In what sounds like a blast from the 18th century, a Swedish journalist in a Swedish magazine published last week the bizarre allegations that Israeli soldiers routinely kill Palestinian Arabs in order to harvest their organs – even citing the recent case in Brooklyn in which a “religious” Jew stands accused of selling organs (and at a profit of 1600%). Given the number of times that brain-dead Israeli victims of Arab terror donated their organs to save Arab lives, this is a particularly despicable blood libel.
The Swedish allegations are based exclusively on the “eyewitness” testimony of local Arabs, who have never been known either for their keen connection to reality or an acute sense of integrity (see under “Jenin Massacre” and several dozen other outright falsifications). No other evidence was adduced, and even the reporter subsequently stated that he doubts the veracity of what he wrote. But he wrote it, and although the Swedish Ambassador to Israel properly apologized, the magazine has refused to retract and the Swedish government refuses to apologize for, or even criticize, the report, citing the cherished Swedish value of “freedom of expression.”
That would sound like a principled stand, but for two reasons: firstly, “freedom of expression” certainly allows for critiques, renunciations or denunciations of other expressions – that itself is part of the freedom. They could well have said that he has a right to print what he wants, but we repudiate this Jew-hating drivel because it is wholly fictitious. They did not.
Secondly, and more tellingly, when a Danish cartoonist published caricatures of Mohammed in 2005, thereby provoking murderous riots from easily-provoked Muslims, the same Swedish government that now wraps its sanctimony in “freedom of expression” led the world in apologizing to and genuflecting before the Muslim world for this offense to the peaceful religion of Islam and pledging its future vigilance against any further offenses of this nature. (Hmm… didn’t the Danish cartoonist also have rights of free expression ? Indeed, the concurrent shame to the pusillanimous Swedes is the cowardice of Yale University Press, which is refusing to publish a book on the Danish cartoon controversy because the author insists, naturally and reasonably, that a scholarly account of that affair should include the cartoons themselves so the reader can judge whether they indeed offend.) So why were the Swedes so craven to the Muslims and so dismissive of the Jews ?
The simple answer is: Jews do not riot, would not attack Swedish embassies across the world, will not issue fatwas calling for the death of the author and anyone who has ever dined with him, and will not explode themselves in the presence of innocents. The same cannot be same of Muslims, suggesting a macabre paraphrase of the old saw that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” or more accurately stated in this context, “the more volatile religion gets the apology.”
But there is more to the Swedish hypocrisy than appears at first glance. For Sweden to apologize would require that Sweden actually respect the sovereignty and integrity of the Jewish state. Clearly, they do not, nor do they see any down side in refusing the Israeli demand for a formal apology.
But why should Sweden show Israel any respect, when Israel – by any standard definition of statecraft – continually evinces a lack of any self-respect ? Israel has been maneuvered into a situation – partly through its own mismanagement – in which the conventional wisdom is that the “settlements” are obstacles to peace and the only remaining impediment to peace. Israel has countenanced this attack on its sovereignty and historic/religious claims to its land, and even fostered it under recent governments. It certainly has not told the world (read: the United States and Europe) to butt out of its internal affairs, nor has it railed against the obvious injustice which precludes Jews from living in a historically Jewish territory – in a land named by it and for it (Judea) simply because they are Jews.
International respect needs to be earned, or rights are easily trampled and sensitivities brushed aside. President Obama’s speech in Cairo, critiqued here (rabbipruzansky.com/category/current-eventspage/3/) referenced the Holocaust as the sole reason for Israel’s existence, offending many Jews (including me). But how does that square with Israel’s obsession in taking every foreign visitor to Yad Vashem ? Does not that foster the same conclusion that Obama came to – that the Holocaust is Israel’s raison d’être, and if all the Jews care about is security, then outsiders can send Marines, Mounties, bobbies and (in PM Rabin’s formula) the Palestinian Authority police to guarantee Israel’s security, and then peace will break out ? That lack of self-respect evokes a lack of mutual respect from other nations. A nation that negotiates with foreign governments its rights to its own land and its own legitimacy, and/or a nation that is hesitant to allow its own citizens to live on land it conquered warding off the aggression of its sworn enemies and begs, cajoles, or pleads for a crumb of respect, and/or a nation that cannot or will not say “no” when its vital interests are endangered, will not deserve even that.
So the Swedes are the Swedes – but we can only expect the same measure of dignity from others that we have for ourselves. Jews, thankfully, will not blow ourselves up just to make a point; but we can insist that those who represent Jews – in Israel and in America – speak with Jewish knowledge, commitment, pride and resolve. Perhaps some of the nations will then fear us, as the Torah promised, but all of them will respect us.