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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 January, 2004, 19:05 GMT
Should suicide bomber artwork be removed?
The Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, says he has no regrets over attacking a work of art in the National Gallery of Antiquities in Stockholm.

Mr Mazel vandalised the work, which features a portrait of a Palestinian suicide bomber floating in a pool of symbolic blood, during a diplomatic reception on Friday.

The ambassador says the work is a "call to genocide" but the Swedish Government called his actions "unacceptable".

Israeli-born artist, Dror Feiler, says his work is "absolutely not" a glorification of suicide bombers and criticised Mr Mazel for a "stupid act".

Is the artwork offensive? Should it be removed?
What do you think of the Israeli ambassador's actions?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinions we have received so far:

It seems to me that by his actions, the Israeli ambassador has brought more attention than the artist could ever have hoped for. No such thing as bad publicity!
Alison, Leeds, UK

Expression is the human endeavour to create something beyond a simple description. How ever tasteless it may be it is still expression. Mr Mazel's emotional reaction as disgraceful as it maybe only seems to validate the art more so. This is just another sad tale of painful existence of the people who are locked in what seems to be an endless war.
O, Istanbul, Turkey

Remove or not, agree or not, the artist has made her point.
Carson, Thomaston, CT, US

What the ambassador did was not only right but is expected of him and every peace seeking people. Freedom of expression must have its limit. Otherwise this world will be ungovernable.
Oscar Whiskey, Hamburg, Germany

Freedom of expression is a fundamental right one has in a free society, regardless of the bad taste of the subject matter
Dorritt Johnson, USA
Freedom of expression is a fundamental right one has in a free society, regardless of the bad taste of the subject matter. One does not censor one's free expression in a democratic society, or anyone can pick and choose what should be seen and not seen.
Dorritt Johnson, USA

There is nothing glorious or inspiring about a suicide bomber. They have absolutely no regard for their own life or the lives of others. Will their actions find them in paradise; I think not. The "artwork" is offensive and should not have been placed in the National Gallery in the first place. Is Sweden not the country who provided refuge to the Jewish people during WWII? What is their message today, one wonders.
Penny, USA

Mazel's reaction to this work is totally absurd. The piece is clearly open to interpretation. After all, the Palestinian suicide bomber isn't floating on a mound of daisies. Even if the piece is anti-Israel, that doesn't automatically make it anti-Semitic.
Shawn, Washington, DC, USA

Why doesn't anyone see that this woman is a serial murderer and that her actions could be taken out on anyone? Not fair for a country living in relative piece to take sides in the matter.
Ajy, Stockholm, Sweden

Vandalising art is akin to burning books, carried out by Nazis. This is an affront to freedom of expression, no matter "how tasteless".
Nick, St Andrews

The reaction by Mr Mazel proves correctly that the whole point of art is to create a reaction
Ginette, Toronto, Canada
The reaction by Mr Mazel proves correctly that the whole point of art is to create a reaction and therefore stimulate discussion among us. I am thankful to Mr Mazel for bringing attention to this work of art, so that I may look at it and decide for myself what it means. To me, it represents the hellish violence happening to both the Israelis and Palestinians, and how useless it all is.
Ginette, Toronto, Canada

Israel's ambassador has done a good job of diverting attention from the message of the art. For me, is makes me wonder why a young, beautiful and intelligent young woman would both sacrifice her own life and kill civilians. Is she evil? Misguided? For me, the likely conclusion is that she was driven to a desperate and godless act because of the murderous and relentless repression of her future by the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Anthony, Irvine, USA

Yes it's offensive. Yes it should be removed...put it with Tracey Emin´s bed and Damien Hurst´s chopped up animals; they are not art either!
Johno, Harrogate, UK

Keep the exhibit the way it is with the broken lamps and all. A fine piece of art work has just graduated to being magnificent.
Jose, Canada

Calling this artist and his art work anti-Semitic is laughable. Why must some people always shout "anti-Semitism" when something they don't like gets their attention? They should read The Boy that Cried Wolf, because at some point people will start to ignore them, and then... I need not go on, we all know how the story ends.
Florens Peterse, Richmond Hill, Canada

