Today’s HR communique addressed the Israeli ambassador to Sweden’s protest of an art exhibit glorifying the Haifa suicide bomber. Click below for a translation of a debate held yesterday on Israel’s Reshet Bet, between Ambassador Mazel and the artist, Dror Feiler. (Hat tip: Tom Gross)
To receive HonestReporting communiques, signup on the upper-right of this page.
INTERVIEW WITH ZVI MAZEL, ISRAEL’S AMBASSADOR IN SWEDEN AND DROR FEILER, THE ARTIST
IBA RESHET BET, JAN. 18, 2004
ANCHOR: Israel’s Ambassador Zvi Mazel. Good morning to you.
ZVI MAZEL: Good morning to you.
ANCHOR: So the morning after, how are the Swedish responding to what you did?
ZVI MAZEL: I still do not have all the Swedish media, but as much as I saw on the internet, the headlines in the newspapers are certainly big.
ANCHOR: A harsh criticism of you?
ZVI MAZEL: Not exactly. There is still talk of the fact that there was an attempt to harm the freedom of art, but there is certainly a discussion in the Swedish media on the problem of Israel, with the Palestinian suicide bombers. There are already people for and against. There is a debate on the issue. A debate which did not not exist before.
ANCHOR: Do you regret what you did?
ZVI MAZEL: No. Regret? Certainly not. Certainly not. This is perhaps not traditional classic diplomacy, as people know, but neither is Israel’s condition exactly classic. And therefore, it seems that there is room for other options in such situations.
ANCHOR: Was it spontaneous? Describe to me that moment in which you decided to do what you did?
ZVI MAZEL: The moment, in fact was very short. This was after I saw what I saw, and together with my wife, we both trembled a bit and then I turned to the manager of the event and asked him, and explained the issue to him, and requested that he clear out this exhibit. He said – no. And then I answered him calmly – if so, Sir, I will do here something, and I approached and disconnected the electricity.
At that very moment, it angered me a lot, and I asked — what will I do? And then I turned to the manager, and then I decided that I would do it. At that moment.
ANCHOR: And indeed, as described, you couldn’t breath when you saw this picture? Was it a physical reaction per se?
ZVI MAZEL: There was a reaction of trembling. Certainly a reaction of a certain trembling. A person is standing, fever. The appropriate word in Hebrew is fever. My wife looked at me. I looked at her and around us, people from the embassy were standing, and others. We both trembled with fever and froze, and then the brain began to work, and we were stopped.
ANCHOR: And then you told the managers of the museum that this is the second holocaust starting now?
ZVI MAZEL: Perhaps not in those exact words. I just explained what happens in Israel when a male or female suicide bomber arrives, and I said – this is not the place, this is not the time, and this is certainly not connected to the International Conference which will take place — how to prevent a genocide. For there is an incitement here to a genocide.
Please take it out, and we will end the issue and terminate it. And then he said – no. And at that moment I said, if that the case, I am going to do something. That’s it.
ANCHOR: The criticism actually in Sweden and also in Israel, is that in Israel, you have much support – is that there is a sort of a convention, that you do not harm art, you do not harm the freedom of art, the freedom of _expression, even if you do not agree with the things.
ZVI MAZEL: Yes, and on this, by the way, I was interviewed a lot yesterday, in the Swedish press, and this is one of the issues handled today. What is art? If so, I claim, and I think that a lot agree with me that art is determined by the viewers, watchers. We determine if this is a work of art.
An artist never establishes that this is a piece of art, if he did something, or if it has been placed in museum. The fact that something is placed in the museum does not turn it into a work of art.
A work of art, in German and in Swedish, end in the word ‘kuntz’, meaning something beyond the acceptable. All in all, there was red water here, which represented blood, and a small ship that sailed, and on it the picture of the female terrorist which turned into a white Snow White.
There was clear political support of terror here.
ANCHOR: But in the eyes of Dror Feiler, good morning to you, by the way Dror Feiler, you with us on the line, true?
DROR FEILER: I am with you on the line.
ANCHOR: Yes. In his eyes —
DROR FEILER: — that the Ambassador is a liar!
ANCHOR: No. no. no.
DROR FEILER: He is a liar since he himself says completely different things to the Swedish media. He says that he decided against the display before he came to the museum. With an ad he saw in the newspaper, which he did not try to check, which is not an ad, and not a picture from our display. It is someone else’s display, by the name of Michael Pon Hauswood, who received consent of the person in charge of the entire exhibition. He did not check the things. He hides the fact –
ANCHOR: What didn’t he check? He saw a female terrorist —
DROR FEILER: — hold on a moment, let me talk. Hold on, hold on a moment —
ANCHOR: — you allow a terrorist, no no just a moment. Just a moment, I am also allowed to intervene. You display a female terrorist as Snow White with the smile of an angel.
