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''On Sweden, Israel, art, and assassination''

Printed on Thursday, January 22, 2004 @ 00:01:01 CST  

By Rannie Amiri Guest Columnist

( -- Controversial art exhibits are commonplace these days, and rarely create the uproar they once did. What is uncommon, however, is outright vandalism by patrons while the exhibit is still on display, let alone vandalism by an official diplomat. Such was the case this past week when Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, took it upon himself to destroy an exposition entitled Snow White and the Madness of Truth at Stockholm's Museum of National Antiquities.

This exhibit, created by Israeli-born expatriate Dror Feiler, depicts a small boat carrying the picture of Palestinian female suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat floating in a pool of red water representing blood. Ambassador Mazel is caught on videotape tearing down a spotlight from the museum and throwing it at the display, which he decried as "anti-Semitic" -- despite being created by a Jew to call attention to how "weak, lonely people can be capable of horrible things." Mazel received the full support and praise of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for his actions. As expected, this caused a minor diplomatic rift to develop between Israel and Sweden, and Israel has threatened to boycott the upcoming Stockholm International Forum Preventing Genocide conference if the exhibit is not completely removed.

What is most ironic about this whole affair, and makes the protestations to the Swedish government by the Israeli diplomat seem quite out of place, is the direct involvement of a former Israeli Prime Minister in the assassination of a Swedish diplomat.

Fifty-four year-old Count Folke Bernadotte, nephew of King Gustavus V of Sweden, was appointed in 1948 as mediator to Palestine by the United Nations General Assembly in the capacity as its official representative. He was immediately assigned the difficult task of negotiating a truce between the Arab states and the newly created state of Israel, after the outbreak of hostilities in the region stemming from the partition of Palestine.

Bernadotte was successful in implementing a fleeting 30-day truce between the parties, but he ultimately came to the conclusion that the U.N. partition plan as fashioned was impractical and untenable. He, instead, advocated boundaries be redrawn similar to those prior to the partition, and encouraged the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Negev desert and Jerusalem, which he thought should be under Jordanian rule. He also criticized the aggressive behavior of the Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem.

A peaceful solution to the conflict, however, was not on the agenda of the Zionist founders of Israel, who sought to expand the frontiers of their state as far as possible and to establish complete control of not only Jerusalem, but all of Palestine. One such Zionist organization, initially created to fight the British mandate of Palestine, was called the LEHI (Lohamei Herut Israel - Fighters for the Freedom of Israel), also known as the Stern Gang. Meeting all of today's criteria in qualifying as a terrorist organization, the LEHI/Stern Gang ensured Bernadotte failed in his quest to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, for he was brutally assassinated by them on September 17, 1948.

This assassination was orchestrated by none other than one Yitzhak Shamir, who would later become the Israeli Prime Minister in 1983. Although widely implicated for his direct involvement, he was never tried for his crime and a thorough investigation by the Israeli government at the behest of Sweden was never seriously pursued. The first of many rebuffs of the United Nations by Israel in its failure to apprehend Shamir thus occurred shortly after its creation, and would be a harbinger of the general disregard Israel would hold for the international body and its officials thereafter.

It is interesting to note that Bernadotte was head of the Swedish Red Cross during World War II, where his work through the International Red Cross was reported to have saved 20,000 lives from Nazi concentration camps, apparently an irrelevant fact to Shamir when the task at hand was to guarantee his diplomatic efforts in Palestine came to an end.

It is with this history in mind that one must put in context Israel's threat of boycotting the genocide conference, and their charge of Sweden being too pro-Arab and anti-Semitic (a linkage of terms Israel is always keen to make).

For their part, the Swedes should require Ambassador Mazel to pay a fine for his childish act of vandalism, and thereafter expel him from the country. Not expel him for his crime, but in protest until Israel extradites Yitzhak Shamir to either the Swedish government or the Hague, for the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte.

This, of course, will never occur. Instead, the photo of Hanadi Jaradat floating in a pool of blood should be replaced with that of Yitzhak Shamir. This would be an appropriate depiction of the blood he shed in the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, and the blood of all those Arab and Israeli lives which were subsequently lost as a result of the peace that was killed with him. A fitting tribute to one who saved thousands of lives and attempted to save thousands more, indeed.

[Rannie Amiri is an observer, commentator, and exponent of issues dealing with the Arab and Islamic worlds.]

Rannie Amiri encourages your comments: is an international news and opinion publication.


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