I applaud the action of Mr Zvi Mazel. He was absolutely correct. This is not art; it is the glorifying of suicide bombers and should be removed immediately. If not the Swedes should remove funding from that museum.
Hazel, Britain

I feel he should have used diplomatic means to criticise the artwork in question
Helen Koehnke, West End

It is unfortunate that the Israeli ambassador to Sweden feels he can act as a common thug and at the same time enjoy diplomatic impunity. Not a good example to attack anything in a public building. What would Mr Mazel have done if a Palestinian had entered the Holocaust Museum and vandalised the works there because the intruder did not like what he saw? I feel he should have used diplomatic means to criticise the artwork in question. It's time Israelis learn that their way is not always the right way.
Helen Koehnke, West End, USA

Mr Mazel should be applauded for his reaction to this cowardly work of art at the Stockholm National Gallery. It seems that he was the only sane person that night at the National Gallery. Just imagine what would happen if the artist would have chosen the portrait of an Jewish extremist instead of a Palestinian, all those who are now condemning the actions of Mr Mazel for his lack of tolerance would cry murder over the distasteful choice of the artist.
Theo, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

To disapprove of the former Iraqi government does not make me anti-Iraqi just as my disapproval of the current American leadership does not make me anti-American
Patrick Mitchell, Alberta

Above and beyond this debate is a point all too ignored. It is not anti-Semitic to disagree with the position of the Israeli government. We should be cognizant of this distinction because the association of race and a country's political leadership are becoming synonymous - which leads to more racism. To disapprove of the former Iraqi government does not make me anti-Iraqi just as my disapproval of the current American leadership does not make me anti-American.
Patrick Mitchell, Alberta, Canada

I believe most people shudder with fear at the thought of, and therefore abhor suicidal bombers. The artwork certainly looks offensive to anybody who abhors the suicidal bombers, but attacking the picture, coupled with the attention it has received, may only serve to reinforce would be suicidal bombers. I do not think violence can ever work against people who are prepared to inflict violence on their own bodies.
Tadios Chisango, Zimbabwe

The Israeli ambassador made a blunder. There is no doubt that this artwork is a verdict against the suicide bomber.
Pehr Björnbom, Stockholm, Sweden

Poor taste confronts poor taste.
Nicholas H Margarites, Peterborough, ON, Canada

Absolutely disgusting! The first time I saw the poster of this exhibit plastered in the Stockholm underground/Tunnelbana I felt a sense of repulsion. All said and done, this is definitely not art in a good sense. To me personally there is no difference between this exhibit and a poster of Osama bin Laden calling for Jihad.
Vishnoo Rath, Stockholm, Sweden

I fail to see how this is a "call to genocide". It seems to me that the powers that be in Israel are using emotive words to crush any perceived criticism. However, this work of art merely makes the spectator ask questions. In and of itself it represents little but questions. The biggest question being "whose blood does this represent". Of course, it represents everyone's blood in this conflict. Some may say that suicide bombing is not a correct subject for art. Yet art mimics reality whenever it can.
Matthew Porth, London, UK

I think that the ambassador's actions are wildly inappropriate
Michael Moszczynski, Toronto, Canada
I think that the ambassador's actions are wildly inappropriate. Most of all, it implies a complete and utter refusal to think about the material presented, or even to look at it more than superficially. While I am no fan of the artwork, to violently attack an installation because it supposedly promotes and glorifies violence is a contradiction so obvious it surprises me people still support the ambassador's actions. To criticise the work in an intellectual way is perfectly acceptable, and much argument could be had over this one, but to attack it in such an uncivilised manner is abhorrent.
Michael Moszczynski, Toronto, Canada

I applaud the ambassador's actions; all too often, it has become politically correct in Europe (and in the UK) to disguise anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel. The virulent hatred of Jews sweeping across Europe is extremely well symbolized by this exhibit. Can anyone imagine the reaction around the world if the picture of the boat was that of Osama Bin Laden? .
Ron Hoddernsen, Dedham, MA USA

