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Danny Ayalon to Norway: Why can’t you keep your artists under control?
The Israeli government reaction to the homegrown cultural boycott of the West Bank settlement of Ariel was forceful and blunt: Threaten funding, establish a “Zionist Art Prize” and de-legitimize whoever takes part as fifth-columnists. This should not have been a surprise, coming from a government that has overseen an unprecedented assault on domestic freedom of expression and association. The campaign has been so successful locally that the Foreign Ministry is now trying it on the international stage.
Here’s how the Israeli Embassy in Santiago dealt with reporting about a Chilean tourist beaten half to death in Jerusalem because he resembled a Palestinian:
“The incident has been blown up here out of all proportion also by members of parliament of Palestinian extraction who took advantage of it to accuse Israel of racism after it was reported that he might have been attacked because of an Arab appearence,” [Ambassador David] Dadon told Haaretz yesterday [November 10 2010]. “Following our swift and tough response, the matter was immediately removed from the media’s agenda.”
Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon expects foreign governments to adopt the Israeli standard in its entirety, at least on all things Palestinian.
A severe diplomatic crisis has erupted between Israel and the Norwegian authorities. Israel has accused the Norwegian government of financing and promoting blatant anti-Israel incitement.
The article then lists a series of of Norwegian of cultural projects funded by the Norwegian government that the Foreign Ministry doesn’t like. This has been going on for a while. What brought on the “severe diplomatic crisis”? Hutzpah, apparently. Not only did the Norwegians refuse the Israeli dictate, they had the gall to cite democratic principles:
The Norwegians informed Israel in response that this was a matter of freedom of speech and that the government did not meddle in artistic content.
One can hardly blame the Deputy Minister. In Israel, suppression of information and opinions at odds with government policy has become normative. Ayalon probably thought the Norwegians were sandbagging him.
Apparently, the trigger for the Israeli diplomatic assault was this sinister piece of propaganda:
According to reports that have reached the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the city of Trondheim, Norway, is paying for a trip to New York by a group of high school pupils who are taking part in a play called Gaza Monologues. The play deals with “the suffering of children in Palestine as a result of the Israeli occupation.” The play, which was written by a Palestinian man from Gaza, will be performed in the UN building.
The play’s website lists EED, Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst -- Church Development Service, a government-funded association of the Protestant Churches in Germany. The government of Germany is also directly involved in funding the play through DED, the German development service. If Israel’s ire in the case of Norway was sparked by a municipality sponsoring a few kids trip to New York, what can the Germans expect when Ayalon’s staffers discover that the federal government is behind the play?
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