Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stop the Presses: Blood Libel Goes Mainstream: Swedish Newspaper Proves Antisemitism Is Anti-Zionism Is Now Acceptable

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By Barry Rubin

Update (August 29) Most of Sweden's newspapers have condemned the antisemitic article and particularly point out the fact that no proof of the allegations is offered. It should be understood that while anti-Israel feeling in Sweden is very high, this is mainly true of the left and the Social Democratic party and not necessarily the country as a whole. Even the current government has been better than its Social Democratic predecessor. But one should also keep in mind what Ilya Meyer calls, "decades of unmitigated hate-mongering and constant bias in the Swedish media."

Update (August 22) In a new development, Ilya Meyer points out that the book in which the original claims that Israel was murdering Palestinians to steal their organs was financed with Swedish government money.

Update (August 20):
What is provoking outrage in Sweden is not the article itself but the statement of Sweden's ambassador in Israel who expressed a partial apology, while defending free speech in Sweden. Where were all these people during the Danish cartoon controversy when Sweden's government went far out of its way to grovel and even try to repress those who published the cartoons?

Meanwhile, Jan Helin, editor of the newspaper that published the article accusing the Israeli army of murdering Palestinians to steal their organ defended it as an opinion piece and accused critics of using antisemitism as an excuse:

"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."

The strong propaganda machine he should have had in mind was that of the Palestinians who use old antisemitic images to get off the table such topical issues as their intransigence and terrorism. Editors are not supposed to like being duped by false information.

But instead Helin reserves his wrath for those objecting to the Swedish media's endless defamation of Israel. They are the ones, he says, trying to hide something? Like what: murdering Palestinians to steal their body parts?

Let's remember this article was written by a known anti-Israel activist for an editor who is an anti-Israel activist accusing Jews of the modern-day equivalent of ritual murder without any evidence. The editor also misstates that point. If he thinks that the arrest of a Jew in New York for criminal activity automatically suggests that the state of Israel is involved officially in murder, he's acting out a pretty good example of classical antisemitism right there.

Update 2 (August 20)

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has now withdrawn the Swedish ambassador to Israel's statement of dismay. Previously, the Swedish government--which now poses as a defender of free speech--shut down Internet servers of those who had published the Danish cartoons.  For an account of the Swedish Green party's entrance into the issue, go here

Update (August 19):

To show this isn't an isolated incident, Die Telegraaf, Holland's largest newspaper, has just published an interview with a woman who claims that swine flu and other diseases are created by a Jewish conspiracy in order to kill large numbers of people. The reporter let Désirée Röver, who is described rather imaginatively as a journalist, present her wild ideas with no significant contradiction. [Please see note at the end of this article.]

What did the newspaper print as her raving about why  Jews are doing this? Rover states that Jews today--who are actually not real Jews but descendants of a Turkic tribe--pray to "Lucifer, Satan" albeit possibly in the guise of "Rockefeller, Rothschild, [Zbigniew] Brzezinski and [Henry] Kissinger." For the record, the Rockefellers are Protestant not Jewish, and Brzezinski, a Catholic, is rather unfriendly to Israel.

One can easily see   the implications here are the old ones that Jews worship wealth and control the United States. And you can already see antisemitic groups repeating this story as true. Anyone making such claims about any other group in the world--race, religion, country--would, of course, get no hearing and be immediately shouted down as "racist."  The editors and reporters who allowed publication of such material would be quickly fired.

Yet in milder forms, as you can see from previous articles on this blog, Israel and to a lesser extent Jews are slandered on a daily basis. The "war crimes" charges published by many newspapers and other media without evidence are an example. (Like the Swedish article, they are simply repeating Palestinian propaganda.)   Only when charges become beyond ridiculously extreme do they get some critical attention

Palestinian and Arab antisemitism are generally ignored. Palestinian Authority media, many supported with European funding, frequently say that the Holocaust was a hoax, that there is no Jewish connection to Jerusalem, and such old favorites as the alleged Israeli distribution of toxic chewing gum. Hamas, which regularly purveys stories similar to the Swedish and Dutch ones, is increasingly being discussed as a diplomatic partner by some European officials and in many intellectual circles.

And speaking of journalism, you might not know that last month the International Federation of Journalists expelled the National Federation of Israeli Journalists on a pretext

Welcome to the new, improved progressive and politically correct 1930s.

Meanwhile, back in Stockholm....

We are not talking about a Saudi newspaper or Hamas radio station but a Swedish newspaper. We are not talking about a neo-Nazi rag but a daily closely tied to the Swedish Social Democratic Party. And we are not just talking about an obscure item but an article that received top billing.

On August 18, Aftonbladet, Sweden's largest newspaper which claims 1.5 million readers, published an article by a man named Donald Boström. The editor responsible is named Åsa Linderborg. She is the newspaper’s cultural affairs’ editor.

This was no random decision for her. When asked once: “What do you wish for most in life right now?” She answered: “What a simple question. What I want is a free Palestine.”

And what did this article say? That Israel’s army deliberately kidnaps Palestinian civilians and then murders them so it can cut out and sell their organs to sick people needing transplants.

The story is based on the arrest of a Jewish man in Brooklyn for selling organs but the news coverage has no hint of any Israeli connection.

The Swedish story is based on Palestinian sources (though the author also claims he has UN sources for it)--like so many slanders of Israel which are widely purveyed. It is easy to forget that the false claim of a Jenin massacre--which received massive coverage in the Western media--was based on an interview with a single Palestinian who nobody even knew.

Palestinians simply told him that the bodies of terrorists or others killed came back with organs missing. Any photos, medical records, documented complaints? Of course not.

[Ironically, the Beirut Daily Star has a very responsible article, with no claim of Israeli involvement, on the issue of organ sales.]

