Wednesday 21 January 2004

Israel Versus Free Speech

In vandalizing a Stockholm art exhibit, Israel's ambassador to Sweden showed the true face of his government

by Justin Raimondo

When Israel's ambassador to Sweden vandalized a work of art that he found offensive on exhibition at Sweden's Museum of National Antiquities, Zvi Mazel did the world a service: he opened our eyes to Israel's descent into barbarism. Just as Israeli tanks bulldoze entire blocks of Palestinian homes, so her ambassador seeks to bulldoze the rising tide of protest against Israeli government policies in the West.

The artwork, by Israeli artist Dror Feiler and his Swedish wife, Gunilla, featured a pool of red water illuminated by spotlights in which a small boat floats, its sail a photo of suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat.

The incident was captured on video, and if you want to see the full ugliness of the face that Israel now chooses to present to the world, check it out: Real Player dialup, Real Player broadband, Windows Media dialup, Windows Media broadband.

This video is fascinating in that it thoroughly debunks the impression given by Mazel and his supporters that this was an impetuous act, brought about by righteous rage over a hideous act of anti-Semitism. Instead of Mazel on an emotional rampage, it shows the cool calculated way in which the ambassador walked unhurriedly around the pool, calmly unplugging the spotlights and pushing one of them into the water, like an actor following a script.

We are then treated to the confrontation between Mazel and the museum director, who asks, plaintively, "but didn't you read the statement?" He is referring to the artists' statement accompanying the installation, which does not in any way condone violence. Indeed, it expresses sympathy for the victims of Ms. Jaradat's act, even while seeking to explain it. But in addressing Mazel as if he were open to reason, the director was wasting his breath. If this wasn't a planned provocation, then it certainly succeeded in looking like one.

It is clear even in the title of the Feilers's work, "Snow White and the Madness of Truth," that the artists, far from endorsing, advocating, or glorifying Jaradat's mad act, are quite clearly horrified by it. The smiling face of a beautiful woman floating on an ocean of blood is hardly an image likely to generate much sympathy for suicide bombers: to characterize this as propaganda on behalf of Islamic Jihad is visibly and jarringly wrong.

But the artwork itself no longer matters, because the Israelis have now made this the latest chapter in their ongoing propaganda narrative about "anti-Semitic" and "hate-filled" Europe – where speech deemed anti-Semitic is outlawed and the faintest weakest echo of Hitlerian ideology is relentlessly silenced. But, again, none of this matters. As a propagandistic exercise, Mazel's provocation was designed to challenge the very idea that "the madness of truth" needs to be explained. Because to examine it too closely is to focus on Israel's role in perpetuating the cycle of violence – and that cannot be permitted.

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