Monday, January 19, 2004


Perhaps taking a cue from the fundie zealots running this country, many Israeli leaders are applauding the country's ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, for the vandalization of a Swedish artwork. The installation, "Snow White and the Madness of Truth," consists of a white boat floating in a pool of red liquid. The sail depicts a female suicide bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, who killed 21 Israelis in Haifa on October 4. The installation, Israeli critics claim, is another manifestation of the vaunted recrudescence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

The problem for Israel's apolgists is that the artist, Dror Feiler, is an expatriate Israeli and former paratrooper in the IDF. That hasn't stopped them from denouncing the exhibit, however, or using it as a pretext for broadbrushing all criticism of Israel's policies in the Territories as little more than race hate. Sample reactions here, here, and here.

Questions of artistic merit aside, it's pretty clear that the work's symbolic obscurity invites a multiplicity of interpretations, which, in a political context almost guarantees that the crudest ones will prevail. (A Palestinian reaction, though laudatory, is even more thick-headed.) To its credit, Ha'aretz actually provides a link to the accompanying text for the installation, which Feiler claims his critics ignore. Hopefully it's less flat-footed sounding in the original Swedish, but it does refute Israel's core complaint. (Ha'aretz also manages the admirable feat of courageously defending Feiler's right to free expression without issuing a ritual denunciation of the work itself.)

This story seems to be attracting little attention here, outside of warbloggers with their usual pet obsessions. And perhaps for good reason.
Moshe Zimmermann, a European history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that while Muslims in Europe have adopted some anti-Semitic slogans, "there is no big anti-Semitic wave among the Europeans."

Mr. Zimmermann said complaints about anti-Semitism were meant to cover for "the destructive actions of Israel" in the West Bank and Gaza. "If everyone's an anti-Semite, you don't need to debate them."
Still, one cannot help but imagine the hue and cry here if the roles had been reversed, with an Arab diplomat acting like Ambassdor Mazel.

In any event, if you're going to hurl accusations of anti-Semitism, it helps not to do so while employing a signature brownshirt tactic.

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