Swedish writer 'not sure' story's true

Swedish Embassy "shares Israel's dismay" over report IDF abducts Palestinians to steal organs.

soldiers 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
soldiers 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
A report in Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet earlier this week alleging that Israel was harvesting Palestinians' organs for transplant continued to cause ripples on Wednesday with statements by Israeli officials, the Swedish Embassy in Tel Aviv and the writer of the report. "I have a personal opinion, it concerns me that it's true," Donald Bostrom, who penned the story, told Israel Radio en route to an emergency meeting at the editorial offices Aftonbladet, presumably to discuss the aftermath of the report. "I was [present] during the interview that night, I was a witness. It concerns me to the extent that I want it to be investigated," Bostrom told the station. "But whether it's true or not - I have no idea, I have no clue." He was referring to a Palestinian witness who recounted an incident where a Palestinian was allegedly taken by the Israeli military and his body returned several days later - lacking some internal organs. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon responded to the report by saying: "This is a blood libel and the worst type of anti-Semitism." Ayalon called on the Swedish government to condemn these accusations and said Israel "sees a correlation between the Swedish government's public statements, which are extremely critical of Israel, and anti-Semitism in the press." Sweden currently holds the rotating EU presidency, and in recent months there has been some diplomatic tensions between the two countries. Earlier this month, after the eviction of two Palestinian families from Jewish-owned homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the Swedish Foreign Ministry summoned Israel's ambassador to protest the move. Israel responded by summoning Sweden's ambassador and saying that the Swedish government had taken an unfairly critical position toward Israel since assuming the EU presidency on July 1. The Swedish Embassy issued a statement Wednesday distancing itself from the report. "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," the statement said. It continued its condemnation of the paper by saying, "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." Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan was expected to speak to the Swedish Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to protest the publication of the Aftonbladet article. Meanwhile, Government Press Office director Danny Siman told Army Radio that the anti-Israel article was not surprising and that the author was known for his anti-Semitic views. However, Zvi Mazal, a former Israeli ambassador to Sweden, told the radio station that Sweden could not be defined as an anti-Semitic country. "This is not true, although there are large forces that are very anti-Israeli," he said. "On a daily basis, one can see a type of writing against Israel which stems from an admiration for Palestinians and radical Islam." The Foreign Ministry responded furiously on Tuesday to the story, saying it was a grotesque throwback to the blood libels of the Middle Ages. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor characterized the story as "racist hysteria at its worst." "No one should tolerate such a demonizing piece of medieval blood libel that surely encourages hate crimes against Jews," Palmor said. "This is a shame to freedom of expression, and all Swedes should reject it unconditionally." Israel's embassy in Stockholm was expected to issue a sharp denunciation. In the story, headlined "They plunder the organs of our sons," and accompanied by a gruesome photograph, Palestinians are quoted as saying IDF soldiers kidnapped their sons and stole organs. The article makes reference to the recent arrests in New Jersey of several US Jews, including rabbis, for a number of alleged crimes, including brokering the sale of organs for transplant. The story also cites allegations of similar instances of organ-snatching in 1992, during the first intifada. The Foreign Ministry was not the only party aghast at the story, and smelling the stench of anti-Semitism. A competing newspaper, Sydsvenskan, ran an op-ed on the story under the headline "Antisemitbladet," in an obvious reference to Aftonbladet's name. "Whispers in the dark. Anonymous sources. Rumors," wrote Swedish columnist Mats Skogkär. "That is all it takes. After all, we all know what they [the Jews] are like, don't we: inhuman, hardened. Capable of anything. Now all that remains is the defense, equally predictable: 'Anti-Semitism? No, no, just criticism of Israel.'"