Shalom: Bostrom's invitation 'shameful'

Swedish journalist greet

November 1, 2009 12:27
2 minute read.

Journalist Donald Bostrom, whose August article in the Swedish publication Aftonbladet accused Israel of harvesting the organs of Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead, landed at Ben Gurion Airport overnight Saturday, much to the chagrin of Vice Premier Silvan Shalom. Bostrom, who arrived in Israel in order to attend a media conference in Dimona, was greeted with protests and jeers directed at him by members of the Beitar youth movement as he disembarked from the plane in the company of two security guards. Following the announcement of Bostrom's participation, the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee withdrew the financial support it had allocated to the conference. Shalom, who on Saturday night had called the journalist's arrival "a shameful event," told Israel Radio on Sunday that the conference had "turned itself into a gimmick-laden stage in order to receive media coverage." Shalom withdrew an estimated NIS 200,000 in government support for the conference, "which may have been used to fund [Bostrom's] arrival and his stay here." Earlier on Sunday, Dimona Mayor Meir Cohen defended the conference organizers' decision. "We are bringing him here to tell him how despicable he is for using journalistic tools to construct an entire narrative," he said during an Israel Radio interview, adding that the conference would center on media ethics. Cohen stressed that in Europe, "the street is controlled by negative Palestinian propaganda," suggesting that Israel was damaging its own public diplomacy by ignoring hostile publications instead of confronting them. Shalom, however, did not accept that argument. "According to that logic, we must also bring Ahmadinejad [to Israel] to tell us that we have no right to exist," he said. "Israel must not become a Shi'ite suicide bomber" and allow its haters and enemies to take the stage, he stressed, despite the importance of freedom of press and expression. "I won't fight for freedom of expression if it gives voice to Hamas, [to those who say] that Israel has no right to exist, that the Jews are pigs … a line must be drawn, and I believe I have drawn the line in the right place," said Shalom, adding that criticism voiced by countries such as Egypt in Turkey was heard in Israel. "It is not accepted, we don't like it, but it is heard." Bostrom's claims that IDF soldiers had killed Palestinians in order to harvest their organs had caused a diplomatic rift between Israel and Sweden, said the vice premier. The conference organizers had in effect "chosen [Bostrom] over the Israeli government," he concluded. Later on Sunday, Likud activists stated they would demonstrate against the journalist's presence in Dimona. "The Swedish press must witness our reaction to the hypocrisy," said one activist, expressing hope that the conference organizers would realize that "such people are considered persona non grata."

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