Sweden's shame over Israeli 'organ theft' nonstory
Why won't its government condemn the outrageous article that accused Israeli soldiers of harvesting Palestinian organs?
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The article claims that Jewish soldiers in Israel killed Palestinians in order to harvest their organs. The writer of the article, Donald Bostrom, has acknowledged that "he has no idea whether the accusations are true." Yet a widely read Swedish newspaper was prepared to publish this undocumented and highly volatile accusation without requiring its author to present any credible evidence.
This false accusation is reminiscent of the medieval blood libels that falsely accused Jews of killing Christian children in order to use their blood for religious rituals. It is also reminiscent of the notorious Czarist forgery, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. One expects this sort of thing from Iranian or Syrian newspapers, but not from Swedish papers.
Not only has Foreign Minister Carl Bildt refused to issue a personal condemnation of the current "organ libel," his foreign ministry explicitly disavowed the denunciation that was issued by Sweden's ambassador to Israel, who had called the article "shocking and appalling." In a self-righteous statement, Mr. Bildt claimed that condemnation of the article would be inappropriate because freedom of expression is a part of the Swedish Constitution.
This is a bogus argument, as anyone who understands freedom of speech will attest. I have devoted much of my life to defending freedom of speech and consider myself something of an expert on the matter. Nobody is talking about censoring the Swedish press or imprisoning the writer of the absurd article. What we are talking about is expanding the marketplace of ideas to include a completely warranted condemnation of sloppy journalism and outrageous accusations that foment an already increasing anti-Semitism in Sweden.
Freedom of speech is based on an open and vibrant marketplace of ideas. No journalist is immune from criticism for bigotry and defamation, even from high-ranking government officials.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredik Reinfeldt's claim that the Swedish Constitution prohibits government officials from commenting on false and defamatory press reports has been contradicted by the Swedish chancellor of justice, Goran Lambertz, who said the following:
"The government has considerable leeway in such matters. A minister can without risk say something along the lines of 'We have no reason to believe these allegations,' but would be contravening the Constitution if he or she actually criticized the decision to publish the article." Mr. Lambertz then offered his own opinion that the decision to not comment was a nod to political considerations, not to legal constraints.