At this point you are no doubt thinking: This is some kind of sick joke.

Yes, it is. But the newspaper published it any way.

Apparently, the author is a left-wing activist for Palestinian causes, though the newspaper calls him a journalist.

[By the way, this is not the first time such accusations have been made. In the Turkish film, "Valley of the Wolves," Gary Busey played an American Jewish doctor who was stealing the organs of Iraqis for the United States and Israel. Note that the Turkish prime minister praised the film, that it was shown to large Muslim audiences in Holland and elsewhere in Europe, and that a friend who saw it in Syria noticed people crying in the theatre at the sight of such evil behavior. Have no doubt: many thousands of people who saw the film believe this accusation to be true.]

To show how typical this is, Radio Sweden has just broadcast once again the claim that Israel murdered Muhammad Dura, a little boy who may or may not have been killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli or Fatah bullets. The only proof of these claims was a very suspicious video (other parts of which show Palestinians rehearsing for the show) which a French court has determined to be a fraud. That court decision went unmentioned by Swedish radio.

As Ralph Haglund points out, a Swedish radio Middle East correspondent said he is always ready to take the word of Hamas over that of Israel.

And just to "balance things out," Sweden, at the moment EU president is sending its ambassador to Iran to grace next month's inauguration of recently "reelected" President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose ideas are starting to seem triumphant in key sections of the European mass media. This is at the very moment when Stalinist-style show trials of opposition leaders are being held by his regime.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, Something is rotten in the state of Sweden.

Will Swedish politicians, intellectuals, and others rise up, pronounce this defamatory article and other things going on in that country to be a national disgrace, and demonstrate? Will the editor be fired? Will there be serious reconsideration of how the hatred of Israel which has so obsessed this supposedly enlightened country has gone over the edge? Will this irrational hatred be re-examined and repudiated? Will the forgotten lessons of how such attitudes produced the Holocaust be learned once again?

I wish so but I don’t believe there will be a powerful reaction.

At least, though, the competing newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, has blasted the article which it says is an antisemitic blood libel without a shred of evidence. For other brave people who are objecting in Sweden--albeit there are very few of them--go here.

.What does this incident tell us? One thing is that there is no limit to the insanity of how Israel is treated nowadays in so many supposedly responsible, left-wing, and intellectual circles.

It also tells us that anyone of decency and good intentions should start re-examining right now their credulity in accepting anti-Israel slanders, nonsensical media or academic claims, or irresponsibly inaccurate “human rights” group reports.

It also tells us that Jews who criticize Israel based on what they are being taught at universities and what they see in the media need to think about what they are doing. And, yes, all this bashing and chipping away at Israel’s reputation; this unfair blaming; this blindness toward the goals, behavior, and ideology of radical Islamist forces and Palestinian intransigence is promoting an antisemitism beyond anything seen in the Western world since 1945.

The time has come to realize that antisemitism, anti-Zionism, absurd misrepresentation of Israel and the effort to wipe it off the map are all tightly intertwined.

We have seen the rise of a systematic industry in wild anti-Israel claims by Palestinians which are repeated without evidence by the Western news media and others. 

Yet this type of story about ghoulish Israeli monsters is actually rather typical nowadays. The basic methodology in the Swedish case is like that of dozens of others, only in this case the specific accusation was too lurid to win wide acceptance in the West (though not in much of the Arabic-speaking and Muslim majority world).

The recipe is simple: Palestinians make up charges, tell them to sympathetic reporters or academics or "human rights'" officials who don't demand evidence, and then are widely spread through other willing executioners of truth whose low degree of professionalism and high level of politicization make them conducive to becoming collaborators in the enterprise.

Before Israeli officials can investigate and present a detailed response--largely ignored by the media--they are all off to the next lurid accusation.

The fact that none of these accusations is ever ultimately proven correct seems to have no effect on the industry.

In a variation of this theme, a few days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly denounced, as if it was some sort of ethnic cleansing, the eviction of two Palestinian families from an apartment building in Jerusalem. Apparently, Palestinians had presented it as such to U.S. diplomats in Jerusalem.

In fact, as the public record clearly showed, this was merely the result of an Israeli court decision following a long, detailed case lasting years, for non-payment of rent. Palestinian families who paid rent in the building had no problem at all.

The British newspaper of intellectuals and beautiful people, the Guardian, carries an article which uses this incident, among other things, to claim that Israel is a Nazi country. That's two families evicted for non-payment of rent, not quite equivalent to seizing Austria and Czechoslovakia, invading all of Europe, and murdering 12 million or so Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Poles, Russians, etc., etc.

In fact, when the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein murdered tens of thousands of Kurdish citizens in the 1990s or when the Syrian regime murdered 10,000 to 15,000 of its own citizens in Hamas in 1982, there was no outrage at all in the West. There still isn't today.

In his Cairo speech, President Barack Obama urged Arabs and Muslims to reject antisemitism. Guess he needs to make that speech to Europeans now.

After all, the hysterical misrepresentation of Israel increasingly seems to parallel the tales of well-poisonings, ritual murders, and Zionist conspiracies to seize world power of past eras.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition) and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to To see or subscribe to his blog,

For ongoing coverage of Scandanavia, see the Tundra Tabloid blog.

Note on the Dutch article: Some correspondents have written me to say that the article in question was making fun of the person being interviewed. I have asked several people who are native speakers of Dutch to read the article and give me their opinion. They have told me that their conclusion was that the article was uncritical except for a bit of ridicule at the end. Perhaps the journalist thought that the person in question was showing herself to be ridiculous and that readers would draw that conclusion. As of now, though, I am sticking by my interpretation which I believe to be correct. I did not at any point say that the newspaper endorsed the conclusion but did publicize it.

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