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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Swedes stand by blood libel, insist on investigation, condemn envoy apology

The Swedish government retracted its ambassadors condemnation of an an anti-Semitic canard published in AftonBladet, Sweden's largest newspaper, that claimed that the IDF kills Palestinians in order to harvest their organs for transplants. After Sweden's ambassador to Israel, Borsiin Bonnier, apologized for the article, opposition Green Party spokesman Per Gahrton said Bonnier should be recalled and taught the basics of Swedish freedom of speech. YNET reported:
Sweden's Foreign Ministry on Thursday said a response by the Swedish Embassy in Israel to a report by the Aftonbladet news saying IDF soldiers killed Palestinians in order to harvest their organs does not represent the government's stance.

The embassy had stated that the report was "appalling". But the Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman said, "The embassy in Tel Aviv responded in accordance to Israeli public opinion, however the Swedish government is committed to freedom of the press."

She added that Israel had not issued an official complaint on the report.

Another Swedish government spokesperson, Anders Jorle said, "The Foreign Ministry would not have acted in the same way" as the ambassador.

The editor of Aftonbladet, Jan Helin, said, "It's deeply unpleasant and sad to see such a strong propaganda machine using centuries-old anti-Semitic images in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table." Helin called it an opinion piece raising questions of Israel in the context of a suspected link to Israel in that U.S. case. He denied any suggestion of anti-Semitism from his paper.
There was nothing in the presentation of the article to indicate that it was supposed to be an opinion piece rather than a factual article. The dodge of disseminating lies as facts and then claiming it is "opinion" is a common one, though some journalistic standards officially forbid such behavior. Helin now has the best of both worlds, since he can defend the libel as just "opinion" while at the same time insisting that it is a "topical issue" that should be discussed, implying that it is true or has some basis in fact. It seems the blood libel is always "topical."

If a person publishes an opinion piece stating that a Martian is impersonating the President of the United States, is it just nonsense or a topical issue that should be discussed? If I write that Holocaust survivors remember Jan Helin's father as a volunteer SS Einsatzgruppenfuhrer who participated in the Babi Yar massacre, I am after all just quoting a source, right? It doesn't have to be true. Is it an opinion piece or a topical issue? How about if I quote witnesses who insist they saw a homosexual orgy with the participation of Donald Bostrom, author of the article, and editor Helin, both dressed as Gestapo officers? How can the public be protected from random inventions of racists and sensationalists if every such claim can hide behind the defense of "opinion piece" and get the protection of "freedom of the press?"
Ami Isseroff

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  • Whether "investigative journalism" or "anti-Semitic screed," the Aftonbladet article must be attacked independently of the Swedish government. For the Swedish government to condemn an article of a national paper, even a tabloid, would be a violation of freedom of the press. Therefore it was proper for the Swedish government to backtrack and clarify that it could neither condemn nor applaud the tabloid article.

    By Blogger David Ehrens, At August 20, 2009 3:23:00 PM GMT+00:00  

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