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Last Updated: Monday, 19 January, 2004, 14:54 GMT
Art attack under press spotlight
Ambassador Zvi Mazel (archive image)
Mr Mazel does not regret his action

Israeli and Swedish papers react strongly to Friday's attack on an artwork in Stockholm by the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, who said the installation, depicting a Palestinian suicide bomber, was "obscene" and a "monstrosity".

In Israel, the liberal Haaretz criticises the ambassador for having "exceeded the bounds of diplomatic ceremony".

"Politically motivated art," the editorial stresses, "is an inseparable part of freedom of expression in democratic countries."

'Violence vs tolerance'

A commentary in the same paper says the ambassador's "violence" should cause Israel to "take a close look at its concepts of tolerance".

Israel has "learned to live not only in fear, but also in the demonisation of the other side", portraying itself as the "sole victim", it maintains.

The centrist Yediot Aharonot points out in a commentary that, while Ambassador Zvi Mazel may have made himself into a "hero of the Israeli street", his job, however, was "to win over the Swedes, not the Israelis".

"In Sweden, as is the case elsewhere in Europe, Israel is perceived as a violent, inconsiderate thug," the paper says.

Mr Mazel has finally broken the conspiracy of silence over the wave of anti-Semitism
Hatzofe

"Instead of dispelling this image, the ambassador only reinforced it."

Another commentary in the same paper criticises instead the artist's choice of subject.

Whoever chooses a Palestinian suicide bomber as an exhibit, it says, "commits a sin above all against freedom of expression".

"Freedom of expression was not intended to cause violence and murder, but to protest at what is bad and harmful," the writer says.

'Conspiracy of silence'

The rightist Hatzofe gives strong backing to the ambassador's actions, saying they are "worthy of much appreciation and imitation by other ambassadors in Europe".

So Mr Mazel chose to scream... the only option Europe now gives Israel
Jerusalem Post

It praises Mr Mazel for having "finally broken the conspiracy of silence over the wave of anti-Semitism and the campaign of lies and slander by the Israeli and European left concerning the Palestinian issue."

The English-language Jerusalem Post says that while Mr Mazel may be accused of having behaved "undiplomatically" and "played into the artist's hands", he was, however, left with little choice.

"A formal protest would merely have been 'duly registered', filtered and lost in the back channels of European diplomacy," the paper says.

"So Mr Mazel chose to scream... the only option Europe now gives Israel."

'Arrogance'

In Sweden, the tabloid Expressen, protests that "Israel's arrogance" is "hard to bear".

Such behaviour reflects not only a strange view of the limits of freedom of expression, but also growing Israeli arrogance in relations with the rest of the world
Expressen

The ambassador's behaviour, it says, "reflects not only a strange view of the limits of freedom of expression, but also growing Israeli arrogance in relations with the rest of the world".

"Today's Israel does not feel it has to comply with the rules of play which apply to others in the international arena," it states.

A commentary in Stockholm's centrist Dagens Nyheter predicts that the ambassador's "startling behaviour" will not be without its repercussions.

It says the aim of the exhibition - the theme of which is genocide - was to "create an understanding of the mechanisms which lead to extended and devastating conflicts".

The writer warns that the ambassador's "unambiguous and negative" reaction to the exhibition "will lead to serious and unnecessary disruption in Swedish-Israeli relations".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Israeli envoy wrecks art exhibit
09 Feb 04  |  Europe
Three Israeli generations torn apart
06 Oct 03  |  Middle East
Mid-East cycle of vengeance
05 Oct 03  |  Middle East


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