Sweden’s double standard on freedom of the press
posted at 10:30 am on August 20, 2009 by Meryl Yourish
There is a decided double standard in the Sweden Foreign Ministry when it comes to freedom of the press, particularly in response to running anti-Semitic tropes in a major Swedish daily. Representatives of the Swedish government are standing up for freedom of the Swedish press, even the freedom to publish a blood libel like the one that says IDF soldiers kidnap Palestinians and harvest their organs.
Aftonbladet editor Jan Helin said: “It’s deeply unpleasant and sad to see such a strong propaganda machine using centuries-old anti-Semitic images in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table.
[…] Helin called it an opinion piece raising questions of Israel in the context of a suspected link to Israel in that US case. He denied any suggestion of anti-Semitism from his paper.
Oh, so now it’s an opinion piece. Good tactic. The author has stated that he doesn’t know if the charges are true, but he decided to go with them anyway. And neither he nor his editor think that charges of anti-Semitism are in order. Why, they wonder, are Israelis so touchy? This is just a criticism of the IDF. Right?
Take a look at this image of Der Stürmer. This is the classic blood libel against the Jews, that we drink the blood of Christians and use it in our rituals. (Larger image in my previous post.)
Now, why on earth would we accuse a Swedish newspaper of using anti-Semitic blood libel tropes in its story about the IDF kidnapping Palestinians and stealing their organs?
The Swedish Foreign Ministry is doubling down on the freedom of speech aspect while ignoring the “lying about the IDF” aspect. Witness:
Sweden’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said a response by the Swedish Embassy in Israel to a report by the Aftonbladet news saying IDF soldiers killed Palestinians in order to harvest their organs does not represent the government’s stance.
The embassy had stated that the report was “appalling”. But the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman said, “The embassy in Tel Aviv responded in accordance to Israeli public opinion, however the Swedish government is committed to freedom of the press.”
[…] Another Swedish government spokesperson, Anders Jorle said, “The Foreign Ministry would not have acted in the same way” as the ambassador.
Interesting response. Especially when you consider the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s response to another controversy, this one regarding cartoons about Mohammed.
On February 5, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laila Freivalds stated the following in an interview: We support the freedom of speech, that I think is very clear. But at the same time it is important to say that with this freedom comes a certain responsibility, and it could be objectionable to act in a way that insults people.
There was also the Swedish government’s response to a political party in Sweden holding a Mohammed cartoon contest in response to the Mohammed cartoon controversy. One of the cartoons displayed on the website portrayed Mohammed as a dog.
A Swedish foreign ministry spokeswoman told Sweden’s English-language The Local that the diplomat had apologized for any hurt feelings the publication may have caused.
Freivalds shut down the website and later lied about it, which ultimately caused her resignation. But note the difference in tone about the freedom to offend—it’s different when offending Muslims, apparently.
Let us compare and contrast. On the Mohammed-as-dog cartoon:
Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Björkander told The Local it had been a “misunderstanding” on the part of the Pakistanis to conclude that the government fully shared the views of the Muslim community.
Björkander added, however: “The Chargé d’Affaires said he was sorry if the publication had hurt Muslim feelings.”
On the publication of a false story that the IDF kidnaps Palestinians and steals their organs:
But the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman said, “The embassy in Tel Aviv responded in accordance to Israeli public opinion, however the Swedish government is committed to freedom of the press.”
She added that Israel had not issued an official complaint on the report.
Another Swedish government spokesperson, Anders Jorle said, “The Foreign Ministry would not have acted in the same way” as the ambassador.
Barry Rubin wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay that has a solution to all of Israel’s problems: Jews should act like Muslims, and riot and protest violently every offense, real or imagined. The sad thing is: He’s probably right about the results. Just look at the difference between Sweden’s response to this issue. If Sweden were as scared of Jews as they are of Muslims….
Cross-posted to Yourish.com.