Israel Versus Free Speech

When Israel’s ambassador to Sweden vandalized a work of art that he found offensive on exhibition at Sweden’s Museum of National Antiquities, Zvi Mazel did the world a service: he opened our eyes to Israel’s descent into barbarism. Just as Israeli tanks bulldoze entire blocks of Palestinian homes, so her ambassador seeks to bulldoze the rising tide of protest against Israeli government policies in the West.

The artwork, by Israeli artist Dror Feiler and his Swedish wife, Gunilla, featured a pool of red water illuminated by spotlights in which a small boat floats, its sail a photo of suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat.

The incident was captured on video, and if you want to see the full ugliness of the face that Israel now chooses to present to the world, check it out: Real Player dialup, Real Player broadband, Windows Media dialup, Windows Media broadband.

This video is fascinating in that it thoroughly debunks the impression given by Mazel and his supporters that this was an impetuous act, brought about by righteous rage over a hideous act of anti-Semitism. Instead of Mazel on an emotional rampage, it shows the cool calculated way in which the ambassador walked unhurriedly around the pool, calmly unplugging the spotlights and pushing one of them into the water, like an actor following a script.

We are then treated to the confrontation between Mazel and the museum director, who asks, plaintively, “but didn’t you read the statement?” He is referring to the artists’ statement accompanying the installation, which does not in any way condone violence. Indeed, it expresses sympathy for the victims of Ms. Jaradat’s act, even while seeking to explain it. But in addressing Mazel as if he were open to reason, the director was wasting his breath. If this wasn’t a planned provocation, then it certainly succeeded in looking like one.

It is clear even in the title of the Feilers’s work, “Snow White and the Madness of Truth,” that the artists, far from endorsing, advocating, or glorifying Jaradat’s mad act, are quite clearly horrified by it. The smiling face of a beautiful woman floating on an ocean of blood is hardly an image likely to generate much sympathy for suicide bombers: to characterize this as propaganda on behalf of Islamic Jihad is visibly and jarringly wrong.

But the artwork itself no longer matters, because the Israelis have now made this the latest chapter in their ongoing propaganda narrative about “anti-Semitic” and “hate-filled” Europe – where speech deemed anti-Semitic is outlawed and the faintest weakest echo of Hitlerian ideology is relentlessly silenced. But, again, none of this matters. As a propagandistic exercise, Mazel’s provocation was designed to challenge the very idea that “the madness of truth” needs to be explained. Because to examine it too closely is to focus on Israel’s role in perpetuating the cycle of violence – and that cannot be permitted.

Mazel’s real motive comes through in an interview with an Indian newspaper, Sify, which reports “part of his motivation was an anti-Israeli stance by the Swedish governing party and the country’s press.” Ah, now we’re getting the real story! “The Social Democracy in this country is pro-Arab,” Mazel whines. “There are many voices which are pro-Islamic and anti-Israeli. We’ve got a problem.”

The Swedish media also requires correction:

“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. … I’m accustomed to it, but when I saw a creation which is meant to be a glorification of terror, of suicide bombings, I could not hold myself back.”

What a crock.

Mazel’s outrageous act took everyone by surprise, but it fits the recent pattern of official Israeli behavior: the Wall of Separation, the endless incursions into Palestinian territory, open defiance of the U.S. government’s feeble attempts to rein them in. All this is part and parcel of a general offensive on the part of Israel’s amen corner worldwide, a series of provocative acts that dramatizes the unleashing of Israeli power in the wake of the American invasion of Iraq – and not only in the Middle East. Cynical manipulation and aggression on every front: these are the methods that characterize Israeli policy and the tactics of its partisans in every country.

Free speech is everywhere the enemy of Israel’s interests – and the Israelis know it. That’s why their supporters, both here and abroad, are ratcheting up the campaign to smear critics of Israel and impose limits on their right of free expression: “Freedom of art is not limitless,” brays Mazel. “There are always some limits.” The only thing there seems to be no limit on is the brazen aggression of Israel and its apologists.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

Speaking of cynical, manipulative propaganda, Andrew Sullivan, the Boadicea of the War Party, has Antiwar.com in his sights:

“FIFTH COLUMN WATCH: An Anti-War.com writer pleaded guilty to federal weapons and explosives charges. He was planning to fight for ‘Muslim causes.'”

This “Antiwar.com writer,” Ismail Royer, who wrote one very good piece for us a couple of years ago, was charged with violating the Neutrality Act – which forbids Americans from taking up arms against countries with which we are not at war – because he and his friends wanted to go fight in Kashmir for an obscure anti-Indian guerrilla group. At no time did he take up arms against America or Americans. As Tim Cavanaugh pointed out in Reason last year:

“There are various questions to be raised about the indictments. (Among them: Is paintball a fitting substitute for Basic Training?) The invocation of the archaic Neutrality Act – most of the charges involve actions taken before the LET was named as a terrorist group – has inspired tendentious but not inapt comparisons to the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the French Foreign Legion.

“For me, the real mystery is the involvement of Ismail (Randall Todd) Royer, whose prior writings give little indication that he was a jihadist. Among his articles: A plea to respect religion in the public square. A call for détente between Islam and the West. An article urging Muslims to avoid wallowing in victimization. All outspoken articles, but pretty far from militancy. Royer is a co-editor of ATrueWord.com, a site that aims ‘to actively engage the non-Muslim world in a constructive and honest dialogue of ideas.'”

(I might also add that violations of the Neutrality Act are selectively prosecuted: how come no one’s going after these guys? And what about these guys?)

Sullivan is a despicable fraud, and so is the continuing campaign to link this website with “terrorist” activity: the ex-Trotskyite-turned-Muslim “Trotskycon” Stephen Schwartz has also tried to link me personally with Royer:

“The role of Raimondo in this maneuver remains extremely interesting. Raimondo has inexhaustibly assailed me because, like Royer, I have taken an Islamic name, although unlike Royer, I have never used it for deceptive purposes. Royer employed Raimondo’s propaganda as a fig-leaf to cover his own attempt at intimidation…. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and others have similarly recycled Raimondo.”

I have never met Royer, nor ever even sent him so much as an email, yet in the fantasy world of Schwartz and Sullivan, I’m part of a grand conspiracy, a “fifth column” in secret communication with Osama bin Laden! They would like nothing better than to see Antiwar.com shut down, and me behind bars, like Ismail Royer.

It would be funny, if it wasn’t so sinister.

What’s scary – not to me, personally, but on account of the realization that we’ve gone this far down the road to serfdom – is that they have the legal “tools” to do it in the form of the “Patriot” Act and its successors. The new totalitarians know they can’t win the battle of ideas, but they’re hoping they won’t have to: Sullivan and the pathetic Schwartz actually think we can be intimidated, or else forced to shut up.

Fat chance! I’ll be damned in hell before I’ll be intimidated by this slimey limey.

The somewhat kooky Schwartz is so well-known as a nutball that even the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies – the subject, interestingly enough, of Royers’ piece for us – dropped him like a hot potato. As for Andy “Muscle Glutes” Sullivan – he gives new meaning to the phrase size queen: he only tells really big lies.

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].