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Saturday, January 17, 2004

Israeli ambassador kicked out of Swedish museum after vandalizing art

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - Israel's ambassador to Sweden was kicked out of Stockholm's Museum of National Antiquities after he destroyed an artwork featuring a picture of a Palestinian suicide bomber, the artists said.

The incident, widely reported in the Swedish media, occurred at the opening on Friday [January 16, 2004] of the "Making Differences" exhibit, part of an upcoming international conference on genocide hosted by the Swedish government and in which Israel is scheduled to participate.

Sweden's foreign ministry said Saturday it would summon ambassador Zvi Mazel to a meeting to explain himself.

"We will contact him on Monday to arrange a meeting. We want to give him a chance to explain himself. We feel that it is unacceptable for him to destroy art in this way," ministry spokeswoman Anna Larsson told AFP.

The art installation, called Snow White and located in the museum's courtyard, featured a basin filled with red water, designed to look like blood.

A sailboat with the name Snow White floated on the water, and placed like a sail was a photo of a smiling Hanadi Jaradat, the female lawyer who blew herself up in the Haifa suicide bombing attack in October which killed 21 Israelis.

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

According to museum director Kristian Berg, the ambassador went berserk in front of the 400 specially-invited guests when he saw the piece.

"He pulled out the plugs and threw one of the spotlights into the fountain which caused the entire installation to short-circuit and made it totally life-threatening," he told TT.

One of the two artists who created the work, Israeli-born Dror Feiler, told AFP the ambassador was "totally unreasonable and undiplomatic" and would not listen to his explanations.

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

The other artist, Feiler's Swedish wife Gunilla Skoeld Feiler, told daily Expressen that the work was "not 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.

"When I saw her picture in the paper, I thought she looked like Snow White, that's why I gave that name to the piece," she added.

Dror Feiler was to perform a piece of music but refused to do so as long as the ambassador remained at the scene.

"Ultimately we had to escort the ambassador out of the museum," museum director Berg said, adding that he did not consider the artwork to be a provocation.

"It is rather an invitation to think about why such things happen in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said.

The museum's artistic director, Thomas Nordanstad, said he had given the artists the go-ahead to create the piece, and had "hoped it would lead to an artistic dialogue".

The artwork was repaired and was on Saturday on view to the public, despite Israel's insistence that it be disassembled.

It was not immediately known whether the incident would affect Israel's participation at the "Stockholm International Forum -- Preventing Genocide" conference, which is to take place January 26-28 [2004].

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