Israel-Sweden tensions build over libelous article

Sunday, August 23, 2009 |  Israel Today Staff

Tensions between Israel and Sweden continued to build over the weekend after last week's publication in Sweden's largest daily newspaper of a feature story accusing Israeli soldiers of harvesting organs from Palestinian Arabs.

Israel's Foreign Ministry lashed out at the newspaper over the story, as did other Swedish newspapers, calling it anti-Semitism disguised as legitimate criticism of Israel. Ministry officials likened the story to medieval blood libels that engendered hatred of the Jews by claiming they killed Christian children to use their blood to bake unleavened bread during Passover.

But calls for the Swedish government to officially condemn the story were rejected. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt insisted in a blog post that his government would not curtail what he called "freedom of speech."

At Sunday's cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again demanded that Sweden condemn the contents of the libelous article, and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said those who won't condemn the article may not be welcome in Israel.

Earlier in the day, Israel's Government Press Office confirmed that it had refused credentials to enter the Gaza Strip to a reporter from the Swedish newspaper that printed the story. It is feared the reporter and the newspaper would again publish wild Palestinian accusations as though they were fact.

Bildt is scheduled to visit Israel in September. Israel may try to cancel that visit if the current crisis has not blown over by then.

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