To say that none of the players in this farce have shown any common sense would be a serious understatement. But there is another, just as disturbing aspect in this case. The reaction of some Israeli politicians, especially Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, with their wild accusations of anti-Semitism - against all of Sweden's media, government and society - broke a fundamental, unwritten rule in Israel-Diaspora relations.
The moment Israel officially brands a government or entire country as anti-Semitic, it automatically places the local Jewish community on a collision course with local society. Israel tends to have close ties with Jews around the world, and we take this for granted. But the fact that Israel sees itself not only as guarding its own citizens, but also Jews in other countries, is far from simple.
Defending Jews around the world isn't just about maintaining a safe haven in their hour of need, or even organizing an emergency airlift when famine or war threaten. It also means delicate diplomacy, keeping in mind that Israel's actions can have serious repercussions for Jews in other countries, whether or not they support Israel.
No more statistics
The government and Jewish Agency's joint task force on anti-Semitism stopped publishing the number of anti-Semitic incidents in each country in its annual report. They realized their publication was embarrassing other communities, which published widly differing statistics in their own reports.
With all respect to the Jewish state, it is up to local Jews to identify the acts of hatred that directly affect them. Private "watchdogs" can and will do whatever they like - after all, they need to fund-raise - but a government should exercise some degree of judgment and diplomacy. The only exception to this rule is regarding Jewish communities in dictatorships, who need others to speak for them.
By blaming the Swedish government for the organs story and its alleged indifference to anti-Semitism, and comparing it to a wartime government that ignored the Holocaust (in itself an historical inaccuracy), Lieberman has pushed Swedish Jews into a trap.
No one can accuse them of being anti-Israel, but since they have decided to live in Sweden, which is a democracy, they must be allowed to confront anti-Semitism in their own society on their own terms. Lieberman's accusations essentially give the local community a stark choice: Decide which side you're on.
Ariel Sharon and French Jewry
This isn't the first time a senior Israeli politician made this kind of mistake. Ariel Sharon and his foreign minister Silvan Shalom embarrassed French Jews when they called upon them to emigrate to Israel during the first years of the Second Intifada, but at least that seemed like an authentic emotional reaction to what was a real wave of anti-Semitism. Lieberman's outrage is everything but genuine.
If the foreign minister were really intent on fighting global anti-Semitism, he would find no better place to start than his own homeland, the former Soviet Union. Whether or not Donald Bostrom is a bona fide anti-Semite or just a singularly unprofessional journalist, in Russia, Ukraine and the other former Soviet republics, there is no shortage of newspapers, magazines and Web sites filled with the most primitive hatred of Jews, including specific references to blood libels. Some of these publications are officially sanctioned and funded.
But you won't hear Lieberman excoriating the leaders of these countries. After all, that's his personal stomping ground, the only place in the world where he is a welcome guest. But Sweden, which just happens to hold the presidency of the European Union, and is rather critical of the West Bank settlements, why not brand it anti-Semitic? Lieberman is never going to visit Stockholm on business after he retires from politics, and there are no Yisrael Beiteinu voters there.