Israel vs Sweden

The Economist reports:

BARELY two months into its six-month presidency of the European Union, ’s government is entangled in a scrap with . Because it pitches Swedes’ cherished free-speech principles against Middle Eastern sensibilities, it is loaded with a wearying sense of déjà vu—and a potential to escalate.

It started on August 17th when , a Swedish tabloid, published an incendiary article claiming that Israeli soldiers had harvested the organs of some Palestinians whom they had shot. Within hours, Israel’s deputy foreign minister had denounced the article for racism and demanded that it be condemned by the Swedish government. …

Sweden’s ambassador in Tel Aviv obligingly called the article shocking. But she was countermanded by the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt. Israel, he wrote in his blog, wanted the Swedish government to distance itself from the article or take steps to prevent a replication, but that was not how the country worked. This robust defence of freedom of expression was endorsed by the prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Matters quickly deteriorated. An internet campaign called for a boycott of Swedish companies, including IKEA and Volvo. A planned official visit by Mr Bildt to Israel may be under threat. Lawsuits have begun. And Sweden stands accused by prominent Israelis, including the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, of blood libel and .

This has uncomfortable echoes of Denmark’s cartoon wars, started when a Danish newspaper published drawings of the prophet Muhammad in late 2005.

The article in the Swedish tabloid newspaper was racist and gross anti-semitism. It was designed to give credibility to the lies spread in many Middle East countries about Jews and organ harvesting.

The newspaper incidentally is owned by Swedish Trade Union Confederation and has a history of anti-semitic articles.

Now it is debatable about whether the Swedish Government should or should not condemn the article, but there is absolutely no way the Government should be trying to prevent the article, or be held responsible for the actions of the newspaper.

So the campaign against Sweden, and especially Swedish companies, is misguided and wrong. Do not hold a country responsible for the actions of one newspaper.

There are some parallels to the Danish cartoon controversy. The aspect in common is the misguided desire to punish an entire country for the editorial decisions of one newspaper.

But I have not seen any burning down of Swedish embassies or incitements to violence against Sweden.  A boycott campaign is not the same as death threats against journalists.

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