Despite having been suspended over a series of inappropriate Facebook posts, the designated chief of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new social media advocacy department has not been fired from his current job and might still end up being promoted.
Daniel Seaman, who formally still serves as the deputy director-general of the defunct Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, was tapped last month to become senior director for interactive media within the Prime Minister’s Office. Following international media reports about offensive Facebook posts — one of which caused a minor diplomatic incident with an allied country — he was told to desist from making any further public statements or posts on social media platforms. However, he was not fired and might still get to serve in the newly created position.
“His words are unacceptable and do not express the position of the government of Israel. He was instructed to immediately cease making such statements,” the National Information Directorate said in a statement regarding Seaman’s offensive posts, which have targeted Christians groups, Palestinians and Japanese, among others.
Over the weekend, Seaman, who had been told weeks ago to stop posting inappropriate statements, deleted the Facebook profile on which he had posted the offensive posts.
As of Sunday, Seaman’s professional future was unclear, according to sources familiar with the case, since an internal investigation into his behavior is ongoing and a decision is forthcoming. As a tenured civil servant with seniority, it is difficult to fire Seaman from government service, but it is possible to rescind his recent appointment, they said. In his new job, Seaman was tasked with creating a network of advocacy units in Israeli universities, operated by students who would receive scholarships for their efforts totaling nearly NIS 3 million ($845,000).
Seaman, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, was the acting head of the Government Press Office for 10 years before he became deputy-director general at the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry in 2011. The ministry was dismantled and incorporated in the PMO after the new government was established. His appointment to the newly created position of senior director for interactive media at the PMO was first reported by a Haaretz reporter, Barak Ravid, who on his blog attacked Seaman, saying he was unfitting to head a public diplomacy initiative due to his offensive Facebook posts.
On his Facebook page, Seaman had suggested that Palestinians who commemorate the Nakba, an Arabic word referring to the “catastrophe” that is Israel’s victory in the 1948 war, may want to reflect on how “stupid” they are. At the beginning of Ramadan last month, he asked whether the month-long Muslim fast meant “that Muslims will stop eating each other during the daytime?”
A post in May read: “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 adding that this should not be viewed as a precondition to talks but rather as an Israeli duty. Is there a diplomatic way of saying “Go F*^& yourself”?”
Seaman also took aim at the Church of Scotland, which he lambasted for a report that rejected Jewish rights to the Holy Land: “The Church of Scotland? The Calvinist, Presbytarian [sic] Church of Scotland? Why do you think we give a flyin **** what you have to say?”
A post in which he wrote that he was “sick” of commemorations for the victims of the nuclear bombs dropped in Japan during World War II caused friction with the Japanese diplomats. Seaman wrote that, “Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the consequence of Japanese aggression. You reap what you sow.” He added: ”Instead, they should be commemorating the estimated 50 million Chinese, Korean and other victims of Japanese imperial aggression and genocide – not to mention nearly 120,000 Allied military casualties who fought to defeat the genocidal Japanese. These are who deserve to be and should be remembered this week.”
After Japanese diplomats in Israel complained to officials at the Prime Minister’s Office, National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror called Tokyo’s ambassador in Tel Aviv and clarified that Seaman’s “unacceptable” words did not represent the government’s position. Seaman was instructed not to engage in activities within the framework on the National Information Directorate until further notice, Amidror told the Japanese envoy.
Last Tuesday, Seaman stated on his Facebook page that his posts there “are my personal opinions which in no way reflects official positions of the State of Israel. As I will be soon be joining the Prime Minister’s office I will keep my private opinions to myself.”
However, sources within the government’s public diplomacy apparatus said his Facebook profile clearly identified him as a civil servant. “His page included his full name and title at the ministry — that doesn’t look like a private site.”
Reached for comment on Sunday, Seaman said he was instructed to not speak to the media.
JTA and Stewart Ain contributed to this report.