On this particular occasion, I unusually find myself in agreement with both Artist and Critic. The critic finds way too much toleration of Anti-Semitism in the EU, in the fields of Art, Sport, education and particularly the media. To act against it, when so many do nothing is entirely understandable. However, I do not see the image of a smiling Palestinian sailing in a sea of blood to be an image the Palestinian's should be proud of, I personally would see it as a condemnation rather than celebration.
Matthew, Brighton

Murder is always wrong and must never be sanctioned
Mi Grandin, Göteborg, Sweden
Why is the blood soaked poem that goes with the installation not mentioned? And the fact that the boat is called "Snow White"! The artist is certainly Israeli but he is neither pro-Israel or against violence. The ambassador's acting is completely understandable. Had he gone through regular diplomatic channels this would never have come to the world's attention. We live in a society where anti-Semitism is thriving. You have to live here to understand it. Sweden's behaviour is unacceptable. Murder is always wrong and must never be sanctioned.
Mi Grandin, Göteborg, Sweden

While I disagree with Ambassador Mazel's actions, I have an intense amount of fellow-feeling for the emotion which underlies them. At a time when suicide bombing attacks and tit-for-tat violence are so common in the tragic Israel-Palestine conflict, and when extremists on both sides continue an unceasing escalation toward total war, representations of atrocity such as this are bound to cause an uproar. I do wish Mazel had vented his displeasure in a diplomatic way, but his emotional reaction - at a time when over three thousand Israelis and Palestinians have died - is emblematic of feelings on both sides. I do not doubt that a mirror-image installation, such as an abstraction implicitly supporting Israeli army actions in the occupied territories, would have received a similarly emotional reception on the Palestinian and Arab side...
Adam, UK/US

This is an question of vandalism pure and simple. It doesn't matter if the target was art or even whether it condones suicide attacks (which I personally believe it doesn't). If the ambassador of Israel behaves like a thug I don't see any reason why the Swedes shouldn't simply throw him out and ask for a replacement.
Jack Levell, Cambridge, UK

While this was an undiplomatic response, bear in mind that it was to an undiplomatic action. I wish that no media ever published the face, words or any image of terrorists, in whom I include 'suicide' bombers.
Karen, Alberta, Canada

I have always admired Israeli resolve, and this is an excellent example of their intolerance for anti-Semitism
GC Trotter, Sacramento, USA
Bravo, Ambassador Mazel! Everyone always expects sensible, righteous people to simply roll over when faced with hatred and idiocy. I have always admired Israeli resolve, and this is an excellent example of their intolerance for anti-Semitism. Whatever the artist says he intended, why did he display that murderer's photograph? He ought, rather, to have floated the photos of her victims on his red liquid sea.
GC Trotter, Sacramento, USA

I see the actions of the Israeli ambassador as a fine piece of performance art and think his freedom of artistic expression should be defended.
Marc Dworkin, Bridgeport, CT USA

The job of an Ambassador is to get across the opinions of his country in the state to which he is assigned. In this respect he is just doing his job and apparently doing it rather well. If he had simply sent in a written complaint then no-one would have taken any notice. I wonder if the Swedes would have defended this piece of so called 'art' if the suicide bombers had chosen Sweden as a target.
Neil Colledge, Rawnsley, UK

One thing is certain, this piece would never have got such global attention had the ambassador been more 'diplomatic' about his response. I should imagine this is another case of 'all publicity is good publicity' as far as Feiler is concerned.
Antoine, Madrid

The artist is known, both in Sweden and Israel, for his belief in non-violence
Tove Persson, Uppsala, Sweden
I don't understand how anyone can arrive at the conclusion that presenting someone's photograph as sailing on a sea of blood should be seen as a glorification and not a condemnation of that person. The artist is known, both in Sweden and Israel, for his belief in non-violence. It is sad and dangerous when every attempt at an analysis of the suicide bombers is seen as an endorsement. The artwork, as I've seen it on television, actually encourages us as viewers to think about all the violence in our society today. For me it is a very beautiful exploration of the pain this violence causes. A work of art should touch the emotions of those who view it, but a mature individual doesn't let his or her emotions dictate their actions. Ambassador Mozel and the Israeli government are clearly incapable of considering this issue from more than one angle and their idea that they have the right to decide what kind of art is to be shown at Swedish museums is more than preposterous - it is dangerous.
Tove Persson, Uppsala, Sweden

