action encountered approval.

The Swedish government wants Israel's ambassador to explain why he vandalized a museum display he claimed glorified Palestinian suicide bombers.

The ambassador will be asked to explain his attack to the Foreign Ministry next week.

The exhibit opened in connection with an international conference on preventing genocide set for later this month in Stockholm.

Museum director Kristian Berg said the ambassador's attack 'struck a discordant note; with the theme of the conference.'

Mazel would be invited to the museum next week for a discussion about different interpretations of art.

A veteran of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Mazel became ambassador to Sweden in 2002. He has previously served as Israel's ambassador to Romania and Egypt.

 

SWEDISH ENVOY: WE CANNOT CONSTITUTIONALLY REMOVE EXHIBIT

Swedish envoy: We cannot constitutionally remove exhibit
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies
Ha'aretz
January 19, 2004

The Swedish government is considering issuing a conciliatory note to bring to an end the crisis in relations between the two countries resulting form the controversial art exhibit in Stockholm, according to sources in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and hints offered by Swedish Ambassador Robert Rydberg. Israeli Ambassador Zvi Mazel regarded the exhibit as a glorification of suicide bombers - and protested by deliberately vandalizing the installation's presentation.

Rydberg emphasized that his government had no legal recourse to get the installation removed from exhibit, due to stringent freedom of expression laws in Sweden.

The scandal broke out after Mazel turned off the lights aimed at an installation piece made by former Israeli Dror Feiler, now a Swedish citizen, and his Swedish wife Gunnar. The Swedes - and the artists - say the installation was meant to condemn terrorism, but Mazel, backed by the government in Jerusalem, said the Feiler installation, part of an art exhibit accompanying a prestigious international conference on genocide, glorified the bomber - and violated an prior agreement with the Israeli government that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not be part of the conference.

Jerusalem, in any case, is as interested as Sweden in seeing the episode closed, and will be satisfied with an appropriately conciliatory statement by Sweden, to enable the Israeli delegation to attend the conference as planned.

Diplomatic sources in Israel and Sweden Sunday emphasized that Mazel, who was backed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, will be told Monday at the Swedish Foreign Ministry that his behavior was "unacceptable," as a Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

During a meeting with Foreign Ministry Director General Yoav Biran and the deputy director general for Western Europe, Ran Kuriel, Rydberg heard an Israeli complaint about the installation and how its inclusion in the exhibit violated the agreement to keep the Middle East conflict out of the conference on genocide, which opens on January 26.

Rydberg expressed regret about the incident and hope that Israel does not boycott the event, and called the affair a "misunderstanding."

"The whole problem is by and large based on a misunderstanding, a misinterpretation of a piece of art which may very well be in bad taste," Rydberg said after meeting the Foreign Ministry officials.

During the meeting dozens of terror victims' relatives demonstrated near the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported.

When Mazel pulled the plugs on the installation on Saturday night, Dror Feiler approached him angrily, shouting in Hebrew, "You're doing exactly what you do in Nablus. This is a free country and I can say what I want to say here, not like you in your apartheid country."

The diplomats Sunday worked on a formula to bring an end to the scandal. One possibility is a statement issued by the Swedish government rejecting any interpretation that its agreement to show the exhibit and installation was support for terrorists and emphasize its absolute rejection of such deeds, as well as expressing sorrow over the incident.

Despite the blunt statements of support from the prime minister and foreign minister, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem Sunday were not happy with what they called "the festival of support" for Mazel and his action. The sources said they worried Israeli diplomatic efforts to defend the government's policies toward the Palestinians and territories were adopting a strategy of "losing control," with diplomats dropping diplomatic niceties to adopt unusual and unconventional methods of protest that could harm the reputations of Israeli diplomats.

Rydberg: Artwork is example of bad taste "The piece is about a Palestinian woman having murdered innocent civilians. It mentions the names of the tragic Israeli victims in Haifa. It is not a justification of suicide bombings. It is, in my view, an example of bad taste, but I think the whole issue has been blown out of proportion," Rydberg said.

Click for text accompanying artwork

Mazel was unrepentant about damaging the "Snow White and the Madness of Truth" exhibit at Stockholm's Historical Museum. "My wife and I stood there and began to tremble," he told the Ynet site. "There was the terrorist, wearing perfect makeup and sailing placidly along the rivers of blood of my brothers and the families that were murdered."

The envoy told Haaretz that his protest was not spontaneous; he had planned the act after learning about the exhibit in the local press. He said he could not understand how an exhibition devoted to preventing genocide can feature a work that casts the murderer of 22 Israelis as Snow White. "In my eyes, that's not art; it's abominable," he said.

