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Sharon backs envoy's art attack

Artists Gunilla Skold Feiler, left, and Dror Feiler stand behind their restored art installation on Saturday.
Artists Gunilla Skold Feiler, left, and Dror Feiler stand behind their restored art installation on Saturday.

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A political row is brewing between Israel and Sweden over artwork that features a Palestinian suicide bomber. CNN's John Vause reports (January 19)
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Ariel Sharon
Acts of terror

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has praised his country's ambassador to Sweden for damaging an art exhibit depicting a Palestinian suicide bomber.

Zvi Mazel disconnected the cables of a mounted spotlight at Stockholm's Museum of National Antiquities on Friday causing it to crash into the work, the artist Dror Feiler told CNN Sunday.

Mazel told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he did not cut or rip the electrical wires but unplugged electrical projectors that provided lighting to the display. He told Haaretz it was an act of protest.

The exhibit consists of a boat floating in a rectangular basin filled with red water, carrying a portrait of Palestinian suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat and "Snovit" (Snow White in Swedish) written on the side.

Jaradat attacked a restaurant in the Israeli city of Haifa in October, blowing herself up and killing 21 others.

Sharon defended Mazel in remarks at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

"I called the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, yesterday and thanked him for his stand against the growing wave of anti-Semitism," the prime minister said.

"I told him the government stands behind him on this issue. We have been witness to mounting anti-Semitism world-wide and in Europe particularly, and the phenomenon is getting worse."

The Israeli government had earlier said the piece glorified suicide bombings and should be dismantled. The director of the museum, Kristian Berg, told CNN Sunday he would not comply with the demand.

The artwork, "Snow White and the Madness of Truth," went on show Friday at the opening of a museum exhibit staged in conjunction with an upcoming anti-genocide conference.

Feiler, an Israeli who lives in Sweden and created the piece with his wife, Gunilla Skold Feiler, told an Israeli newspaper that the artwork was not intended to glorify the suicide bomber but to "call attention to how weak people left alone can be capable of horrible things."

Anna Larsson, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, said Mazel would be contacted next week and asked to come and "explain himself."

"Then we will tell him our view that his actions are unacceptable," Larsson said, saying Sweden believes it is not acceptable to destroy works of art.

Mazel, speaking on Israeli television's Channel 2, said the artwork was "complete legitimization of genocide, the murder of innocent people, innocent civilians, under the guise of culture."

"When you stand before that, you ask yourself what exactly are people thinking, do they understand at all what is happening, do they have feelings, where is this all going?"

But Feiler said on Israeli TV that "if [Mazel] doesn't like it, and if this makes him very upset, it is possible to understand. If he wishes to argue, if he wants to object, but to behave like a hooligan? ...

"The papers here will write, if the ambassadors act like this, how do the normal people behave, the soldiers at the front line?"

Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said they understood Mazel's reaction to the artwork.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli TV: "I can absolutely understand him. There are definitely instances where nondiplomatic behavior can send a message in a more correct manner."

CNN's Yoav Appel in Jerusalem and freelance journalist Dana Rosenblatt in Atlanta, Georgia, contributed to this report.

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