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Does Sweden love Israel?

”The world loves Israel.” That was my summary of what Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy claimed last spring, when an article by him in which he demanded that the Israeli ”war crimes” in Gaza would be investigated, was also published in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (swedish). Levy is among other things known for his strong criticism of the so-called ”occupation”. Read my blogging here (swedish).

Today a new article (swedish), critical toward Israel by the said Levy, is published in the other major Swedish newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, under the heading: ”Bad, Aftonbladet – miserable, Israel”, with regard to Donald Bostrom’s article in Aftonbladet and the reactions by the Israeli government.

The most miserable, according to Levy, is the Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman’s handling of the situation: ”When the Israeli government is completely helpless in its defense of the occupation, with all the suffering that it causes daily million Palestinians, the only way is to attack the critics.” This, he writes, have caused a damage which ”will remain very long.”

A third part in this affair which Levy curiously ignores in his argument is the Swedish government. We can all probably agree that damage has been done. Has the Swedish government no role in the injury?

In hindsight is always easy to be wise, but the question remain as to whether Lieberman would have had reason to (over)react if the Swedish government hade endorsed the statement made by Ambassador Borsiin Bonnier, instead of distancing themselves from it. It’s actually our government that Lieberman’s anger is primarily directed against and not Bostrom’s article.

Some lawyers, most recently, the Chancellor of Justice (JK), has also rejected the Swedish Prime Minister’s assertion (swedish) that it would be a crime against the constitution if the government would pronounce an opinion.

I reproduce an article by Swedish news agency TT which – for some reason – was very difficult to find on the internet:

JK: Legal if ministers want to criticize the article

STOCKHOLM

The government can go much further in its criticism of the article in Aftonbladet without violating the Constitution, according to the Chancellor of Justice, JK.

– It’s not quite clear where the boundaries are. There is a lot we can do under the Constitution, though it would still be regarded as politically and legally inappropriate, said the Chancellor Göran Lambertz, who is the state
lawyer and prosecutor in cases of freedom of the press.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt have during the diplomatic quarrel with Israel over the Aftonbladet article about organs repeatedly made clear that the Constitution forbids them to condemn the newspaper. Both have tried to express understanding for the Israeli outrage, without transgressing any limit.

But ministers could go much further in their criticism, if they so wish, without breaking the law. The threat is more political.

– That was just the case with the Mohammed cartoons and [former social democrat foreign minister] Laila Freivalds behavior. It really was not any doubt that it was legal, but it was seen by KU [parliamentary committe on constitutional issues] as clearly inappropriate, he says.

Freivalds lost the job as foreign minister since she ordered her
employees to warn a web hosting company for the risks of allowing [swedish political party] Sverigedemokraterna’s online magazine to publish the cartoons.

But there is still a space left to exploit, according to Lambertz. A minister can safely say that ”we have no reason to believe this”, he says, but it would be to go over the limit to critizise the decision to publish.

TT

When Prime Minister Reinfeldt said that the law forbids the government to have an opinion on the content of Bostrom’s article, it seems, therefore, if one would follow Lambertz’ line of reasoning, that the prime minister for political reasons took hiding behind the law.

What are these political reasons?

Sweden, as the incumbent presiding nation of the EU has, in a statement joined in the U.S. criticism of the Jewish settlements in the ”West Bank” and East Jerusalem – but it has not expressed any criticism of the Arab settlements in East Jerusalem, a city where the Arab share of the population moreover, increases.

If the purpose of this criticism of Israel is to put pressure on Israel, such pressure would certainly be reduced if the Swedish government should in any however small way meet the Israeli demands. Lieberman’s reaction then can be explained as an attempt precisely to reduce this pressure.

But why should we put pressure on Israel? At a time when almost all the political movements that the PLO is made up of – not least Fatah led by Mahmoud Abbas – aims to eradicate Israel by means of an aggressive war, the greatest pressure should be put on them to repent. Aggressive war is prohibited under international law. Israel, just like every other country has an unconditional right to exist.

In this situation to put pressure on Israel to pull back from east Jerusalem and the West Bank, is only playing those anti-Zionist, and in many respects even anti-Semitic, forces in the hands. Israel has already pulled back from Gaza to be rewarded with nothing except Kassam rockets.