Curator of the Tel Aviv Museum, Doron Luria, said Sunday that he understood Mazel and that the artwork was an inferior piece of provocation. "The piece is simply not worth all of the excitement.I sympathize completely with the ambassador's actions. There is no place for such an idiotic piece in Stockholm," Luria said.

Feiler told Army Radio Sunday morning that his artwork was misunderstood. "The display itself is against violence. It can be summed up by a biblical quote: 'He who spills human blood shall have his own blood spilled by man,' and this is exactly what we need to put an end to. The Israeli ambassador caused diplomatic and political damage to Israel, and since he is an intellectual midget, his actions were similar to those of a stall owner in a third world country," Feiler said.

Historical Museum Director Kristian Berg said that the exhibit will remain on display. "You can have your own view of what this piece of art is all about, but using violence is never, ever allowed, and it is never allowed to try to silence the artist," he said.

Israeli MK Ahmed Tibi (Hadash) attacked the Foreign Ministry on Saturday for defending what he called Mazel's "reprehensible act of bullying."

"The government that uses bulldozers in the territories, demolishes houses and uproots trees also relies on bullying in its diplomacy," Tibi said.

Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi on Saturday said that the Israeli ambassador should be awarded a citation for intentionally damaging the artwork.

"If there is a situation in which an ambassador should act in an undiplomatic manner, this is it," the Likud minister said, adding that he was "proud of the ambassador."

Hanegbi said that Israel's ambassador to Sweden behaved as he did in order to shock public opinion and to emphasize the insanity in which a mass murderer is portrayed as a heroine.

"This is the ambassador's duty, and in [Sunday's] government meeting I will call for him to be awarded a special citation for his actions, even if they were extreme," the minister said.

 

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION FOR ALL

Freedom of expression for all
Ha'aretz editorial
January 19, 2004

Zvi Mazel, Israel's ambassador to Sweden, exceeded the bounds of diplomatic ceremony when he unplugged the three floodlights around the work of artists Dror and Gunilla Skoeld Feiler, "Snow White and the Madness of Truth," at the Stockholm Historical Museum. The exhibit showed a picture of the woman suicide bomber who blew herself up at the Maxim Restaurant in Haifa, killing 21 people.

The terrorist is depicted as Snow White, with the smile of an angel, sailing in a boat in a pool of blood. On a nearby wall, two posters were hung in which the artist's wife, Swedish artist, Gunilla Skoeld Feiler, explains the motives of the terrorist, whom she said suffered as a result of the killing of her brother by the IDF, which aroused in her the powerful need to act. As background music, Feiler selected Bach's Cantata 199, "My Heart Swims in Blood."

The Israeli envoy, an experienced diplomat, made clear to Haaretz that he had planned his protest ahead of time, after the director of the event refused his request to remove the exhibit. According to Mazel, "That's not art, it's abominable."

Feiler, on the other hand, pointed out that the text also spoke of the murder of the innocent. He views what happened as an infringement of the freedom of artistic expression. The ambassador's act made headlines out of the exhibit, and the prime minister and foreign minister hastened to back the ambassador, although his behavior was described by the Swedish Foreign Ministry's spokesman as "unacceptable," a definition that cannot be disputed.

The storm is basically a tempest in a teapot. Politically motivated art, which transmits difficult and sometimes infuriating messages, is an inseparable part of the freedom of expression in democratic countries. If Israel's official envoy had not cut the power, the installation would have remained an unimportant episode. And in fact, that is how it should be viewed, in proper measure.

Sweden and Israel are both democracies, in which freedom of artistic expression is part of general freedom of individual expression. It is the artist's right, no matter what the artistic level of his creation may be, to spread his wings and give freedom to his thoughts. This right has been recognized by rulings of the High Court of Justice, when it urged the Knesset to call off the censorship of plays. Freedom of expression also extends to the freedom to commit symbolic acts of protest. In the U.S., under the heading of freedom of expression comes the act of extinguishing the eternal flame at the grave of John F. Kennedy and the burning of the American flag in protest over the U.S. involvement in wars. Zvi Mazel's act, a departure from chilly protocol, is, in principle, the use of freedom of expression - in all its severity and from within his own truth - as an answer to another expression.

Of course, Mazel acted on his own; his act was not an "act of state." The power of his protest may be understood only against the backdrop of the expressions of hostility in Europe toward Israel and the Jewish people. Such an unacceptable act should not be glorified, as the prime minister did. The Stockholm incident does not have to become a significant diplomatic incident, and expressions of anti-Semitism cannot justify Israel's policies.

What happened in Stockholm should move the government of Israel to reconsider its participation in the conference on genocide that is to take place in Stockholm. A conference initiated by the Swedish prime minister to take stock of the lessons of the Holocaust should not become a stage for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment of the type presented in the exhibit.

