A Swedish newspaper provoked outrage in Israel and drew condemnation from Sweden’s ambassador on Wednesday after it ran a story on transplant organ theft, a report an Israeli official branded anti-Semitic “hate porn”.
The editor of Aftonbladet, Sweden’s largest daily newspaper, hit back hard, at both Israel and at the Swedish envoy for attacking his paper’s coverage.
Donald Boström, the Swedish journalist whose article accusing Israel Defense Forces soldiers of killing Palestinians to obtain their organs evoked outrage, denied on Tuesday that he was motivated by anti-Semitism.
“I’m very sad to hear people accuse me of anti-Semitism,” Boström told Haaretz on Tuesday.
Aftonbladet, ran Bostrom’s piece under the headline, “They plunder the organs of our sons”. In the wake of the report and the furious public reaction, the Israeli embassy in Stockholm on Wednesday sent a sternly-worded diplomatic protest to the Swedish government.
Boström’s article, first to appear in English on Haaretz.com, makes a link to the recent exposure of an alleged crime syndicate in New Jersey. The syndicate includes several American rabbis, and one Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, who faces charges of conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant.
“Now that [the story] has once again risen to the surface, I wanted to point out the link [to the New Jersey affair] and the fact that there needs to be an investigation of the claims,” Boström said.
Boström said he had offered the story to another Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, which turned it down “with no explanation.”
The reporter said Aftonbladet, the most popular evening tabloid in Sweden, published the article without making any editorial changes.
Asa Linderborg, an editor of the newspaper’s culture section which printed the story, told Haaretz that the publication “stands behind the demand for an international inquiry.”
“We had many discussions on whether to publish the article or not, and to the best of my knowledge, there are no facts there that are incorrect,” Linderborg said.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday blasted the article. calling it anti-Semitic “hate porn”.
“This article has clear elements of medieval blood libels against Jews,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said of Monday’s story in Aftonbladet. Accusing the tabloid of encouraging hate crimes, he said: “This is intolerable.”
Aftonbladet editor Jan Helin said: “It’s deeply unpleasant and sad to see such a strong propaganda machine using centuries-old anti-Semitic images in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table.
He accused the Swedish ambassador of “a flagrant assault on freedom of speech” for her criticisms.
Helin called it an opinion piece raising questions of Israel in the context of a suspected link to Israel in that U.S. case. He denied any suggestion of anti-Semitism from his paper.
Sweden’s ambassador to Israel issued a press release on Wednesday condemning the article which appeared in Aftonbladet.
“The article in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet is as shocking and appalling to us Swedes, as it is to Israeli citizens,” the ambassador, Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, said on Wednesday.
“Just as in Israel, freedom of the press prevails in Sweden,” Bonnier said. “However, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are freedoms which carry a certain responsibility.”