Sweden slams paper over Israel allegations

Sweden's embassy in Tel Aviv has sharply condemned Sweden's largest circulation newspaper Aftonbladet for publishing an article accusing the Israeli Defence Forces of harvesting the organs of Palestinians.

“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

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Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.