Unfortunately, it is probably too much to ask of the Swedish government that it should singlehandedly venture on a alleingang in this issue. Sweden belongs to the EU. But a small hint that the Swedish Government at least can – and dares to! – criticize unjustified criticism of Israel would have been becoming.

Ambassador Borsiin Bonnier’s statement was in this context both courageous and balanced. But it was deleted. What remains thus is only Swedish criticism of Israeli government.

Links: Daily Telegraph; The New Republic; National Review; Israel Matzav; Memeorandum; NYTimes; CNN.

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9 comments to Does Sweden love Israel?

  • Peter

    ”What are these political reasons?”

    Because the population doesn’t like the government even hinting at interfering with freedom of speech. I don’t know if you follow the political debate in Sweden but there has been alot of debate about ”big brother” and various new surveillance laws people dislike.

    As it says the last person who tried something like that (Laila Freivalds) was forced to resign after something simliar to a senate hearing. Lambertz says it would be politically and legally inappropriate.

  • Martin

    As Peter says, it´s politically impossible for a government in Sweden to interfere with ‘freedom of speech’. We have news magazines in Sweden that publishes horrible propaganda about both Israel and islam in general and have done so for several years, but our governments haven´t done anything to prevent them. The reason for this is our hardline freedom of speech which in essence means: Publish ‘almost’ whatever you want and let´s have a debate afterwards.

    Even as a friend of the palestinian people I agree with you that the article in Aftonbladet was an example of poor journalism and not supported with facts. However, Sweden doesn´t have any laws against publishing poorly made articles so it´s gonna stay wheater we like it or not. One thing which is certain is that the outcry from far rightwing hardliners in Israel like mr Lieberman is not gonna help neither the ‘peace process’ between your people and the palestinians or promote understaniding of Israels plight in Sweden or the world in general.

  • Olbap

    Det är Europa och USA:s fullständigt vänstervridna journalistkår som är att skylla: i sin demonisering av Israel, judar – och den ensidiga islamofili som genomsyrar Västerländsk media (ironiskt nog EFTER 9/11…). Det och självhatande judar som Gideon Levy och alla Dror Feilers och Chomskys därute, som gör allt för att bli ‘accepterade’ och ‘älskade’ av icke-judar, trots att icke-judar, numera i princip lika med muslimer och Västerländska vänstermänniskor (och en hel del brittiska och skandinaviska f.d. statskyrkomänniskor – uppenbarligen…), HATAR allt som har med judar att göra. Att Vänstern idag helt övertagit nazismens roll som främsta judehatare borde bli varningsklocka för alla de människor som kämpar mot hat i världen, dagens kryperi för islamisterna från deras sida påminner rätt starkt om europeiska eliters rövslickeri för nazismen på 30talet. Vänstern ger nya kläder åt medeltida antisemitiska legender om judar som offrar ickejudars blod. Vad vacker vår Vänster är idag…Men högern är inte utan kritik: när Lars Wilks höll på så var svensk regering snabb med att ta avstånd från honom med meningen att ”detta står för honom, inte oss”. Kan det bero på att när muslimer känner sig ”kränkta” så brukar folk ha en otrevlig vana att dö i massor? Judarna bryr sig ingen om – de ska ju helst bo i ghetto och vara pittoreska klezmermusiker, och absolut INTE ha en egen stat och militär (trots att muslimer har 40+ stater…). Inte sant? Och vadå yttrandefrihet? Baltfascisten Freivalds stängde ner SDs website på nolltid när det såg ut som att muslimerna skulle starta WW3 över muhammedbilderna. Var är logiken – alla ni kommunister härinne? Var är undvikandet av dubbelmoralen?

  • Peter

    ”Baltfascisten Freivalds stängde ner SDs website på nolltid när det såg ut som att muslimerna skulle starta WW3 över muhammedbilderna. Var är logiken – alla ni kommunister härinne? Var är undvikandet av dubbelmoralen?”

