Undiplomania

08.21.13

Bullying Israeli Government Flack Sparks Diplomatic Row—Among Other Concerns

Let's try to imagine the mood, this week, of Israel's National Security Advisor, Ya’akov Amidror, as he issued a formal apology to Japan for comments posted on Facebook by Daniel Seaman, Benjamin Netanyahu's hand-picked choice to be the head of interactive media in the National Information Directorate of the Prime Minister’s Office.

On August 8, the day before the annual memorial service for victims of the bombings at Hiroshima, Seaman, then deputy director-general for information in the now-defunct Ministry of Public Diplomacy, posted a message on Facebook: “I am sick of the Japanese, ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Peace’ groups the world over holding their annual self-righteous commemorations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the consequence of Japanese aggression. You reap what you sow."

Seaman is the sort of individual we've all run into at some point: he's the guy who leans back with his legs spread slightly too wide apart; the type who hisses a retard joke when a colleague with a special needs child walks into the room. Jerusalem's serious, professional spokespeople detest him. They end up having to clean up his messes. Just ask Amidror, who is not even a spokesman.

For ten years, Danny Seaman served as "temporary" head of Israel's Government Press Office. His tenure was always questionable. When after innumerable complaints a tender for the job was finally issued, Seaman failed to qualify. Recent scrutiny—and the Japanese fallout—led to a suspension from his current job with the defunct ministry. Seaman's promotion to the Prime Minister's office, however, seems likely to go through.

The latest of his many humiliations began last week, when a Haaretz exposé, entitled "Is an abusive racist the best Israeli PR can produce?" detailed several of Seaman's Facebook pearls—including the Japan remarks.

On July 9, shortly after the start of Ramadan, he posted, “Does the commencement of the fast of the Ramadan mean that Muslims will stop eating each other during the daytime?”

A screen capture by the Israeli daily Haaretz of the incoming Israeli social media czar Daniel Seaman's racist Facebook posting.
A screen capture by the Israeli daily Haaretz of the incoming Israeli social media czar Daniel Seaman's racist Facebook posting. ()

Seaman, a public servant, had no qualms about insulting the President of the State of Israel on the occasion of his 90th birthday party. On June 18, he wrote: “Question for Peres, Clinton and Blair—how many ‘victims of peace’ never celebrated their 10th birthday?”

On May 26, Seaman wrote about the Palestinian chief negotiator: Saeb “Erekat said his side would only agree to renew peace talks if Israel ceased all settlement activity and openly declared that a future state of Palestine would be created on the 1967 lines… Is there a diplomatic way of saying ‘Go F*^& yourself’?”

Like many verbally inept men, Seaman delights in the word "fuck."

In 2006, when Seaman decided to deny a work visa to Jörg Bremer, the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung's respected correspondent and a 15-year veteran of the Jerusalem press corps, the German government dared to demand clarifications. Seaman told Haaretz, "I feel like fucking him over just because of this. What kind of gall is this, for the German government to interfere in Israel's internal affairs?" Haaretz blanched at printing the word "fuck," and went with "screw."

Seaman persevered, calling Bremer "an idiot." The profanities continued: "He's a piece of shit. When there were discussions [over a solution], I said I wasn't willing for the GPO to be the one that decides, so no one could say that there was any scheming. He's just a miserable liar. He's a piece of shit."

Seaman's reacted to a bizarre Church of Scotland document claiming that Jews do not have a divine right to the land of Israel with another profane Facebook post. "Why do they think we give a flying F*** what you have to say?" he wrote. (The least of Seaman's problems is grammatical inadequacy.)

Seaman got a kick out of his job, taking special pleasure in the arbitrary deployment of his powers. He'd issue or withhold press credentials on a whim. He'd smirk and leer. Once, after I'd held a GPO card continuously for about a decade, Seaman informed me there was a problem with my security clearance—a lie—and, flinging a temporary, three-month press card across his desk, spat out that he was doing me a favor.

That's nothing. In a video posted to YouTube, you can see Israel's top spokesman manhandle and shove a female correspondent on the Temple Mount. Seaman wasn't even reprimanded for the assault.

Video screenshot

I nicknamed him "the ordinary seaman," a play on his banal incompetence. Of course, like any bungling seaman, he endangers the very charges in his hands—and I don't mean journalists. Seaman's mind-boggling dereliction of responsibility harms the state whose interests he was, and is, tasked with protecting.

In a statement of extraordinary precision and restraint, the German journalist Bremer responded to Seaman's vulgar eruption by saying, "Seaman wants journalists to lick his feet. He gets enjoyment from the situation, and uses his power instead of helping. It is harmful to Israel."

For a decade, Seaman was the face Israel presented to the foreign press corps. Think about that. And as of September he will be its social media czar. (So far, calls for his dismissal, such as that of Israel's former ambassador to Japan, have been dismissed.)

On the Israeli left, the tendency is to blame Netanyahu's views for Israel's public relations challenges. Molad, a new liberal think tank, said in a report that "Israel's public diplomacy apparatus, contrary to its poor reputation, is well-coordinated and highly sophisticated. Israel's diplomatic isolation, therefore, cannot be attributed to a mythic 'hasbara problem'; it can only be a product of Israeli policy itself."

Meet Danny Seaman. Sophisticated? Shameless is more like it.