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Artist Inflames Mideast With Anti-Muslim Poster

Sat., July 5, 1997

She is an art school dropout who emigrated from Russia six years ago and found a home in an outlawed, anti-Arab group. Her greatest achievement to date - a drawing that depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a pig and incensed Muslims around the world.

Tatiana Susskin, a tall, slender 25-year-old with a ponytail, believed that the Middle East was on the brink of a holy war that would put an end to its current chaos.

Last weekend, she helped bring such a war a little closer.

The anti-Muslim posters Susskin pasted on Arab shop doors in Hebron triggered a week of rioting in the West Bank city, leaving dozens of Palestinians and several Israeli soldiers injured.

In the West Bank town of Nablus, thousands of Islamic militants clamored for revenge Friday and burned an effigy of an ultra-Orthodox Jew with side locks, a black hat and black coat.

In Bangladesh, some 1,000 Islamic activists took to the streets after Friday noon prayers, chanting, “We won’t tolerate any insult to our prophet.”

Leading Muslim clerics in the Arab world called on believers to defend Islam. Egypt’s leading sheik said insulting the prophet should be punishable by death.

Israeli leaders - from the president and the prime minister to a chief rabbi - apologized for Susskin’s actions, apparently to no avail.

Susskin herself was unchastened by the wrath she had unleashed.

In a court appearance Thursday in Jerusalem, she shook her handcuffed fist in defiance, shouting, “This is freedom of speech.”

The Yediot Ahronot daily, in tracing Susskin’s past, said Friday she appeared heavily influenced by her boyfriend, Yehuda Shomron, an activist in the outlawed anti-Arab Kach movement.

“Nobody listened to me like she did. … I know I’m right, I see the coming war - and only Tatiana listened to me until she was convinced,” Yediot quoted Shomron as saying.

Last month, the couple went to Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque compound, also site of the former Jewish Temple. Near offices of the Muslim clergy, Yediot said, Susskin pulled off a shirt to reveal a yellow Kach T-shirt, while Shomron sat on the ground and intoned a Jewish prayer.

Angry Muslims soon surrounded the couple, and Israeli police extricated them with difficulty.

For the Hebron mission, Susskin bought an Arab-English dictionary. She traced the Arabic letters for “Mohammed” and “Koran” onto a drawing of the prophet as a pig stamping on the Muslim holy book.

She and Shomron hitched a ride to the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron on June 27. From Kiryat Arba, she walked several miles to the center of Hebron and pasted the fliers onto 20 shop doors in the dimly lit Arab market.

From Kiryat Arba, she walked to the center of Hebron and pasted the fliers onto 20 shop doors.

Police pulled her away when she was mobbed by Palestinians.

A day later Susskin was arrested for pelting an Arab car with stones and the posters were found in her possession.


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