Bråket rundt «årets kunstverk» i Stockholm kunne kanskje vært unngått hvis teksten i Bachs musikkstykke som hører til, var kjent, foreslår en journalist i the Guardian. Noe av det mer lesverdige om hendelsen – et forsøk på å forstå hva som skjedde, og hva kunstnerne har forsøkt å uttrykke:

The words of Cantata 199 ought to have alerted Mazel to the ambiguity, to say the least, of this work of art towards the woman he thinks it praises. The cantata begins:»My heart swims in blood/ because the brood of my sins/ in God’s holy eyes/ makes me into a monster,» skriver the Guardians skribent.

Utdrag fra reportasjen:

Zvi Mazel, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, tells his side of the story unapologetically. Along with other diplomats and VIPs, he was invited to the opening, at the National Historical Museum in Stockholm, of an exhibition at this and other venues called Making Differences, linked to a conference on how to prevent genocide.

«They said to me, you’ve got to see this,» Mazel tells me. «They led me into this inner courtyard. I could not believe my eyes – to see this sea of red blood and then the smiling face of this suicide bomber. I thought to myself, What does it mean, that there’s this sea of still-fresh blood and she’s smiling, and then I read the title and I saw that she’s Snow White, meaning her sins have been washed away – and this is the blood of my brothers, my people.»

The floating photograph is of Palestinian trainee lawyer Hanadi Jaradat, 29, who murdered 21 people at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, Israel, on October 4 last year. She also died herself. In the photo she is made up and gently smiling.

Mazel continues: «I spoke to the museum’s director and said it’s not acceptable; it’s inciting murder, it’s the encouragement of genocide. He wouldn’t close the exhibit so I said, ‘I’ll do it,’ and I pulled the plugs of the spots out of their sockets. Then I pushed one of the spots into the pool.»

Rage rose in him like a sea of blood. «An ambassador was overtaken by his feelings,» as he puts it. It was, he acknowledges, a release for his larger frustration with European attitudes to Israel. «We are being attacked every day for everything we do. You should read the report published in Sweden two months ago by the Swedish committee on anti-semitism. Last year there were 130 complaints by Jews to the police of harassment by Arabs; Jews are hiding the star of David under their shirts. Swedish schools started teaching about the Shoah recently, but when the teacher talks about the Shoah an Arab boy will stand up and say no, it’s a lie, we admire Hitler …»

Art vandalism is always a good story. Art vandalism by an ambassador against an artwork in the country with which he is employed to 2_kommentartain diplomatic relations is something rarer – a new story. And this one just keeps growing. Ariel Sharon, Israel’s prime minister, has publicly supported his ambassador, with some enthusiasm. «I think Zvi Mazel behaved in an appropriate way,» Sharon announced. «I called … and thanked him for his stand against the growing wave of anti-semitism.»

Dror Feiler:

Death threats have been made against the artists. Only one of them, Dror Feiler, is prepared to speak in public, but you get the feeling he can take care of himself. Before leaving Israel, he was a paratrooper for three years in his country’s army. «My family lives in Israel – why should I like suicide bombers? The fact that we try to explain terrorism doesn’t mean that we forgive. It feels ridiculous to have to say it, but we condemn suicidal bombings.»

Feiler is as stoked up as the ambassador, and perhaps not entirely displeased by the hubbub. He is a political man, a prominent pro-Palestinian rights campaigner in Sweden. He, like everyone else at the museum, believes that far from being a spontaneous outburst, the high-level «hooliganism» was planned. He thinks his reputation drew attention to the piece: «I am a harsh critic of Israeli government policies.»

Far from the ambassador carefully unplugging the lights, says Feiler, they short-circuited when he threw one in the water. «I said to him, ‘What did you do!’ He said, ‘This is incitement to the murder of Jews.’ I said, ‘We have freedom of speech. If you don’t like it you can go away.'»


….But even if we were to grant that he made a hot-headed mistake, the subsequent support of his act, with a formal government-level call for the work to be removed, has no basis: the piece is clearly not what he took it for. It may fail to make you think as much as the artists would like, but they have the last laugh on critics who sneer at the work’s «banality» without looking up the self-lacerating language of Cantata 199, so crucial to the experience in the cold garden.

I ask Mazel about the follow-up story that Israel’s embassy in Stockholm is moving because of fears over its security. No, no, that was a confusion, he says. The embassy may have to move because its landlord has other intentions for the site. It’s an unrelated story. So where did it come from? I check at FreeRepublic.com, «a Conservative news source», which quotes the Jerusalem Post, reporting on an interview Mazel gave Israel radio on Monday. He said the move is part of «the general atmosphere of hostility towards Israel all around Europe – Sweden included».

So the stories circulate, and in a small museum in Stockholm, a breeze blows, and a sailboat falls over.