    Är du seg eller? Freivalds fick ju avgå för det hon gjorde. Varför skulle jag bry mig om Helle Klein eller Laila Freivalds är hycklare när det gällery yttrandefrihet? Vilka dåliga argument, Laila Freivalds är en hycklare och mot yttrandefrihet därför skall Sverige inskränka sin yttrandefrihet och totalt vika ner sig.

  • Olle

    It is not difficult to understand the sorrow and anger the article causes, taking into considerations the historical connotations. I believe most of us with the same references can share these feelings.
    However the Swedish government must act in a less emotional way. The government has to deal with a particular case with reference to the limits of governmental action in the Swedish context – not in the Israelian. Accordingly the Swedish government doesn´t act in this matter in order to exercise any policy towards Israel.
    On the contrary a couple o years ago there was a ”ruling” in the constitutional comittee of the Swedish parliament saying that it is not OK to send excuses to other governments for material published in Swedish media. The ruling was made after the publictaions in Sweden of the cartoons of Mohammed.
    In the Swedish constutional environment it is fundamental that the responsability for articles published in a Swedish paper solely rests on the paper. The government can never be responsible for such decisions and should never give the impression that it can influence them.
    This is one of the very solid reasons why a Swedish minister never will condemn an article on the request from a foreign government.

  • Matte

    Peter: Laila Freivalds ringde till Mahmud Abbas för att försäkra dem om att Sverige inte står bakom muhammed bilderna, varför kan inte regering gör samma sak nu och säga till Israel att de inte står bakom organ artikeln. Åh just det det gällde ju muslimer inte judar. (Någon som ser anitsemitismen i detta)

    och Laila Freivalds avgick pga en lägenhetsaffär inte för nedstägningen av SD:s sida!

  • Peter

    ”Peter: Laila Freivalds ringde till Mahmud Abbas för att försäkra dem om att Sverige inte står bakom muhammed bilderna, varför kan inte regering gör samma sak nu och säga till Israel att de inte står bakom organ artikeln. Åh just det det gällde ju muslimer inte judar. (Någon som ser anitsemitismen i detta)”
    Så bara för att en sosseregering som kryper inför islam har gjort fel förut så skall regeringen göra fel igen? Jag vill inte att man skall göra undantag för någon för då kommer man bara i en situation där alla möjliga grupper kommer kräva att artiklar fördöms av regeringen. Det kommer det aldrig något gott ur.

    Men du är ju som islamisterna som vill att Sverige skall inskränka sin yttrandefrihet och vika ner sig inför islam, förutom att för dig handlar det om Israel.

    När det gäller antisemitism så när fördömde regeringen någon artikel som handlar om homosexuella eller något sådant? I så fall handlar det om regering och vänsterns islamofili. När fördömde Israels regering senast någon artikel som snackade skit om länder som klagade på Israel?

    Som om detta handlar om genuin kritik mot att Bildt, Freivalds eller någon annan uppvisar dubbelmoral, det handlar bara om att använda vad som helst för att få Sverige att böja sig inför ert älskade Israel.

    Jag kan förstår att Israel kräver ursäkter som ett skådespel för att blidka den inhemska opinionen men att vissa på allvar vill att Sverige skall vika ner sig får mig att undra. Men det är väl bara att acceptera att det finns diverse specialintressen som islamister och Israel-älskare som bara bryr sig om deras egna värderingar och mycket kortsiktigt vill få Sverige att inskränka sin yttrandefrihet och allt möjligt.

    Man kritiserar Freivalds för det hon gjorde men samtidigt vill man att regeringen skall göra det igen, snacka om ett hyckleri och oärliga debattmetoder.

    ”och Laila Freivalds avgick pga en lägenhetsaffär inte för nedstägningen av SD:s sida!”
    Nej nej. Hon har avgått två gånger, ha koll på din fakta.

  • Abram

    Palestinians are building first jews-free state after Naci Germany. Which side Sweden will take this time? Nacis again? Well, see you in the new Nuremberg.

  • Cover up!

    Seem like you dont understand the political situation. Have you heard of Arctic Sea, the carg ship highjacked organized by the Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations in Swedish waters. Israel and Sweden has not been able to see eye to eye around this, and have needed to have some diplomatic dialog. This article was not the first nor tha last that could be debated, but it was a good timing for explain/hide the other dialog.

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