Israeli Envoy Refuses to Apologize for Art Flap

Yossi Melman Haaretz Service
Yossi Melman Haaretz Service

Israel and Sweden stressed on Monday that they will maintain normal diplomatic relations following an incident in which the Israeli ambassador to Stockholm, Zvi Mazel, wrecked an art exhibit in a museum in Stockholm, that depicted a Palestinian suicide bomber as Snow White

Mazel was not reprimanded by the Swedish Foreign Ministry on Monday, but was asked to provide details of the last Friday's incident. At the end of the meeting Mazel said he did not regret his actions and refused to apologize for them, because he "acted on emotions, and could not have acted differently."

Both the Israeli and Swedish governments appeared anxious to put the incident behind them. The Swedish government considered issuing a conciliatory note, according to sources in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and from hints offered by Swedish Ambassador Robert Rydberg.

The Swedish foreign ministry said Sunday it still expects Mazel to participate in a symposium on genocide to be held Monday at the Stockholm museum where he vandalized the artwork.

Officials in Jerusalem said they would be be satisfied with an appropriately conciliatory statement by Sweden, and that this would enable the Israeli delegation to attend the conference as planned.

The scandal broke out after Mazel unplugged the spotlights around an exhibit by former Israeli Dror Feiler, now a Swedish citizen, and his Swedish wife Gunilla. Mazel was also caught on videotape shoving one of the spotlights into a pool filled with red-colored liquid on which a boat floated with a picture of Hanadi Jaradat, who killed 22 Israelis when she blew herself up in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa in October last year.

The Feilers, as well as Swedish officials, say the installation was meant to condemn terrorism.

But Mazel, backed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the artwork glorified suicide bombers, and complained about the fact that it was part of an exhibition accompanying a prestigious international conference on genocide. He said this violated a prior agreement with the Israeli government that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not be part of the conference.

Israeli embassy in Stockholm may be forced to leave premises On Monday morning, Mazel confirmed to Israel Radio that the owner of the building which currently houses the Stockholm embassy has asked the Israeli government to relocate it, citing concern for the security of other tenants.

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."

Despite the blunt statements of support from the prime minister and foreign minister, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem on 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.

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