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Update – 24 August 2009

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Last week Honest Reporting released a report entitled: Outrage: IDF Accused of “Harvesting Palestinian Organs”. The accuser was Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. Under the headline “They plunder the organ of our sons”, the report claimed that young men from the West Bank and Gaza Strip had been taken away in the night by the IDF only to be returned later, with missing organs. The families’ claim that the bodies had been completely stitched up and that the Israelis claimed that the bodies had been autopsied (read more).

The article was criticised internally by another major daily newspaper in Sweden, Sydsvenskan, with an opinion piece entitled ‘Antisemitbladet’ which exposed the story for exactly what it was:

 “We have heard the story before, in one form or the other. It follows the traditional pattern of conspiracy theory: a great number of loose threads that the theorist tempts the reader to tie into a neat knot… Whispers in the dark. Anonymous sources. Rumors. That is all it takes… Now all that remains is the defense, equally predictable: ‘Anti-Semitism’ No, no, just criticism of Israel”.

Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, issued a press release stating, “The article… is as shocking and appalling to us Swedes, as it is to Israeli citizens… Just as in Israel, freedom of the press prevails in Sweden… However, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are freedoms which carry a certain responsibility” (see more).

Regrettably, the Foreign Ministry in Sweden sought to distance itself from Borsiin Bonnier’s comments and refused to condemn the offending article.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated, “It’s a shame that the Swedish Foreign Ministry doesn’t intervene in cases of blood libels against Jews … The article published this week is a natural outgrowth of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and blood libels in which Jews were accused of adding the blood of Christian children to the Passover matzahs” (see more).

Today’s Australian newspaper ties this whole sorry saga together in an article by Abraham Rabinovich entitled ‘Israel and Sweden in diplomatic crisis over organ claim’. It exposes the double standards of the Swedish newspaper, citing past examples including the issue of the Danish cartoons criticizing Islam a few years ago, where Aftonbladet did not re-publish the cartoons, declaring that on sensitive subjects they must act with restraint to avoid harming segments of the population.

Obviously the publication of unfounded libels about organ theft carried out by the Israeli army is not considered harmful to the Jewish people.

In the meantime, the journalist, Donald Bostrum, acknowledged that the families claiming the IDF had stolen organs never had their own autopsies carried out to confirm these suspicions. So basically, this whole controversy has emerged over an article that claims one thing, but has absolutely no evidence to back it up. This shows that the man knows very little about responsible investigative journalism and is more concerned with his own agenda.

And just to prove the point to those who are more discerning than your average reader of Aftonbladet, that paper has made a second attempt to cover the issue, not backtracking or apologising but rather trying to present “additional information”. The article entitled ‘Mother never stopped suffering, she never stopped wondering’ makes similar claims about an incident from 1992, where a Palestinian man was killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers. His body was allegedly returned several days later, at a cost of NIS 5,000, with a scar running from his neck down to the abdomen (see more).

When I first read about this issue I thought it was quite ridiculous and figured that would be the end of the issue. I did not expect that the issue would go as far as it has between the two countries. In an Op-Ed for Ynet entitled ‘How childish are we?’, Adi Dvir suggests that if the report was initially ignored it would have “passed silently away, like the puff of hot air it so obviously impersonates”. Perhaps he is right, but I think it is important, no matter how ridiculous a claim may be, to address them. Otherwise, the world will simply continue to perpetuate centuries-old slander relating to the blood libel.

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