A screen-shot of the libelous story on the website of Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
Last week a leading Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published a co-ed entitled “They plunder the organs of our sons” claiming that Israeli soldiers are abducting Palestinians to steal their organs.
Shortly afterwards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Swedish government to condemn the article. An Israeli government official clarified that he did not expect the Swedish government to apologize for the article but he did expect it to take a stand.
Other Israeli politicians reacted strongly, especially Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman who said “It’s a shame that the Swedish Foreign Ministry fails to intervene in a case of blood libels against Jews. This is reminiscent of Sweden’s stand during World War II, when it had failed to intervene as well.”
Strong editorials appeared in various Israeli media outlets including the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz condemning this Swedish policy of selective silence and an online boycott petition of Swedish companies such as IKEA and Volvo gathered roughly 10,000 signatures.
In American Jewish media outlets coverage of the story was limited and one of the few headlines on the matter published by the JTA was entitled “The organ harvesting controversy: Did Sweden fumble or Israel overreact?” questioned the very validity of Israel’s restrained though incensed reaction.
According to Lena Posner, head of the Jewish community in Stockholm and president of the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden, “Israel caused all this mess.” Posner told Ynet news, “The article was published here on Monday, but no one paid any attention to it. It wasn’t a news report and was buried in the back pages of a tabloid. The writer is known to many of us as anti-Israel, and so is the entire paper. This is why no one took it seriously – until Israel got involved.”
On Facebook I created a group calling for a public condemnation of the story from Swedish authorities, as of this moment the group has a dismal 84 members. Groups dedicated to every other cause under the sun from support of comic Borat to the hating of Israel, have many thousands of members!
It seems that there may be quite a bit that we as Jews can learn about ourselves by comparing this story to one with many similarities that broke in demark on 30 September 2005. The Muhammad cartoons controversy that began after twelve editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad, were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
Most will remember the fury that was unleashed all over the globe, violent protests resulting in more than 100 deaths, Danish embassies were torched in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, and death threats were issued by many Muslim leaders. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen described the controversy as Denmark’s worst international crisis since World War II.
On 27 October 2005, a number of Muslim organizations filed a complaint with the Danish police claiming that Jyllands-Posten had committed an offence under section 140 and 266b of the Danish Criminal Code. On 9 September 2006, the BBC News reported that the Muslim boycott of Danish goods had reduced Denmark’s total exports by 15.5% between February and June. This was attributed to a decline in Middle East exports by approximately 50%. “The cost to Danish businesses was around 134 million Euros ($170m), when compared with the same period last year, the statistics showed.”
In comparing the two stories, firstly to our credit, the violent outbursts are by no means a justified reaction for civilized human beings, and there was never a thought of this sort of behavior from any Jewish groups.
Second, to our detriment, putting the violence aside, the reactions of the Jewish world were miniscule in comparison, yes, there are far less Jews than Muslims, but we are an influential group, and we can be very vocal if we want to. It seems that the muted Jewish response to this affront is a symptom of a greater ill suffered by our people, our silent but deadly internal adversaries of ignorance and apathy.
The Danish newspaper soon apologized to offended Muslims saying: “In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologize.”
As of yet there is no inkling of an apology from Aftonbladet.
The editor who originally approved the Mohammed cartoons, Carsten Juste, later declared that the opponents of free speech had “won” because the furor would almost undoubtedly deter future editors from printing anything similar. He thought it unlikely that anyone would print a caricature of Muhammad within a generation. He also said that, had he known exactly what the consequences would be, that is death threats, boycotts, and terror threats, he would not have printed the cartoons.
As for further anti Semitic material, Aftonbladet has already published a follow up article!
The lesson for Jews is clear, in the words of Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein spoken at the Gershon Jacobson Memorial Lecture on June 30th 2009:
“There is nothing we can’t accomplish if we stand up and recognize our responsibilities and not be diverted and not be cowed because the media doesn’t like it when we speak up for Israel. We can never allow ourselves to succumb to some imposed sense of political correctness or perceived political correctness at the expense of vital interests of Israel and the Jewish people. To react responsibly, and even at times forcibly, is a fulfillment of our obligation as Jews and as Americans, especially to future generations.”
Let your voice be heard!
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org