Stanley's blog

The Swedish government’s reaction to the story recently published by the popular Swedish daily tabloid Aftonbladet, suggesting that Israeli had harvested the organs of Palestinian victims for their own purposes, is difficult to understand. The article was entitled “Our Sons’ Organs Were Plundered” and was based on interviews with Palestinian families – although no evidence was given to back up their claims.

Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, Sweden’s ambassador to Israel distanced Sweden from the “shocking and appalling.”article.

However, Opposition leaders in the Swedish Parliament attacked their ambassador for condemning the libel against Israel. A Green Party spokesman said that the Ambassador should be recalled and taught “the basics of Swedish freedom of speech.” When asked about the controversy, the Swedish Foreign Ministry in Stockholm distanced itself from her statement, saying it had no comment.

Foreign Minister Carl Bildt bridles in his blog at the accusations of antisemitism that are coming out of Israel and writes that the Swedish tabloid daily Aftonbladet, “obviously has to take responsibility for the matter.” The editors at Aftonbladet needed to justify having run an article that would “presumably elicit strong reactions.” Likewise, he has also written that he understands the anxiety Israelis might have when they see new instances of antisemitism.

He also understands their demands that the Swedish government distance itself from the report. “But,” he added, “that’s just not the way things are in our country – nor should they be.”

This is what I do not understand. The newspaper was entitled to publish the article. But so was the Ambassador – or indeed the Foreign Minister – entitled to criticise it, particularly because it was not factually based nor responsible. Freedom of expression is not a one-way street.

Do we conclude that the current Presidents of the EU would be unable to comment on anti-Obama article on a similarly sensitive topic?

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  1. I am with the Swedes on this one. This stupid Aftonbladet press story pales into insignificance when compared to the crimes that have been committed against the Palestinians by Israel – and I am weighing my words carefully – in pursuit of a naked policy of annexation.

    Opposition to Israeli policies is invariably equated with anti-Semitism. Few countries have the courage to resist the barrage of crticism that can be unleashed, by the Israeli lobby in the US in particular.

    Sweden has the courage to do so.

    Does Obama have the same? I doubt it.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

  2. Idiosyncrasy? A peculiar practice? Did Mr. Cossick really mean to imply that freedom of expression should be thought of as out of the ordinary, perhaps even suspect? And what evidence does he present to support the implication?

    It is quite likely that the Aftonbladet report was based on rumor and hearsay or, at the very least, exaggeration. Is that so unusual today, even in the most reputable media? And the Aftonbladet is hardly a newspaper of record.

    There was no need for the Swedish government to comment in any way at all. If the Swedish government decided to use that article as the catalyst for a comment, the comment should have been to criticize the dismal standards of journalism world-wide, the lack of critical and skeptical analysis and the tragic lack of careful, distanced objectivity. The specific newspaper and the content of the specific news report was irrelevant to the government’s concerns.

    If – and Mr. Cossick presented no evidence to suggest it – the Israeli public, or the Israeli government took particular offense and demanded an apology, then I suggest they go have a tall, cool drink in the shade and calm down.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1055386704 which is not a hashcash value.

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