Saturday, September 5, 2009

Swedish Goose, Spanish Gander

When a Swedish paper published highly dubious, unsubstantiated claims about the IDF stealing organs from Palestinians, Israel asked that the Swedish government condemn the story for what it was, a blood libel. The Swedish government refused citing the high value Sweden places on the freedom of the press.

Contrast this with Spain. Recently a Spanish newspaper published an interview with a known Holocaust denier, a man who spent time in an Austrian prison for Holocaust denial, where denying the Holocaust is a crime. In response, the Spanish foreign minister himself issued a condemnation of the interview "...while maintaining the most absolute respect for freedom of expression..."

Why is such a condemnation possible in Spain, but not in Sweden?

To Sweden's credit (though it does not absolve them of silence in the face of blood libels printed in their newspapers) the Swedish government will be pushing the EU to combat antisemetism.


mrzee said...

According to Ha'Aretz, the author of the Swedish story made his original accusation in a book which was funded by the Swedish Foreign Ministry. That makes a condemnation by the Swedish government a little awkward.

Charlie H. Ettinson said...


I didn't know about that book.

You're right, it does make it awkward, but it shouldn't preclude it.

I've always found it frustrating that governments seem unable to admit they were wrong. We all know that nobody is perfect and mistakes are made, so why couldn't the Swedish governmnet say, about the book: "We did fund this book and we support and encourage Swedish litterature and scholarly work, however, the opinions in this book are not ours and we agree with critiques that this story is founded on nothnig but fabrications. We will be more cautious about the types of work we fund in the future."

Wouldn't that make everyone happy?

By the way, which article said that these claims were made in a Swedish government funded book?

cba said...


I followed you here from the CBC comments, where I was impressed with your very calm and sensible responses to some rabid Jew-haters*.

I don't comment there myself, mostly because I'm sure I'd be unable to keep my temper and would end up posting comments that were counter-productive. (I do, however, try to click Agree or--sadly, more frequently--Disagree.) I wanted to express my admiration for someone who is taking on this unpleasant task in such a fine fashion.

As I'm sure you've figured out, soogirll is a lost cause. She, and some of the others, work from the principle of "if [this lie about Israel] is true, then [the current lie under discussion] is probably true, too." In a few weeks time, when the next "look at what the evil Israelis are doing" story turns up, it'll be "if they can steal organs from Palestinians, then I can believe they're [fill in the blank]."

And so it goes, ad infinitum.

*I say "Jew-haters" not "antisemites" for two reasons:
1. There'll always be someone who posts a version of, "Arabs are Semites too, how come those Jews want to pretend "antisemitism" just means them?"
2. As you probably know, the term was coined by the Jew-haters themselves, to give a scientific veneer (being against "semitism" to their prejudice, which until then had been called Judenhass [Jew-hatred]. I don't feel like adopting the vocabulary of those who hate me.

Don Cox said...

Spain is wrong. A government should not make official comments on press stories, however disgusting. Once they start commenting, they have to have an opinion on everything - which is censorship. If the article is illegal, prosecute; if not, say nothing.

It's tough, but freedom is the freedom to be obnoxious and disgusting. There is no need for press freedom if the press never causes offense.

cba said...

Good for you taking on soogirl again. She says, among other things, "A ring of Rabbis has already been arrested for illegal human organ trafficking" even though it was exactly one guy, and he wasn't a rabbi. (Furthermore, she commented on the CBC article that had discussed the case, which involved the arrests of 44 people, including many politicians and government officials and, yes, some rabbis, on a variety of charges, so it's not like she hadn't seen the details.)

She also talks about "the families' long-standing allegations" (even though the family in the article denied ever telling the journalist they thought the organs had been stolen), and about exhuming the bodies; I'm not quite sure what would be learned from a body that was buried 17 years ago, but I'm sure logic doesn't worry her too much.

Sorry for venting here again--I'll try not to make a habit of it!

Charlie H. Ettinson said...


One of the reasons I started this blog was because of the nonsense I would see on some of these public forums, most notably the CBC. I wanted a place where I could write what I wanted, backed up by my own research and if anyone so chose, they could come here and talk to me about it.
That being said, I want to welcome you and encourage you to do two things.
1) Come back frequently and don't be afraid to write what you think. This is a free speech zone and you should feel free to vent and comment. Just be sure that you can credibly back up what you say!
2) I encourage you not to be scared to comment on sites like the CBC. Some people aren't worth responding to, but others are. Unchecked hatred spreads far more freely than when someone with good intentions and the actual truth stands in its way.
You seem to know what you're talking about and so I encourage you to share your knowledge with people who may simply not know.
I hope you'll come back here to visit frequently and I look forward to future discussions.

