Israel and Sweden: An unnecessary diplomatic crisis
The blood libels beloved of anti-Semites through the ages echoed clearly from the unsupported op-ed article freelance reporter Donald Bostrom ran in the Swedish Aftonbladet newspaper last week.
All the same, debkafile‘s political sources say the diplomatic crisis which has since blown up between Israel and Sweden would have faded quickly had a lot less noise issued from Jerusalem and Stockholm acted with less arrogance. As it is, the European and some US media seized on the tiff and trotted freelancer Bostrom out to repeat the offending charge.
When Israel demanded that the Swedish government’s condemn the “blood libel against Jews,” the Swedish foreign minister asserted pompously that Sweden has a free press. Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman then commented that press freedom does not include the right to lie and libel. He added “This is reminiscent of Sweden’s stand during World War II.”
Bostrom’s article drew on one Palestinian family’s claim in the 1990s that they suspected the Israeli military of stealing the organs of their son whose body was returned five days later after he was killed by Israeli forces. Their suspicion was based on a cut in his midsection. Another 20 Palestinian families then stepped up with the same charge.
When asked, the Israeli military spokesman explained that in the 1990s, autopsies were routine for Palestinians killed in clashes to ascertain that Israeli troops had acted in accordance with their orders and rules of engagement.
Bostrom dragged in as inspiration for his article the New Jersey scandal which alleged the private sale of a kidney from a donor in Israel. He then hinted by innuendo that former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was health minister at the time, was responsible for the theft of Palestinian organs for sale.
His article was therefore not based on any real investigation except for quoting Palestinians clearly eager to provide impetus for any vicious piece of propaganda against Israel or Jews. Nonetheless, Afftonbladet decided to run the piece.
debkafile‘s military sources add: Palestinian authorities come up with all sorts of reasons for objecting to these autopsies because they deny their propagandists fodder for cases against the IDF. But this time, they found a willing instrument in the Swedish press for heaping calumny on the Israeli military.
Therefore, although this affair was essentially an Israeli issue with the Palestinians, foreign minister Lieberman managed by verbal overkill to make it an issue between Israel and Sweden. His demand for Stockholm to condemn the article would be hard to uphold. The Israeli government does nothing to stop the flourishing home-grown opposition groups who never tire of accusing the IDF of war crimes. Those charges usually turn out to be bogus after capturing big headlines in the national and international media. Yet the Israeli government never takes the offensive against them, so it is hardly in a position to demand that the Swedish government stamp down on a single newspaper.
But Lieberman, whom prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has sidelined on most spheres of foreign policy excepting Israel-Russian relations – in which he has not done too brilliantly – was apparently keen on hauling himself back onto the front pages. Instead of resorting to discreet diplomacy or, say, organizing a boycott of Swedish products in Israel and the US, or discouraging Jewish tourism, he declared: “A country which really wants to defend democratic values must strongly condemn false reports that reek of anti-Semitism.”
To his surprise, Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and foreign minister Carl Bildt hit back with their own heavy guns. They too may have been prompted by domestic political considerations when they refused point blank to condemn Aftonblatd for its article or even issue a statement that it was unfounded.
They even reprimanded the Swedish ambassador in Israel Elizabet Borsiin Bonnier for saying the article was “as shocking and appalling to us Swedes as it is to Israeli citizens.”
The Swedish foreign minister further incensed Lieberman by going over his head and telephoning Uzi Arad, the prime minister’s national security adviser in Jerusalem in an effort to put the issue to rest.
By then it was too late. The two governments were on a collision course. An Israeli minister had accused the Swedish government, which is the current chairman of the European Union, of supporting anti-Semitism, while Sweden had said Israel does not understand Swedish democracy.
With all due respect, the Swedish prime minister and foreign minister ought to understand that accusing Israel and American Jews of trafficking in stolen Palestinian organs is hardly an exercise in democracy. They are in fact defending a classical anti-Semitic blood libel and in these circumstances, Foreign Minister Bildt would be well advised to call off his planned visit to Israel in two weeks.