DROR FEILER: — no, I am not —
ANCHOR: — which sails in a white ship, and you call it art!
DROR FEILER: — Excuse me! I am not displaying a female terrorist, named Snow White. I am displaying white hatred which floats on rivers of blood, the same way that the terrorist floated on rivers of blood. In the display there is a plaque that says that the terrorist killed 19 innocent people in Haifa. The names of the terrorist’s victims are also in the display. For those who come to the display, there is music by Johan Sebastian Bach that is called ‘My heart flies and drowns in blood’.
ANCHOR: But to take the blood of 21 dead and make an artistic display out of it?
DROR FEILER: I want to show the cycle of blood that needs to be broken. Only by breaking the cycle of blood can the two nations live without both of them being victims.
ANCHOR: Can you understand what the ambassador did?
DROR FEILER: I can understand that the ambassador misunderstood the message, even though I think that a diplomat should act better. He is acting like the owner of a stand in some market in the Third World, but I can understand that people don’t like and don’t understand this. Not everyone can have a big enough ability to understand.
But to start to break things and to try and ruin others things – if this is the kind of democracy that he wants to show from Israel, if he wants to be part of the tradition of burning flesh and of banning artwork, then by all means. If this is what he wants to show Israel is like, then it is a shame. I, personally, am not against Israel. I am for the State of Israel.
ANCHOR: Dror Feiler, I hear that you attend a lot of anti-Israel events and give lectures on Israel’s character.
DROR FEILER: This is not true. I attend a lot of events that criticize the policy of the Israeli government. I have nothing against the State of Israel. The Israeli government’s current policy is the greatest enemy of the Israeli people. It will result in the idea of a Jewish State not being able to exist. This is because of Israel’s policy. I am not inciting to murder and I am not inciting suicide bombers. I am against this 100 percent.
This can ruin people and bring them to a situation that they are so desperate and crazy that they blow themselves up, blow up Israelis and cause irreversible harm to their nation.
ANCHOR: Dror Feiler, I would also like to tell you that the artists here in Israel – Yigal Tumarkin, you know him – he is one of the great artists – say that an artist who presents this type of work should be put in a hospital.
DROR FEILER: I say that when diplomats define what art is, and when artists make medical diagnoses – we are in trouble.
ANCHOR: Mr. Ambassador, are you with us?
Would you like to respond to these things that Dror Feiler said?
ZVI MAZEL: I would like to respond to two things. First of all Dror Feiler is the main anti-Israel activist in Sweden. In the past few years before I got here, he was known as someone who stands outside the embassy and passes out flyers against Israel. He appears in lectures here and he writes articles and it is all against Israel.
Every second word of his about Israel are the words ‘apartheid’ and ‘racism’. He is Israel’s number one enemy and everything that he does is Anti-Israel. His work comes from an Anti-Israeli soul and heart. This is one thing.
Secondly, this is not a work of art. The viewers determine what art is. I decide what art is. This is not art. This is perverse art at the most and in my opinion, it is not art at all. It is a political cry to glorify the concept of the suicide bomber.
ANCHOR: All right. Maybe one last sentence, Dror Feiler, before we say good-bye.
DROR FEILER: I am saying it again. Everyone who wants to read the things that I say can easily do so. I am saying this again. Since I came to Sweden, I always said that the Israeli people have a right to self-definition and they have a right to a Jewish state next to a Palestinian state. I have nothing against the State of Israel. I have a lot of things against the State of Israel’s policy exactly the same way that I have a lot of things against the Swedish government’s policy or the way I might have things against the policies of the German government or the American government or the Russian government. It is legitimate to criticize the State of Israel.
ANCHOR: Thank you.
DROR FEILER: It is a fact that the ambassadors are trying to incite in such a way that will increase Anti-Semitism. They cause simple people in Europe and in the world to say – how can people act in this way?
ANCHOR: Thank you Dror Feiler. Mr. Ambassador, maybe one more sentence.
Do you see what is happening…?
ZVI MAZEL: Maybe Dror Feiler gave me an answer now.
ANCHOR: Do you see in what is happening, a peak in the Anti-Semitism that is washing over Sweden?
ZVI MAZEL: At this stage it is not final. There is an Anti-Semitic movement here which comes mainly from Muslim sources. A few weeks ago, a very harsh report was published on this by the Swedish committee against Anti-Semitism, where it said that Sweden is one of the most severe Anti-Semitic places and 131 complaints were filed to the police by Jews in the past year. Teachers stopped teaching about the Holocaust because Palestinian-Arab Muslim students would stand up and react violently to teaching about the Holocaust. The situation is definitely serious and not good.
ANCHOR: Israeli ambassador in Sweden thanks.