Mon, Jan 19, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Artwork opens diplomatic rift between Sweden, Israel

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , JERUSALEM

An incident in which Israel's ambassador to Sweden physically attacked a work of art on exhibit in Stockholm that featured a picture of a Palestinian suicide bomber has created a diplomatic flap between the countries.

The ambassador, Zvi Mazel, was among several hundred guests invited to the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm on Friday for an exhibit linked to a coming international conference on genocide sponsored by Sweden. Israel is one of the scheduled participants.

The piece that enraged the ambassador, Snow White and the Madness of Truth, featured a rectangular basin filled with red fluid. A boat floated on top carrying a photo of a smiling Hanadi Jaradat, a female suicide bomber who killed 22 people in an attack on a restaurant in Haifa on Oct. 4. It was created by Dror Feiler, an Israeli artist living in Sweden, and his Swedish wife, Gunilla Skold Feiler.

The ambassador ripped out electrical wires attached to the exhibit and threw a spotlight into the basin, according to news agency reports, citing Sweden's SR radio.

"There was the terrorist, wearing perfect makeup and sailing placidly along the rivers of blood of my brothers and the families that were murdered," he said on the online version of the newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

The Swedish news agency TT quoted him as saying, "For me it was intolerable and an insult to the families and the victims. As Israel's ambassador, I could not remain indifferent to such an obscene misrepresentation of reality."

Mazel has been summoned to meet Swedish government officials today, news reports said.

"We want to give him a chance to explain himself," Anna Larsson, a spokeswoman for Sweden's Foreign Ministry, was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. "We feel that it is unacceptable for him to destroy art in this way."

In Israel, the Foreign Ministry said Saturday that the Swedish government had pledged not to link the genocide conference, scheduled for Jan. 26 to Jan. 28, to the Middle East conflict.

"The exhibit that glorified the actions of a suicide bomber who murdered 22 people is a violation of that understanding, and if it is not removed, Israel will reconsider its participation in the conference," the ministry said in a statement.

Feiler said the Israeli ambassador spoke to him directly.

"He said he was ashamed that I was a Jew," Feiler told Agence France-Presse. "We see this as an offensive assault on our right to express our thoughts and feelings."

Reuters identified Feiler as a member of Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, a group opposed to the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Gunilla Skold Feiler told Expressen, a Swedish newspaper, that the work was not intended as "a glorification of the suicide bomber."

"I wanted to show how incomprehensible it is that a mother of two -- who is a lawyer no less -- can do such a thing," she said, apparently confusing the Haifa bombing with an attack on Wednesday by another Palestinian, Reem al-Reyashi, who killed herself and four Israelis near the Gaza border, leaving behind a 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter.

The artwork's title came because, Feiler said, she saw a picture of Jaradat and thought she looked like Snow White.

Israeli officials have called the Swedish ambassador in Israel to protest the exhibit, Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said.

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