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Israeli outrage over Sweden organ claim

By Henk Kamsteeg

"The Swedish government must renounce itself from this anti-Semitic publication."

Israel is contemplating to lodge an official complaint with Sweden over claims in Sweden’s biggest-selling daily tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet that Israeli soldiers killed Palestinians to sell their organs. It states that Israeli soldiers snatched Palestinian youths and returned their dismembered bodies a few days later.

The Aftonbladet article is written by Donald Bostrom, a freelance journalist and author based in Stockholm, and centers around the case of Bilal Ahmed Ghanem, a 19-year-old Palestinian man who was shot and killed in 1992, allegedly by Israeli forces, in the West Bank village of Imatin.
Bostrom claims he witnessed the man's killing, and said Israeli forces took Ghanem’s body away while he was still mortally wounded. His body was returned five days later with a cut in his midsection that had been stitched up. Ghanem's family said they believed that his organs had been removed. After that incident, at least 20 Palestinian families told Bostrom that they suspected the Israeli military had taken the organs of their sons after they had been killed by Israeli forces and their bodies taken away – presumably for routine autopsies.

“We know that Israel has a great need for organs,” says Bostrom. “There is a vast and illegal trade of organs which has been running for many years now, that the authorities are aware of it and that doctors in managing positions at the big hospitals participate, as well as civil servants at various levels. We also know that young Palestinian men disappeared, that they were brought back after five days, at night, under tremendous secrecy, stitched back together after having been cut from abdomen to chin. It’s time to bring clarity to this macabre business, to shed light on what is going on and what has taken place in the territories occupied by Israel since the Intifada began.”

The Swedish ambassador to Israel condemned the August article as "shocking and appalling,” but the government in Stockholm has not issued a similar condemnation, and Israeli foreign ministry officials have reacted furiously.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli Foreign Minister, said, "It is regrettable that the Swedish foreign ministry does not intervene when it comes to a blood libel against Jews,” said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He compared the Swedish Foreign Ministry's hands-off position to the country's neutrality during World War II.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the broad Israeli criticism of the Aftonbladet paper over the claims troops took organs to sell. He urged the Swedish government to condemn a Swedish newspaper article that claimed Israeli troops killed Palestinians for organs.

Mr Netanyahu reportedly compared the claims to medieval "blood libels", which alleged that Jews used the blood of Christian babies during religious ceremonies.
An Israeli official quoted him saying: "Statements in the Swedish press were outrageous. We are not expecting an apology – we expect condemnation."
Even though the Swedish Embassy distanced itself from the Aftonbladet article, the country’s foreign minister Carl Bildt said he would not condemn the article, and that freedom of expression is part of the Swedish constitution.

Israel says that the article is racist, but Sweden said that the only issue that united the Swedish parliament at all times is the condemnation of anti-Semitism.
The Israeli press reported that the country's foreign ministry is considering its options in response to Sweden's position, among them postponing a scheduled visit to Israel by Mr. Bildt.
Later, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor said: "There is no question of cancelling or delaying this visit, but it is clear that this incident will cast a worrying shadow over meetings if it is not resolved."

"This is an anti-Semitic blood libel against the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The Swedish government cannot remain apathetic," said Israel's Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
"We know the origins of these claims. In medieval times, there were claims that the Jews use the blood of Christians to bake their Matzas for Passover. The modern version now is that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers use organs of Palestinians to make money."
He continued: "It makes no difference whether this comes from a neo-Nazi organization or from an honorable newspaper. The Swedish government must renounce itself from this anti-Semitic publication."