Last week, the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published a story alleging that Israeli troops harvest organs from dead Palestinians, under the headline “Our Sons Are Plundered for Their Organs.” The writer, Daniel Bostrom, based the piece not so much on, you know, evidence as on unsubstantiated claims from Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza, who told him they’d seen a man’s body returned to his family with stitches along the length of his torso.
Israel immediately accused the newspaper of blood libel and demanded Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, condemn it; Bildt responded in a blog post that he would not, because he stood by the freedom of the press. Now the affair has metastasized into a fullblown diplomatic mess. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is apparently saying, behind closed doors, that he won’t rest until Aftonbladet apologizes. (“We asked the Swedish government to express moral outrage and they don’t have the moral fortitude to do it,” Netanyahu’s chief spokesman, Daniel Seaman, told Tablet this morning, drawing a link to Sweden’s neutral stance during World War II.) To show everyone Israel means business, Israelis are being urged to boycott Swedish furniture superstore Ikea.
Meanwhile, Swedish Jews are blaming Israel for mishandling the response. Lena Posner, president of the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden, told Haaretz that now the debate is all about whether Israel has the right to control the Swedish press, not about the irresponsibility of the reporter in the first place. “By making the preposterous demand for a government condemnation, the debate has changed from anti-Semitism to freedom of speech in Sweden,” Posner said.