Livni Voices Support for Israel Envoy in Sweden After Shoe Thrown at Him

Stockholm police arrest two for throwing shoe, books at Ambassador Benny Dagan.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday threw her support behind Israel's ambassador to Sweden, a day after hecklers threw a shoe and books at him while he was delivering a speech in Stockholm.

Livni phoned envoy Benny Dagan, urging him "not to be deterred" by the attacks against him.

Stockholm Police on Wednesday arrested the two assailants who threw a shoe and two books at Dagan, while he was delivering an address at the city's university.

A spokesperson for the Israeli foreign ministry said the ambassador was speaking in the afternoon about the upcoming elections in Israel, when the objects were hurled at him from the audience of 50 people.

Joakim Caryll, press officer of the Stockholm Police, said that one heckler threw the shoe, and the other hurled "one or two books." The foreign ministry spokesperson, Lior Hayat, said the objects did not hit the ambassador.

When contacted by Haaretz, Dagan said he could not comment on the case since it is the subject of a police investigation.

The two alleged perpetrators are suspected of battery or attempt of battery, police said, and were questioned by the police at Södermalm station. The lecture continued after the attack, but was once again disturbed as Dagan was getting ready to conclude.

After the incident, Dagan said it was connected to "an atmosphere among extremists, which draws from baseless accusations against Israel, including in the media." He added: "Such incidents will not deter me from leaving the embassy to see our target audiences. Our presence is important for Israel's many friends in Sweden. Keeping us locked inside the embassy is exactly what the hecklers want."

Israel's former ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, told Haaretz that although he attended "tense discussions" in Sweden, at no point did he feel physically threatened. "This incident is a new development," he said.

Mazel recalled one address which he delivered in the height of the intifada in 2003 on "Palestine Day," before a predominantly-Arab crowd of 150 listeners. "We argued and they accused Israel of horrible things but at no point did I feel physically threatened," he said.

Mazel added that "extreme hostility to Israel" from the media and from government brought him to interfere in 2004 with a Stockholm museum art display which he believed celebrated Palestinian suicide bombers. The incident caused a diplomatic row between Israel and Sweden.

The display showed a boat floating in a pool of red liquid with a smiling portrait of Palestinian suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat, who murdered 21 people and injured 51 others at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa.

Mazel unplugged the display's lights, an action later backed and justified by former prime minister Ariel Sharon. Mazel retired several weeks later.