Charlie H. Ettinson said...

Thanks for your comment, and welcome!
As you may imagine, I disagree with you. Respectfully!
Just as citizens are free to speak what they will, so is the state, or even ministers as individuals.
Just as the freedom to speak allows for vile things to be said, the government should be allowed to exercise that right and say that they agree or disagree. This is not a limitation on freedom of speech, nor is it censorship, it's taking a position. Certainly a government should be expected to take a position on things, so why shouldn't they be able to say: "we disagree with this," a la Voltaire: 'I detest what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'

cba said...

Thanks, Charlie.

As for your suggestions, I think I can promise to do 1), but I'm not sure about 2). I already spend far more of my time reading comments on CBC stories than is good for my health.

mrzee said...

Hi Charles,

I was mistaken about which newspaper it was. It appeared in Ma'ariv, not Ha'aretz. Here's the URL to the story. Unfortunately they haven't got an english language site, hebrew only.

Anonymous said...

If Israelis can do this Israelis (i.e.: illegal harvesting of organs from the dead), and during the 1990's:

Why is it antisemitic to write about it in the newspapers when it may have been done to Palestinians, like that Swedish journalist did? Shouldn't everyone who commented on this blog post also denounce the writer of this CNN article as antisemitic? Or how about denouncing the Israeli spokesman who admitted to the practice?

I think this is ample and sufficient proof that one needs to be careful before throwing around the "antisemitism" word around, when those throwing it have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

I admit that when I first heard the claim written about by that Swedish journalist, I had a very hard time believing it, and I too brushed it off as modern day antisemitism. Now, I am not so sure, and I can't decide whether the greatest loss is that Journalist's reputation or that some Palestinian victims will never be able to pursue Justice.

It will be interesting to see how Israel compensates or deals with the Israeli victims of such a practice. It's interesting to note, though, that the news did not meet the same knee-jerk denial and demonization that was leveled against that Swedish Journalist.

A friend.

Charlie H. Ettinson said...

I think there's an important distinction between these latest revelations reported on CNN and those alleged in the Swedish paper. The Swedish paper suggested Israeli soldiers were kidnapping and murdering Palestinians for the express purpose of stealing their organs. That is quite different from the practice described by CNN.

That being said, what has been described by CNN is disgusting and those responsible ought to be punished. Full stop.

As for charges of anitsemetism. I tend to be very careful in using that term. Given the distinction in circumstances between what Israeli spokespeople have described and what was alleged in Swedish papers I would say the latter is still suspect and its allegations seem baseless.

I don't know what punishment, if any, was meted out to the individuals discussed in the CNN story and I don't know if the families were compensated. I hope they will be. Organ theft is a global problem and frankly, gives me the willies.

Anonymous said...

I think you are referring to this article of Haaretz:

which explicitly says that, in the heading: "Top Sweden newspaper says IDF kills Palestinians for their organs".

Firstly, please remember that this is the Haaretz headline, not the Swedish paper's headline.

Secondly, it is, just by reading it, clearly sensationalist.

Thirdly, upon reading the Haaretz article in full, it becomes clear that the headline is merely Haaretz's own interpretation of the factual and testimonial reporting in the Swedish story. Nowhere in the Haaretz article is it even suggested that the phrase "IDF kills Palestinians for their organs" is the actual translation from Swedish to English of something written.

Fourthly, upon reading the Haaretz article and the parts that they have actually translated, it seems to me that what is actually said is of two orders: (1) Once living Palestinians are taken away by Israeli forces and returned later, dead, with missing organs. There is no mention here as to the reason why these Palestinians died (i.e. escape attempt? Torture? natural causes? accidental shooting?) At most, there is testimonial reporting from their grieving families who relate that the son was taken away alive and returned later dead with missing organs. One can choose to understand this as meaning: " they killed that person for his or her organs", or they can choose to understand it as: "this person died while in detention and subsequently his organs were harvested". I suggest that the Haaretz article chose one way to understand it, and not the other. (2) the other event reported in the Haaretz article is that a stone throwing Palestinian was seriously wounded after being shot by Israeli soldiers, taken away by these same soldiers and later returned, dead, with his organs harvested. This is clearly not a case where that Palestinian was killed for hhis organs. The harvesting, if any, occured in somewhat similar circumstances as related in the CNN article. Somebody already dead being harvested.

Unfortunatly, I dont read or understand Swedish, and I suspect neither can you, and urge you to put aside the sentationalist headline used in this Haaretz article and others like it. It won't be the first or last time that a newspaper article exagerated a story for mmore effect.

A friend.