While it may not have been the artist's intention to glorify suicide bombers, judging by some of the reactions we've seen, it would seem that that was exactly the effect that it had. Mr. Mazel may be an ambassador, but he is also human, and I'd like to think we all have limits to what we would tolerate in the way of assaults on plain decency in the name of "art". It was to me, the perfect way to express his anguish and outrage. Nobody was hurt, but the message was sent, loud and clear.
James S., Philadelphia, USA

The work of art involved is clearly a reflection on the phenomenon of suicide bombers. Everybody who would take a moment to read the accompanying material and to think over the installation would arrive at the conclusion that it is a world away from cheering on suicide bombers.
Kees Schepers, Antwerp, Belgium

I think that the ambassador has reacted emotionally without thinking
Håkan Liljeberg, Lund, Sweden
I think that the ambassador has reacted emotionally without thinking. The artist himself is Jewish and certainly pro-Israeli. The art has a strong expression with a sea of blood which is a common motive both in the Bible and in Islamic rhetoric.
Håkan Liljeberg, Lund, Sweden

In response to Håkan Liljeberg comment that "The artist himself is Jewish and certainly pro-Israeli." I feel compelled to state two clear facts: First and foremost, the artist is admittedly pro-Palestinian. He has renounced his Israeli citizenship. Second, the implication that all Jews are "pro-Israeli" - Are all Muslims pro-Palestinian? Certainly not.
Michael Allen, Englewood, New Jersey

This ridiculously facile piece of "art" should have been ignored. Feiler has been given far too much attention for yet another example of why modern art is mostly pretentious tat.
Dan M, UK

The conduct of the Israeli ambassador was extremely childish and immature. If he had a complaint against the exhibit, he should have written formally to the authorities. The Israeli government should have reprimanded him for his unprofessional behaviour.
Nausherwan Lahori, Lahore, Pakistan

The Israeli ambassador may have done something irregular but his reasons and emotions are very understandable
Doro
This so-called artwork is too close to the bone - too close to the time of the tragedy; and in a way exploitative of it. If taste had anything to say in the matter such work would never be exhibited. The Israeli ambassador may have done something irregular but his reasons and emotions are very understandable. The whole Israel/Palestine story is a tragedy for both sides.
Doro

Own goal by Israel. Even the people here in Sweden who normally defend Israel's actions through thick and thin are commenting that it was behaviour unworthy of an ambassador. Sharon's response hasn't helped, the local critics of Israel are having a field day.
John Hawkins, Lund, Sweden.

The ambassador was not wrong. He was also expressing his disgust. Controversial issues like suicide bombings do not deserve such a place in a museum. Look at the victims of suicide bombings and tell me if they would be happy to go to such a museum which displays such works of art.
Timothy Nundwe, Rumphi, Malawi

The artwork display may be interpreted as controversial, but Mr Mazel is a diplomatic envoy to Sweden. He should have taken the word "diplomatic" to heart and issued a "diplomatic worded response" instead of a very undiplomatic reaction.
Stephen Gibson, Kalmar, Sweden

I don't think they should repair the exhibit - the ambassador has unwittingly added tremendous value to the piece! It is now a true-to-life representation of the maddening resort to violence of both sides, rather than to constructive dialogue and negotiation.
Claire, Brussels

We have seen too many paintings such as the one in question being presented as works of art. Frankly speaking, they are not only distasteful but intellectually dishonest.
Ebi Ogbaide, Florence, Italy

Being an art lover and artist myself, I felt disgusted by the bad taste of Mr Feiler and the Swedish government. For once I support an action taken by Mr Sharon in his backing of Mr Mazel's stand.
Marco Siebel, Dieulefit, France

The behaviour of the Israeli ambassador is totally unjustified. Any work of art is a subjective thing. If one does not like it, it does not mean it is wrong. At the same time, diplomacy has other means of expression than destruction. It seems Israel does not want anybody to see the picture except through its own eyes.
Assad Sawey, Cairo, Egypt




SEE ALSO:
Bomber art attack furore spreads
19 Jan 04  |  Europe
Israeli envoy wrecks art exhibit
23 Jan 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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