Swedish government is not reponsible for its media's blood libel


By Miriam Shaviv
August 19, 2009
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A repulsive report in a Swedish tabloid, accusing the IDF of abducting and killing Palestinians in order to steal their internal organs, has angered Israeli officials, who call it a modern blood libel. (The local Swedish Jews, incidentally, don't seem quite as worked up - presumably because they know that most of their compatriots never saw the story and don't care.)

The Israelis are, of course, right about the report's nature, and now even the author of the report has backed down, admitting he wasn't sure that what he wrote was true. (A little late to discover now.)

Were the Israelis right, however, to complain to the Swedish ambassador? And was the Swedish embassy right to distance itself from the report?

I think not. Governments are not responsible for the content of newspapers, at least not in a democracy. Successive Israeli governments have suffered at the hands of the rumbunctious Israeli media, and would probably be the first to say they can't control it. The Swedish paper's report was irresponsible and antisemitic, but should not have turned into a diplomatic incident. 

COMMENTS

viv green

Thu, 08/20/2009 - 04:34

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Dear Miriam

If I didn't live in Sweden I would agree with you. I would be thinking of the free press first. I would be making judgements based on rationality. That I am a citizen who happens to be Jewish - and let my citizenship take the upper hand.

However since my journey to work on Monday morning, when I saw the headlines of Aftonbladet in the commuter railway station "Israelis stole our organs - Kultur" I wasn't able to think rationally and start to calm down until I read the message from the Swedish government last night. I am very releived to read this message and see it as a kind of "letter of protection" from the swedish government. Because if we live in a country of middle aged blood libels, we also need such protection.

So last night I slept peacefully in my bed and din't have to think about moving back to the UK as soon as possible, despite the fact that I'm settled here, love my job, my friends etc.

Only if are familiar with what Aftonbladet publishes about Israel day after day, and the casual context in which they publish it ( next to articles on how to lose weight and the royal family) can you understand that what they have printed was not a mistake, the paper knew exactly what it was doing.

When my relatives in the UK criticise the Guardian or the BBC for being anti-Israel I have tried to explain that, from a Swedish persective, one tunes into the BBC to get a more pro-Israel perspective, and we have a paper which is like The Guardian in its views. But it is nothing compared to Aftonbladet. How would British Jews feel if Gordon Brown marched under a Hamas flag? Because that is what the leader of the Swedish social democratic party did a few months ago.

So, today I can go back to being a normal citizen again, under the protection of the government's statement.


Miriam Shaviv

Thu, 08/20/2009 - 11:28

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Viv,
The situation in Sweden sounds very distressing. That any newspaper would choose to publish such a report is really repulsive.
I have to tell you, though, that after the Swedish Ambassador distanced herself from the report, the Swedish Foreign Ministry distanced itself from... the Swedish Ambassador, saying that Sweden was committed to the freedom of the press and that they wouldn't have acted in the same way as the Ambassador.
See: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-3764751,00.html


Jonathan Hoffman

Sat, 08/22/2009 - 23:03

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"Were the Israelis right to complain to the Swedish ambassador?"

- Absolutely

"And was the Swedish embassy right to distance itself from the report?"

- Of course

"Governments are not responsible for the content of newspapers, at least not in a democracy."

- But they are reponsible for ensuring that hate is not incited, including by newspapers.


Jonathan Hoffman

Sat, 08/22/2009 - 23:13

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"The local Swedish Jews, incidentally, don't seem quite as worked up"

Well this one does:

http://www.ilyameyer.com/

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