Saturday, August 26, 2006

Israeli Embassy at Museum?

For reasons of practical politics, few people would feel entirely comfortable if the embassy of Israel became their next-door neighbour. In early 2008, the country's Stockholm embassy is moving to premises in the Diplomats' Quarter on the eastern outskirts of the city. But until that location is prepared for its new use, the Israeli legation needs temporary housing. And, reports Dagens Nyheter, one suggestion that is being seriously considered is a place where I've spent much of my adult life: the Museum of National Antiquities! The former office space of the museum's library and archives is available to let since the opening of the "Information Square" in the Eastern Stable.

This is a bizarre idea for at least two reasons. The obvious one is that the country's greatest collection of archaeological finds and Medieval church art is not well equipped to stand a terrorist bombing.

But there's another more amusing reason. During Kristian Berg's tenure as director, the museum put on a lot of exhibitions of contemporary art that many visitors felt had an at best tenuous relationship to the distant past. In January 2004, one of these works of art, an installation in the museum's atrium that commented on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was vandalised by the Israeli ambassador, a very senior diplomat named Zvi Mazel who has since retired. Few believed him when he said he did this at the spur of the moment: instead it was seen as a piece of political communication. The incident took place only weeks before a conference on genocide in Stockholm, hosted by the prime minister Göran Persson. This was a high-profile project seen as part of attempts by Persson to increase his international stature. Many thus believe that the prime minister's ire was an important reason for Kristian Berg's sacking in 2005.

So, is the Israeli embassy returning to its old haunts? If terrorists don't blow the place sky high, then I suppose we still have to be prepared for acts of vandalism by the embassy staff themselves.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That particular installation reeked of bad taste and sensationalism, the idea that suicide bombers are innocent victims is frankly offensive.

26 August, 2006 17:07  
Blogger Martin said...

That wasn't the artists' intent at all. As somebody observed at the time, if the face on the boat's sail had been that of the Israeli prime minister, sailing in a sea of blood, then the thing would also have been interpreted as an anti-Israeli statement.

As I understood it, the intended message was one of general lamentation of the deaths on both sides of the conflict.

26 August, 2006 17:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If that is the case, why let the suicide bomber carry the color white? In terms of art different iterpretations may carry equal value so I'm not saying your wrong. When I googled the artist at the time he gave the impression of being very critical of the Israeli politics and that he was hoping the ambassador would throw a fit.

26 August, 2006 18:17  
Blogger Per Stromsjo said...

>the country's greatest collection
>of archaeological finds and
>Medieval church art is not well
>equipped to stand a terrorist

Like any country Sweden is supposed to protect foreign embassies from terrorist bombings. The question is whether these particular premises are practical from a security perspective.

26 August, 2006 18:36  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

Wow, what a story and I had not heard of that art situation and a politician freaking out about it...oh god, why do we even bother with politicians, they are absolutely useless employees.

26 August, 2006 18:47  
Blogger Martin said...

Vitnir: of course the piece was provocative. But it wasn't intended to glorify the suicide bomber who left her kids motherless and killed innocent people.

Per: Sweden is probably one of the countries where an embassy is least likely to be bombed. And still it's happened here before.

Candy: To a great extent, democracy means we get the politicians we deserve...

26 August, 2006 18:54  
Anonymous mugabe said...

Thus spake Zvi Mazel:

-This is not art.

Entartete Kunst.

27 August, 2006 00:15  
Blogger Martin said...

Indeed. Israeli militaristic conservatives aren't any nicer than other brands.

27 August, 2006 08:42  
Anonymous David said...

"...then I suppose we still have to be prepared for acts of vandalism by the embassy staff themselves."

Yep, you just can´t trust those people.

27 August, 2006 10:06  
Anonymous bernarda said...

Why do defenders of Israeli terrorism always rant on about suicide bombers?

How is a suicide bomber morally worse than a tank commander or fighter pilot that bombs houses and cars killing innocent civilians from the safety of their armored distance?

The suicide bomber is willing to put his life where his mouth is. The pilot bomber calmly goes back home to kiss his wife and kids confident in his moral superiority. Never a thought for the wives and kids of others that he blew up.

29 August, 2006 10:32  
Blogger Martin said...

The main difference is that war is a legally defined state with its own rules, and that a tank commander who murders non-combatants may be tried in a court of law afterwards. Terrorists do not operate under the rules of war: legally speaking they're simply murderers. And a suicide bomber is usually not around to be tried afterwards.

29 August, 2006 11:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I can rant about suicide bombers a lot without cheering when the Israeli army kills civilians and UN personel alike. When a democracy is confronted with a large population that doesnt want peace and who has no responsible leaders the results can't be very pretty.

29 August, 2006 14:05  
Blogger Martin said...

Not sure what you mean. It might be argued that if dislocated Palestinians had been granted the right to vote in Israeli elections, then there wouldn't have been an intifada.

The problem with Israel is that it is not a secularised democracy involving everyone living on its territory. Instead, it selects its citizens worldwide on the principle of Blut und Boden.

29 August, 2006 14:21  
Anonymous bernarda said...

How many Israeli soldiers have been convicted of unlawful killings and what have been their sentences?

Those who do not want peace are the Israelis. This is their latest land grab--sorry, peace plan.

29 August, 2006 18:23  

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