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26 Aug, 2009 05:33

Israeli organ harvests just Swede dreams?

Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom’s claims that he can prove Israeli soldiers have been harvesting organs from slain Palestinians have sparked a diplomatic row between Stockholm and Tel-Aviv.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry has refused to comment on Bostrom's claims, citing freedom of speech in the country.

The Swedish journalist says Palestinian mothers have a right to know what Israelis have done to their children’s bodies and whether or not their organs have been stolen.

“This actually happens now. It’s true… I was there. I saw it. The families were telling me. So it’s not a story. It’s a fact. The fact is they shot the men dead, they did an autopsy [sic], back in the 1990’s, and the families accuse Israel,” said Donald Bostrom.

It’s been a long-running investigation. He talked to dozens of Palestinian families at the beginning of the 1990’s, and wrote about it in his book.

What made him revive the story is the latest scandal involving a rabbi arrested in the U.S. on charges of illegal organ trading.

For the Swedish journalist “Now there is a kind of news window. Maybe the time has matured to take it back for discussion. When the FBI actually arrested these guys, people are more ready to bring it up to the surface again.”

And people are talking about it. Israel is talking about a crisis in relations with Sweden and calling for its government to condemn the article in the Aftonbladet tabloid newspaper, which it sees as anti-Semitic to the core.

The response from the Swedish Foreign Minister came in his blog, and it was ‘no comment’.

It said journalists in Sweden are free to have their say.

Israel anathematize the publication

Israeli officials accuse Bostrom of bringing up the subject without substantial evidence.

A spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Yigal Palmor, labeled Bostrom’s article as intolerable.

“It’s pure racism. The allegations are not based on any testimony,” Palmor said.

“You know, this is like pure science fiction, plus, even if it were true – even if it were true! – it would be impossible to use these organs for transplant. So this is pure science fiction, a particularly bad story of science fiction, by the way.”

The Director of the transplantation unit from the Israeli Hadassah Medical Organization says organ transplant is a very complicated operation and involves many people. So if something illegal was going on it would be hard to conceal.

Associate professor of surgery, Hadar Merhav, the Director of Transplantation Unit at Hadassah Medical Organization, assured that “For that to transpire, you will need to have Israeli soldiers who have been trained in transplantation and who are running around with huge amounts of equipment to allow them to harvest organs in the field.”

His verdict was that “These claims hark back to the old quote by Goebbels – the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.”

While Israelis see the allegations as an attempt once again to vilify their state, Donald Bostrom says he is not accusing Israel of organ trafficking. He just wants the doubts and fears of Palestinian families to be thoroughly looked into.

Swedish reaction

In Sweden, the debate has turned into one about the need to protect freedom of speech. For Israel, the article could unleash anti-Semitic aggression. As the two views clash, causing a diplomatic row between the two countries, the journalist in the middle of it says his job is about raising questions.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s prosecutor general announced the commencement of an investigation into the scandalous publication. But this is not the only fallout.

Swedish Ambassador Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier, on her own initiative, issued an apology to Israel concerning the article in Aftonbladet, in which she, at her own risk, condemned the scandalous publication. She took this step without the prior and commonplace co-ordination of communication with the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

The matter is that in Sweden itself, state lawyers are highly doubtful about the publication being an incitement of ethnic hatred or even racially offensive, since the publication puts blame on the Israeli army, and Israel is not inhabited by Jews only.

Moreover, the leader of Swedish Vänsterpartiet (Left-wing Party), Lars Ohly, appealed for an immediate recall of Ambassador Bonnier from Israel to “explain to her how freedom of speech works in Sweden.”