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Israel Declares War on Sweden!

Source:AlterNet
Author:Joshua Holland
Date:27/08-2009

..Or at least on the Swedish press.

You understand the rules of the game, right? When a Scandinavian paper prints something offensive to the Muslim world and Islamic leaders condemn it, protest it, or ask for an apology it's simply more evidence that the "false religion" doesn't mix with democracy, and an occasion for fonts of outrage on the part of newly minted free speech enthusiasts on the right.

But don't hold your breath waiting for those voices to condemn the exact same behavior from The Only Democracy in the Middle East®.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel urged the Swedish government on Sunday to condemn an article in a Swedish newspaper last week accusing the Israeli Army of harvesting organs from Palestinians wounded or killed by soldiers.

As the furor in Israel over the article gathered into a diplomatic storm revolving around questions of anti-Semitism and freedom of speech, Mr. Netanyahu told ministers at a cabinet meeting on Sunday that the article, published in the Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet, was “outrageous” and compared it to a “blood libel,” referring to medieval anti-Semitic accusations that Jews ritually killed gentile children and collected their blood.

“We are not asking the government of Sweden for an apology,” Mr. Netanyahu said, according to an official who attended the cabinet meeting and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We are asking for their condemnation.”

To be clear: it does seem from all accounts that the article was a truly shoddy piece of reporting, based on unconfirmed rumors dating back more than a decade (and as such the "Swedish libel" will be used to defend against other, legitimate charges of abuse on the part of the Israeli military).

But that's kind of beside the point -- the same allegations have been published several times without the kind of hand-wringing we're seeing now.What's interesting here is that the outrage in Israel -- they're boycotting Ikea, which I actually find kind of funny for some reason -- is being nurtured directly and apparently intentionally by ...

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s outspoken foreign minister, has led the protest, saying that the Swedish government’s silence was “reminiscent of Sweden’s position during World War II, when it also did not become involved.”

What's going on? Well, a little wag the dog ...

Lieberman is the subject of multiple corruption probes. In all likelihood, he'll have to resign in disgrace at some point soon, and may face jail time. But in the meantime, a nice, juicy foreign scandal -- a blood libel, no less! -- might just take some heat off of the controversial far-right minister.

And he's apparently not satisfied only going after Sweden:

Amid escalating tensions between Israel and Sweden, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday accused another Scandinavian country - Norway this time - of promoting anti-Semitism.

On Sunday, Lieberman moved his criticism on to Norway for marking the birthday of an early 20th century "pro-Nazi" author.

"I was amazed at the Norwegian government's decision to celebrate the 150th birthday of Knut Hamsun, who admired the Nazis," Lieberman told students at the Ariel University Center.

Whatever.

Anyway, beyond the value this brouhaha has for Lieberman personally, there's also some poisoning of the well -- Sweden just took over the EU presidency, and is expected to take an activist position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So we'll be hearing a lot about how Sweden's government is rife with anti-Semitism over the next five months.

And, as is very often the case, the Israeli government's view of the matter is totally at odds with that of Sweden's Jewish community, according to this report in Ha'aretz:

Lena Posner, president of the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden, said Sunday that Israel's demand that Sweden officially condemn the article that accused Israel Defense Forces of harvesting Palestinian organs "had blown the issue completely out of proportion.

"No one even noticed the article - which is, incidentally, anti-Semitic and absolutely untruthful - when it was buried in the last pages of Aftonbladet," Posner explained. "But the Israeli response pushed the journalist who wrote it, Daniel Bostrom, to the front of the stage and into the heart of the Swedish mainstream."

"What's even worse is that by making the preposterous demand for a government condemnation, the debate has changed from anti-Semitism to freedom of speech in Sweden: Instead of concentrating on debunking the story, they have made it a freedom of speech issue. The government is not going to condemn the article - freedom of speech here is sacrosanct," added Posner, who said she could see how the Swedish mainstream media, which at first attacked the tabloid for printing the piece, were now supporting it, based on the principle of preserving the freedom of speech.