Plessner: Foreign Ministry should have protested Swedish story through diplomatic channels

While ministers competed Sunday to condemn the Swedish government in more and more emphatic terms, MKs for the most part maintained a stony silence during the second week of the complete shut-down of the Knesset building for a concentrated summer vacation. But for MK Yohanan Plessner (Kadima), the chairman of the lobby for relations between the European Union and Israel, silence was impossible, and he became one of the first backbenchers to condemn the publication of the article at the heart of the conflict. Last week, a Swedish newspaper published an article accusing the IDF of killing Palestinians in order to harvest their organs for sale. Plessner visited Sweden less than a year ago, as part of an official delegation that arrived in Stockholm in the midst of Operation Cast Lead. First expressing his condemnation on the party-run Web site "Yalla Kadima," Plessner accused the Swedish government of hiding behind freedom of speech, and called on it to express disgust with the "blood libel" that was published. Plessner's criticism, however, was not only directed at Stockholm, but also aimed at Jerusalem. The Foreign Ministry should have expressed protest through diplomatic channels rather than providing publicity to the Swedish journalist at the heart of the dispute. Plessner attributed Stockholm's silence to fear of local Muslim immigrants. He accused the Muslim population of forming the basis of rising anti-Semitism in Sweden, and said that Jews were afraid of walking Sweden's streets while wearing kippas. Former IDF Spokesman MK Nahman Shai (Kadima) also condemned the publication, as well as the strategic choices made by the Netanyahu administration. "I think that we increased the flames rather than reduce them. There was no reason to run into a public conflict with the government. We should have taken a two-pronged approach. First, we should have confronted the newspaper regarding the veracity of their story, and worked to ensure to distance their people from here and not collaborate with them," he said. "Second, we should have turned to the Swedish government - discretely, not publicly - and to say that we know that they are not involved in media, and thus you don't need to get into the question of why they published [the story]. But that they need to issue a statement that they know that there is no truth in the article, because they know that the State of Israel does not do the things addressed in the article. We should have demanded that they say this is a terrible article, taken from the world of anti-Semitism, and is untrue, but not an apology for the publication itself, because no democratic government is responsible for the publications of free media in their country." Shai recalled an incident in 2001 in which Israeli comedian Elie Yatzpan mocked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Egypt demanded an official apology, but Israel responded that as a democratic country, it is not responsible for its media publications.