Daniel Seaman

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Daniel "Danny" Seaman (born 1961) is an Israeli media professional and former civil servant, mainly active in the fields of foreign service and public diplomacy ("hasbara").

Seaman is currently the Bureau Chief of "Voice of Israel" (http://www.voiceofisrael.com), an Israeli English-language news and talk internet radio station. "Voice of Israel" should not be mistaken for a branch of the official Israeli public domestic and international radio service, named "Kol Yisrael" (Hebrew for "Voice of Israel") and operated as a division of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. The private station headed by Seaman and confusingly named "Voice of Israel" has a well-defined political agenda, as opposed to the official Israel Radio International station, known in English also as "Voice of Israel", which is presenting news and comments in a much more balanced, mainstream and representative way.

A veteran of the Israeli civil service, he retired in January 2014 after 31 years of duty. His last position was Deputy Director General for Information at the Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs. In August 2013, Seaman was suspended from his government position as Director of Interactive Media because of offensive comments he made about Japanese commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Palestinians commemorating the Nakba. He formerly served as the Director of the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), part of the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem responsible for the foreign media contingent in Israel.

Biography[edit]

Seaman was born to an American Jewish family on a US Air Force base in Germany. His family emigrated from the United States to Israel in 1971 and settled in the port city of Ashkelon.

He enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces serving in an elite paratroop unit in 1979 and is a veteran of the 1982 Lebanon War.

Seaman later joined the Israeli foreign service. Between 1983 and 1989, he served at the Israeli consulate in New York. While posted in New York, he completed a BA in Political Science, with honors, at the City University of New York's Hunter College.

Seaman served as an adviser and spokesperson to the Governments of six Prime Ministers: Yitzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak.

Seaman was directly responsible for coordinating the press coverage of several heads of states visits to Israel including US President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister (PM) Tony Blair, Canadian PM Jean Chrétien, Australian PM John Howard, Jordan's King Hussein and Chinese Chairman Jiang Zemin. He was a member of the Israeli press delegation to the Aqaba Peace Talks (see Road map for peace, Red Sea Summit in Aqaba, Jordan, June 4, 2003). Seaman received the Israel Outstanding Civil Service Award in 2000 for coordinating the international press coverage of Pope John Paul II's visit to the Holy Land in March 2000.

Seaman was appointed as provisional head of the Government Press Office (GPO) in December 2000 and worked with thousands of foreign journalists who covered news events in Israel and the Palestinian territories until 2010. He had worked for the GPO for several years and was the first civil servant promoted to Directorship of the GPO after a period of 30 years. During his tenure as GPO Director he implemented several measures which improved working conditions for foreign journalists in Israel. This notwithstanding, there were numerous complaints about his treatment of journalists unsympathetic to Israeli policies (see "Controversies").

He took a leave of absence from his post in November 2008 and announced his candidacy in the Likud party primaries for the 18th Knesset, but withdrew his candidacy.[1]

Seaman lectures on Israeli and Middle-Eastern affairs and appeared on dozens of international news media outlets.

Controversies[edit]

Conflicts with journalists

As as the Director of the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), Seaman came under criticism by a range of Israeli and international media outlets and journalists for not issuing them with Israeli press cards, which are very useful in Israel, and absolutely crucial for reaching many areas in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Additionally, he was accused of becoming aggressive, abusive and using foul language and even physical force[2] against journalists he considered hostile and unfair towards Israel.[3][4] Such journalists included Israeli mainstream media employees such as Atta Awisat, veteran staff photographer at Yediot Achronot, the largest newspaper in Israel, allegedly due to clearance issues with the security agencies.[5][6]

Seaman did not deny using this type of policy towards blatantly anti-Israeli media outlets:

"I can make journalists’ lives more difficult. There are certain guidelines that allow me to do that. Such as with the case of [Swedish newspaper] Aftonbladet, and their despicable anti-Semitic [...] report on the IDF [purportedly] abducting Palestinians and using their body organs. We didn’t prevent Aftonbladet from working here. We just took our time. To this day, the correspondents from Aftonbladet do not get a press card immediately. We can take up to 90 days and we can take longer..."[7]

Another journalist who became the target of Seaman's contempt was Jörg Bremer (de), a 15-year veteran of the press corps in Jerusalem, who worked as the correspondent of the right-liberal German Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ) newspaper. In his case, he was denied not the renewal of his press card, but the extension of his residence visa. For calling this measure a political way of keeping unwanted journalist at bay and for asking for the German government's support, Bremer was described by Seaman in a newspaper interview as "an idiot", "a piece of shit", and "a miserable liar".[8][4]

On 11 March 2007, Haaretz newspaper reported that the Israeli Civil Service Commission is investigating foreign journalists' accusations that Government Press Office Director Daniel Seaman has treated them improperly and enforced the procedures for receiving a press pass in an inequitable manner.[9]

In August 2013, Seaman came again under scrutiny from the leading Israeli daily Haaretz. The newspaper accused him of having "gained a reputation for his confrontations with foreign correspondents and for the complaints they lodged against him" and called him "an abusive racist". The article included selected quotes from Seaman’s personal Facebook page. Seaman was admonished by the government, which distanced itself from his views and then suspended him from his position as Director of Interactive Media because of offensive, racist comments.[10]

Comments against Japanese nuclear victim commemorations

- "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. Instead, they should be commemorating the estimated 50 million Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Malay, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Indonesian, Burmese and other victims of Japanese imperial aggression and genocide." This Facebook statement lead to a rebuke from the Japanese government and an official Israeli apology.[11]

Anti-Palestinian online postings

- The Palestinians' 65-second siren commemorating the Nakba is "not nearly enough time to stop and pause to think about how stupid they are."[10]

- "Is there a diplomatic way of saying ‘Go f*** yourself’?" - Facebook posting, 26 May 2013, in response to conditions for the renewal of peace talks set by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.[10]

- Similarly, he wondered whether Muslims "stop eating each other" during Ramadan.[10]

Media and book coverage[edit]

  • Seaman is mentioned extensively in Stephanie Gutmann's book - "The Other War - Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy" (October 2005). Chapter 10 - "His Own Private Jihad" is specifically about his efforts to curb Palestinian influence on the media coverage.[12]
  • "Danny Seaman’s farewell voyage". Upon conclusion of his term as GPO Director he gave an extensive interview to the editor of the Jerusalem Post. November 5, 2011.[7]
  • "Is an abusive racist the best Israeli PR can produce?" - Haaretz, 13 August, 2013. [4]
  • "Bullying Israeli Government Flack Sparks Diplomatic Row—Among Other Concerns" - About Seaman denying press cards to journalists and using foul language towards them. The Daily Beast February 21, 2013.[4]
  • "Netanyahu’s social media director suspended" - The Jerusalem Post on Seaman's suspension, blogging faux-pas and future plans. August 16, 2013. [5].

Articles by Daniel Seaman[edit]

  • "Palestinian industry of lies: Media manipulation has become strategic Arab weapon against Israel" - Ynetnews, May 29, 2008 [6].
  • "Opposing the Digital Pogrom" - Responding to the foreign media's claim they are offended by their negative portrayal in a Ministry for Public Diplomacy’s campaign. The Jerusalem Post, March 4, 2010 [7]

References[edit]