An Israeli-born artist at the centre of a row between Israel and Sweden over an art exhibit has hit back at the Israeli government, accusing it of trying to silence critics of its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
In an article published in the Swedish daily Expressen on Friday, artist Dror Feiler defended his controversial installation at Stockholm's Museum of National Antiquities, claiming that people calling it anti-Semitic were attempting to silence criticism of Israeli policy in the occupied territories.
"When critics are threatened with being branded anti-Semites many are frightened into silence," he wrote. The installation, which was vandalised in a fit of rage last Friday by Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, features a tiny sailboat floating on a pool of red water.
Attached to the boat is a smiling photograph of the bomber, Hanadi Jaradat, who blew herself up at a restaurant in northern Israel in October killing 21 Israelis and herself.
Mazel, with the support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
claimed that the installation, dubbed "Snow White and the Madness of Truth", was anti-Semitic and glorified "suicide bombers".
Earlier this week, Mazel also chastised the Swedish media and
the country's Social Democratic government, claiming that they too were largely anti-Israeli.
"The Social Democracy in this country is pro-Arab," he said in
an interview with AFP. "There are many voices which are pro-Islamic and anti-Israeli. We have got a problem."
As for the media, Mazel said, "everything Israel does is bad.
When you read the press in Sweden, Israel is always the bad guy. The press in Sweden is completely anti-Israeli."
In his article Friday, Feiler, who is also a well-known musician, lashed back at Mazel, insisting that it was "unbelievable and unacceptable that an official representative for a state that calls itself a democracy can act like a football hooligan."
The Israeli ambassador was caught
on video destroying the artwork
Feiler, who created the piece with his Swedish wife Gunilla Skoeld Feiler, has repeatedly claimed that the installation was in no way meant to glorify suicide bombers, and certainly was not anti-Semitic.
Such charges, he wrote on Friday, amounted to a desecration of his relatives who died in the Holocaust.
"When (critics) accuse me of anti-Semitism, they desecrate the memory of all of my relatives who were exterminated by real anti-Semites during the Second World War, and of my comrades who died serving in the Israeli army," he wrote.
Feiler, who has lived in Sweden since 1973, pointed out that he was not only born Israeli, and served three years in the country's army parachute division, but that both of his parents were Holocaust survivors.
"When (critics) accuse me of anti-Semitism, they desecrate the memory of all of my relatives who were exterminated by real anti-Semites during the Second World War, and of my comrades who died serving in the Israeli army."
The controversial display is part of an exhibition shown in preparation of the "Stockholm International Forum - Preventing Genocide" conference, which is to open on Monday with representatives from around 50 countries.
It will be the first major inter-governmental conference on the issue since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948.
Israel threatened to boycott the conference if Feiler's installation was not removed, but has since agreed to participate, albeit with a lower level representative than President Moshe Katzav, who was initially expected to attend.