 

PM, FM CHARGE ANTI-SEMITISM IN STOCKHOLM ART FLAP

PM, FM charge anti-Semitism in Stockholm art flap
By Gideon Alon
Ha'aretz
January 19, 2004

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom yesterday expressed "complete support" for Ambassador Zvi Mazel's outburst at a Stockholm Museum art installation, which he believed glorified a woman who blew herself up in a popular Haifa restaurant last fall, killing 21 people. The prime minister said the ambassador had responded appropriately against anti-Semitism.

Sharon opened yesterday morning's cabinet meeting with a statement that he had spoken by phone with Mazel, to thank him for standing up to "mounting to anti-Semitism," and telling him that the government was behind his actions.

Mazel approached the art installation and damaged the presentation by turning off and pushing its bright lights away.

"Mazel behaved properly," he said. "The trend is so outrageous that it could not be ignored without a response.

"I hope - and am sure - that everyone joins me in backing up Mazel," he said, adding that "we are witnessing a rise in anti-Semitism throughout the world and especially Europe and it is getting worse. The issue has come up in this government, and with other countries we are intensifying our activity against anti-Semitism."

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said, "It is unreasonable that an exhibition meant to deal with preventing genocide would include an installation that identifies with a woman who murdered dozens of Israelis.

"Ambassador Mazel's actions must be understood as an outcry from all of us. If it enabled the ambassador to draw attention to the issue of double standards held against Israel and the indifference to the suffering of Israeli citizens from Palestinian terror, that is good."

Shalom said the exhibit was a "gross violation" of a prior agreement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not be included as part of the conference discussions.

The three-day conference opens on January 26, with representatives from some 60 governments around the world invited by the Swedish government to attend, including Israel, which is now tghreatening to stay away.

 

SHARON BACKS ART-WRECKING AMBASSADOR

Sharon backs art-wrecking ambassador
By Eric Silver in Jerusalem
The Independent
January 19, 2004

Ariel Sharon, Israel's Prime Minister, has supported his ambassador to Sweden, who vandalised an installation in a Stockholm exhibition that featured a Palestinian woman suicide bomber.

Mr Sharon said yesterday: "The entire government stands behind him. Our ambassador did the right thing. The phenomenon which we saw there is so grave that it was forbidden not to react to it."

Zvi Mazel, a career diplomat, was attending the opening of a government-sponsored show on Friday with his wife when he took offence at an installation featuring a photograph of the bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, a 29-year-old lawyer who killed 21 Israelis in a restaurant in Haifa last year. The image "Snow White and the Madness of Truth" was floating in a toy boat in a rectangular pool of red liquid. Mr Mazel angrily disconnected the spotlights illuminating the display and flung them into the pool.

Mr Mazel shouted at the artist Dror Feiler: "This is praise of a suicide terrorist and the whole institution of suicide. Shame on you! You are a clear hater of Israel and dedicate your time to a terror attack and bad-mouthing Israel."

He told Israeli reporters later: "I could not breathe when I saw the photograph of the terrorist, who was represented as Snow White with an angelic smile, sailing on the blood of our children, our families that she murdered. I felt I had to do it because it is the continuation of a succession of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli acts that are taking place here almost every day. As far as I am concerned, Feiler is an extremist and not an Israeli. He accepted the Palestinian side and deliberately ignored the Israeli side."

Mr Feiler, an Israeli who has lived in Sweden for 30 years, insisted that the sculpture was against violence. He said: "The ambassador caused diplomatic and political damage to the state of Israel by being an intellectual dwarf and behaving like a street peddler."

Mr Mazel has been summoned to the Swedish Foreign Ministry today and is expected to be reprimanded for undiplomatic conduct.

But Robert Rydberg, the Swedish ambassador to Israel, tried to downplay the incident yesterday. He said: "The piece is about a Palestinian woman having murdered innocent civilians. It is not a justification of suicide bombings. It is in my view an example of bad taste, but I think the whole issue has been blown out of proportion."

Mr Mazel's violent reaction, which he admitted was premeditated, drew widespread support back home. Video footage of the incident was relayed on Israeli television.

Ben Caspit, a political commentator, wrote in the newspaper Ma'ariv: "Mazel ought not to have done it, but it is hard to be angry with him. His hand, which pulled out the plug, was the hand of all of us."

Tova Bahat, whose husband was killed and three-year-old son critically wounded in the explosion, said: "I'm sorry the artist was not sitting in the restaurant and copped it."

Mr Feiler responded: "Although I do not justify the suicide attackers, I can definitely understand them. They have nothing to live for, so they look for something to die for. That is twisted logic, it is absolutely dreadful, but that is their reality, which we are also guilty of creating. Israelis have also committed crimes against Palestinians."


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.