Commentary Magazine


Swedish Anti-Semites Dig Up a Blood Libel

Earlier this week, the Jerusalem Post reported that the popular Swedish daily tabloid Aftonbladet had published a story alleging that Israeli soldiers were not only killing Palestinians but also harvesting their organs for use by sick Jews. The piece by one Donald Bostrom repeated some wild and unsubstantiated tales of atrocities told by Palestinians and then attempted to connect them with a recent story of how some Jews in America were behind the illegal trafficking of organs.

According to Bostrom:

We know that the need for organs in Israel is large, that an extensive illegal organ moving is ongoing and has been for a long time, that it is done with the blessing of the authorities, the senior doctor at the major hospital is involved, as well as officials at various levels. And we know that the Palestinian young men disappeared, they were back five days later in secrecy at night, sewn up.

This is nothing but a modern version of medieval Jewish blood-libel myths. Whereas in the past, the object of these hate-inspired canards were helpless Diaspora Jewish communities, now it’s the state of Israel. Though Bostrom disingenuously claimed that he was not promoting the tale but merely repeating what others had told him, the ultimate purpose of such libels is to delegitimize the Jewish people and to exculpate the violence committed against them.

The reaction to this story in Israel was predictably angry. Equally predictable but quite appropriate was an attempt to quiet the furor by Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, Sweden’s ambassador to Israel. She distanced her nation from the article, calling the Aftonbladet piece “shocking and appalling.”

But the response to Borsiin Bonnier’s statement was in some ways just as shocking and appalling as Bostrom’s anti-Semitism. Opposition leaders in the Swedish Parliament attacked their ambassador for condemning the libel against Israel. Green-party spokesman Per Gahrton says Borsiin Bonnier should be recalled and taught “the basics of Swedish freedom of speech.” Even more appalling is the fact that, when asked about the controversy, the Swedish Foreign Ministry in Stockholm distanced itself from her statement, saying it had no comment.

What does it say about a country when one of its leading newspapers deems a wild blood libel against Israel and Jews worthy of publication? And what it does it say about a government and its opposition when they view efforts to condemn this vicious lie as itself worthy of condemnation? What must be understood is that this episode would not be possible outside the context of anti-Israel propaganda that permeates Europe.

As Gerald Steinberg writes in a sharp column in today’s Jerusalem Post, the source of many of the lies spread about Israel is the international nongovernmental organizations that specialize in repeating Palestinian slanders and giving them the imprimatur of an NGO. This pattern was established at Durban, the United Nations–sponsored anti-Israel hatefest, in 2001 and continues to this day. But as Steinberg notes, much of the funding for many of these anti-Zionist groups comes from European governments. The Swedish government is a particular offender. Anti-Israel incitement is no longer the province of neo-Nazi nutcases or marginalized extremists of the Left but of Europe’s ruling elites.

Fortunately, the voices of reason in Europe are not completely silent: according to the Post, 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.’ ”

This story is merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of European-funded and promoted anti-Israel hate. The official toleration, even the subsidization of such lies, can have only one end. Jewish history teaches us that blood libels lead inevitably to violence against Jews. Though hiding behind a thin veil of anti-Zionism, more than six decades after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is very much back in fashion on the Continent.