As we pointed out yesterday, the reaction to a Swedish newspaper’s publication of a blood libel against Israel is a seminal moment for those seeking to understand the comeback of European anti-Semitism. The decision of Aftonbladet to run a piece that alleged that the Israeli army was killing Palestinian boys and then harvesting their organs for sale was shocking enough; the unwillingness of much of the Swedish establishment to speak out against this outrage, however, shows just how bad things are getting there.
And for those who imagined that the paper might choose to cut its losses and slowly back away from the canards it launched against Israel, the opposite is true. A look at the blog of Jan Helin,* Aftonbladet‘s editor, reveals that he is intent on doubling down on a campaign of libel while all the while attempting to pose as a victim. Helin claims: “I’m not a racist. I’m not an anti-Semite. Aftonbladet is not an anti-Semitic newspaper. On the contrary, we openly stand against xenophobia.”
But he describes the understandable reaction of Israelis and Jews around the world to his digging up what is one of the old standbys of anti-Semites—a medieval-style blood libel that depicts Jews as blood-sucking vampires who feast on the bodies of non-Jews—as “a wave of hatred.”
Curiously, though he specifies that “Aftonbladet takes no position on the veracity of the facts,” he writes as if the notion that Jews kill Palestinians and steal their organs is not a slander but a debatable proposition and that the ball is in Israel’s court to prove that its soldiers are not guilty of such a preposterous crime.
But just as brazen as his defense of the article is his attack on his country’s ambassador to Israel for having the good sense to try and distance her nation from Aftonbladet’s anti-Semitism. Calling her statement—that she was shocked and appalled at the article—an attack on freedom of the press, Helin writes: “Have you woken up in Iran? No, it is Sweden’s Ambassador Elisabet Borsiin Bonnier in Tel Aviv, who attacks the Swedish freedom of press and freedom of expression.”
This is, of course, nonsense. Helin and Aftonbladet may have the right to publish lies, or at least they would in the United States (though they might be liable for libel charges), but it is not a violation of that right for decent persons and even government officials to denounce them for spreading hate. And in an attempt to blame the victims of his libel for having the chutzpah to denounce it, Helin invokes the more familiar language of Israel-bashers: “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.”
So, according to Helin, it is Israel, which he accuses of killing children and then cannibalizing their bodies, that is invoking anti-Semitic imagery.
Helin notes with satisfaction that Sweden’s Foreign Ministry distanced itself from Borsiin Bonnier’s condemnation of Aftonbladet. Moreover, he appears confident that it is more likely that the ambassador will, as he wishes, be punished for her conduct than it is that the Swedish government, which itself funds NGOs that routinely engage in anti-Israel propaganda, will join in any condemnation of his newspaper’s conduct.
Perhaps the most salient comment about any of this came from a reader of this blog who noted sardonically in a reference to the great Swedish hero of the Holocaust that “I guess not everyone is Raoul Wallenberg up there . . .”
I guess not.
* Nota bene: The blog was run through Google’s translator.