The blood libel that won't die

Barry Rubin, National Post  Published: Thursday, August 20, 2009

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We are not talking about a Saudi newspaper or a Hamas radio station but a Swedish newspaper. We are not talking about a neo-Nazi rag, but a daily tabloid closely tied to the Swedish Social Democratic Party. And we are not just talking about an obscure item but an article that received top billing.

On Aug. 18, the newspaper Aftonbladet published an article by a man named Donald Bostrom. The editor responsible is named Asa Linderborg. She is the newspaper's cultural affairs editor. This was no random decision for her. When asked once: "What do you wish for most in life right now?" She answered: "What a simple question. What I want is a free Palestine."

And what did this article say? That Israel's army deliberately murders Palestinian civilians so that it can cut out and sell their organs to sick people needing transplants. The author is a left-wing activist for Palestinian causes, though the newspaper calls him a journalist.

The story is tied to the recent arrest of a Jewish man in Brooklyn for selling organs -- despite there being no hint of any Israeli connection to his alleged organ-trading activities. In going after Israel, Aftonbladet relies primarily on Palestinian sources (though the author also claims to have UN sources). One is reminded of the false 2002 claims of a "massacre" in Jenin, which received massive coverage in the Western media and which was also based on made-up Palestinian accounts.

At this point, readers are no doubt thinking: This is some kind of sick joke.

Yes, it is. But the newspaper published it any way -- and no, it wasn't in the style of satire.

A competitor, Svenska Dagbladet, has blasted the article, which it accurately calls an anti-Semitic blood libel without a shred of evidence. And the Swedish Embassy in Israel also has condemned it, declaring: "The article shocks the Swedes, just as it shocks the Israelis. We agree with the Israeli government, press and people that this is an unwanted article." But will the country's politicians, intellectuals and others rise up, pronounce this a national disgrace, and demonstrate (the usual response when Islam is perceived to be slighted in some way)? Will the editor be fired? Will there be serious reconsideration of how the hatred of Israel, which has so obsessed this supposedly enlightened country, has gone over the edge?

This incident tell us that there is no limit to the frothing lunacy that informs Israel's left-wing critics. It also tells us that anyone of decency and good intentions should start re-examining their credulity in accepting anti-Israel slanders and ostensibly objective "human rights" reports -- which, like this plainly fictitious article, often are based on the supposed "eyewitness" reports of anonymous Palestinians who have been trained to spout propaganda and conspiracy theories.

The hysterical misrepresentation of Israel increasingly seems to parallel the tales of well-poisonings, ritual murders and Jewish conspiracies to seize world power that plagued past eras. It is a trend that every thinking person has a duty to oppose. - Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) centre, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition) and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).

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