“The article in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is as shocking and appalling to us Swedes as it is to Israeli citizens. We share the dismay expressed by Israeli government representatives, media and the Israeli public. This Embassy cannot but clearly distance itself from it,” writes Ambassador Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier on the Swedish Embassy website.
Aftonbladet’s article, ‘Våra söner plundras på sina organ’ (‘They plunder the organs of our sons’), has sparked outrage in Israel.
Published on Monday, the article by photographer and writer Donald Boström accuses the Israeli army of involvement in the illegal human organ trade. In a new twist to claims he has laid out several times previously, Boström links allegations of organ harvesting made by individual Palestinians to a New York-based crime suspect, Rabbi Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, recently accused of attempting to facilitate the sale of a kidney from a donor in Israel.
Israel’s deputy foreign minster Danny Ayalon expressed fury at an article he described as anti-Semitic.
“I demand the Swedish government condemn this groundless article,” he said.
A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, categorised the article and the decision to publish as “a mark of disgrace” for the Swedish press.
“In a democratic country, there should be no place for dark blood libels out of the Middle Ages of this type. This is an article that shames Swedish democracy and the entire Swedish press,” Palmor said in a statement.
“We are dealing with the lowest type of propaganda that doesn’t have even one shred of truth in it. It is a blot on the press, and all of Sweden’s citizens should vehemently reject this racist outburst that has no place in a democratic society,” Palmor told news agency AFP.
Ambassador Bonnier stressed that Sweden, like Israel, enjoyed a free press.
“However, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are freedoms which carry a certain responsibility. It falls on the editor-in-chief of any given newspaper.”
Speaking to The Local, Aftonbladet’s culture editor Åsa Linderborg defended the publication and expressed surprise at the strong reactions in Israel.
“It surprises me really. The questions that it raises are nothing new. The Knesset has on several occasions discussed the issue of widespread organ trading in Israel.”
She added that she did not in any way regret publishing the article.
“No. Why should I?”
“Furthermore I am indignant that they (Israel) would get involved in what is published in the Swedish media. I think it is embarrassing for them that they would question our right to publish.”
“And for Sweden’s ambassador in Israel to get involved, is just plain scandalous.”
“I think one can also question whether Israel has the right to shoot so many Palestinian men,” said Linderborg.
The foreign ministry in Sweden said Ambassador Bonnier’s decision to comment on the publication was a “local initiative” which had not been sanctioned by Stockholm.
“The foreign ministry does not review articles in the Swedish press about foreign circumstances,” spokesman Anders Jörle told the TT news agency.
Lena Posner Körösi, head of the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, called on Aftonbladet’s editor-in-chief Jan Helin to distance himself from anti-Semitic assertions. In a statement she writes that Boström’s article “recycles one of the true classics of anti-Semitism: the Jew who abducts children, slaughters them and steals their blood.”
Paul O’Mahony, Peter Vinthagen Simpson