‘I am an Islamophobe,’ boasts ex-director of Israel’s press office

The man who once had sole authority to decide whether or not a journalist could work in Israel announces that he is an Islamophobe, thinks ‘Arabs lie.’

Illustrative photo of former GPO head Danny Seaman (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of former GPO head Danny Seaman (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Daniel Seaman, the former director of Israel’s Government Press Office, said Thursday during a panel discussion on i24 News, the Israel-based satellite news station, that he is an Islamophobe.

Sitting on a three-person panel with Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy and Ruthie Blum of the far-right think tank The Gatestone Institute, Seaman told “Spin Room” anchor and former +972 contributor Ami Kaufman, “The Arabs lie.”

In response to Kaufman’s incredulous, “All Arabs?” Seaman responds, without missing a beat: “It’s part of their culture.”

Levy points out that if anyone were to speak about Jews that way, they would be called an anti-Semite. “And those who speak about Arabs that way are called Islamophobic,” rejoins Ruthie Blum.

Shrugging his shoulders and pointing at himself, Seaman says, “I am an Islamophobe. Because we have lived here long enough to know what they are capable of doing. I am afraid of people who want to string me up because I’m Jewish and not Muslim.”

Watch Danny Seaman on i24 News:

Throughout his career, Seaman served in various branches of the Prime Minister’s Office for 30 years. That period included 2000-2010, when he was acting director of the Government Press Office, or GPO, which has the sole authority to provide accreditation for journalists working in Israel.

During the decade he presided over the GPO, Seaman distinguished himself as abrasive and was known for using foul language when speaking to or about journalists. He also implemented a policy stripping Palestinian journalists in the West Bank of their accreditation, revoking the precious GPO cards that had given them crucial access to press events. For the Palestinian journalists, this often meant they could no longer work in their chosen profession; it also meant losing the livelihood that supported entire families.

In more than one case, veteran foreign correspondents who had been reporting from Israel for years were forced to leave the country abruptly, for no apparent reason other than Danny Seaman deciding to revoke their credentials.

A partial list of incidents involving Seaman’s egregious behavior includes the following:

  • In 2006 he refused to renew the accreditation of Joerg Brenner, a veteran correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, who had been in Israel for 15 years. Brenner decided to pursue the matter at the diplomatic level, via the German consulate. Seaman told Haaretz that the reporter was a “piece of shit” that he would like to “fuck over”;
  • In 2001 Seaman ended the careers of dozens of West Bank Palestinian journalists by rescinding their GPO cards and implementing a policy that made them ineligible to apply;
  • In 2009 he told Ethan Bronner, then the New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem, that journalists should not be allowed into Gaza because they acted as a “fig leaf” for Hamas;
  • In 2003 he tried to make press accreditation contingent on the journalist applicant agreeing to a Shin Bet investigation;
  • Also in 2003, he compared the BBC to “the worst of Nazi propaganda.”

I wrote about these incidents in a 2010 article for +972 Magazine, in which I describe my own ugly and upsetting encounter with Seaman in 2006. Since that incident included Seaman cursing at me and threatening me with a Shin Bet investigation, I lodged an official complaint with Israel’s Civil Service Comission. Several months later, I received a summons from the Shin Bet. During the interrogation, the officers who questioned me opened an envelope of “evidence” that bore the logo of the GPO, of which Seaman was still the director.

In 2010 a government tender was finally issued for Seaman’s position, which he had “temporarily” filled for a decade. He failed to win the tender. At the time I celebrated, believing that all the official complaints filed against him had finally ground their way through the civil service hierarchy and resulted in his being judged unfit to serve. But in fact he was kicked upstairs to a job that was more or less a well-paid sinecure. Today he edits the English site of a “conservative” (read: virulently anti-Arab) digital publication called Mida (Hebrew for “information”). He also appears regularly on i24 panels as an expert, although it is not clear where his expertise lies.

But now, at least, he can never deny that he is an unabashed Islamophobe. All we have to say in response is, “Really? Let’s go to video.”