Archive for August, 2009

Counterproductive Commiseration the Cause?

Åsa Linderborg, the editor of the cultural section of Aftonbladet where the by now infamous article by Donald Boström was published, comments on the circus that the publication of said article initiated. She’s unrepentant, and instead she attacks those who have criticized her and the paper — everyone from her “liberal colleagues” to the “regime in Tel Aviv” (by which she presumably refers to the Israeli government. For similar geographical confusions at Aftonbladet see this earlier post).

The first interesting thing in the article is that Linderborg claims that she’s never heard of the myth that Jews would use the blood of Christian children to bake matzot. (Did I mention that Linderborg’s got a Ph.D. in history?)

Another rather more serious problem with the article is that she suggests that — unlike her Swedish liberal press colleagues — the sane elements of the Israeli press is on her side. Linderborg bases this claim on the fact that Gideon Levy at Haaretz also criticized foreign minister Liebermann and his populist demagoguery about Sweden and the Swedes. Of course she fails to note that Levy also called Boström’s article “bizarre” and “cheap and harmful journalism”.

Anyone interested in reading Levy’s entire article can find it here.

Linderborg burns for the suffering of the Palestinians. I understand and sympathize with that. But since both she and I know that plenty of horrible things are going on in the occupied territories, why does she feel the need to revert to racist fables? Doesn’t she see that coverage of the actual suffering would be enough, and that diversions into malicious fantasy-land is not going to help anyone — least of all the Palestinians?

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August 28, 2009 at 12:57 2 comments

Aftonbladet Covers Its Tracks?

Following the last week’s international uproar, Aftonbladet has decided to publish Donald Boström’s controversial article in an English version. At first glance, this seems like a laudable initiative, since it could grant the international audience access to the text.

Unfortunately, as blogger Jonathan Leman notes, the English version of the article differs from the original on some key points.

In his article Boström justifies the republication of fifteen year old libelous rumors — that he might even have started himself — by referring to the illegal organ trade scandal that was recently uncovered in New Jersey. The only connection between Rosenbaum in New Jersey, who suckered poor (Jewish) Israelis into selling their kidneys to Americans in need of a transplant, and Boström’s allegations that the IDF would murder Palestinians to harvest their organs, is the fact that they’re Jewish. This is one of the aspects that conjure up the anti-Semitic images of Jews killing Gentiles for their own pleasure and/or gain.

Leman points out that the Jewish aspect all of a sudden disappears in Aftonbladet’s English description of the scandal in the United States. In the Swedish original it says [in my translation]:

“Ten days later, at the end of July this year, Rosenbaum was arrested in connection to the revelation of a vast corruption scandal in New Jersey: rabbis, elected officials and trusted civil servants had for years been involved in money-laundering and illegal organ-trade, which was now uncovered like a Soprano network.”

In the English version on Aftonbladet, this has turned into:

“Ten days later, at the end of July this year, Rosenbaum was arrested and a vast, Sopranos-like, imbroglio of money-laundering and illegal organ-trade was revealed.”

Where have all the rabbis gone?, Leman asks.

In another example, the paper scales down its rhetoric and deletes the explicit accusation of murder. In the original Swedish text it says [yet again in my translation]:

“But Palestinians also harbor strong suspicions that their young men have been caught, and as in China and Pakistan involuntarily have been forced to act organ reserve before they were killed.”

In the English version on Aftonbladet’s homepage this sentence reads:

“But Palestinians also harbor strong suspicions against Israel for seizing young men and having them serve as the country’s organ reserve”

Now, let’s not jump to conclusions. Maybe Aftonbladet isn’t trying to cover its tracks and whitewash the original article before an international audience. Maybe they just didn’t feel like they had enough space on their homepage for the whole text, so they chose to shorten it a little. Maybe it’s purely coincidental that the words they chose to cut were the ones connecting Jews with murder.

August 27, 2009 at 15:04 Leave a comment

Cliché Cleptomaniac

There are a lot of stereotypes about Swedes. I know I’ve touched upon this subject before, but I can’t resist going at it again.

In a nutshell, the cliché Swede is pedantic nymphomaniac. This is far from the truth, of course, but nonetheless I found this report in the paper that at least would indicate that some Swedes seem to fit the stereotype.

When the owners of a workshop somewhere in Sweden came to work the other day, he noticed that someone had broken in to his shop. The burglar had stolen his Bantam weld, but before he left he had also taken an internet break. Several porn sites were open in the browser, and the thief had also left a message on the computer:

You need to clean — regards, the Thief

August 26, 2009 at 06:00 Leave a comment

Defending Donald

Ever since the publication of his much-criticized article that suggests that the IDF murders Palestinians and harvest their organs, Donald Boström’s line of defense has been clear. He has not been making unfounded anti-Semitic statements — he’s merely been passing them on. As soon as the shit hit the fan, Boström hid behind the bereaved Palestinian family, and said that he didn’t have any evidence, but that he was just reporting what they told him. 

Now even this rather modest claim to veracity has come under doubt.

In an article in the Jerusalem Post, the family of Bilal Ahmed Ghanem is asked about the circumstances surrounding Bilal’s death and burial. To the Jerusalem Post, they say that 1) they don’t know if Bilal’s organs were harvested, 2) they never claimed that to be the case, and 3) they can’t recall having even spoken to Mr. Boström.

How embarrassing. Well, I’m sure that Mr. Boström has a good new line of defense ready. In the unlikely case that he doesn’t, please allow me to give him a few tips of lines that might work:

1) Someone has bribed the family to lie to the Jerusalem Post;

2) Someone has poisoned the well of the family with lie-serum;

3) Someone is threatening to infect the family with AIDS if they don’t deny the allegations.

If neither of those defenses appeal to him, Mr. Boström can always resort to pointing out that the Jerusalem Post is controlled by the Jews.

August 25, 2009 at 08:09 1 comment

The Report that Broke the Camel’s Back

Last week Aftonbladet published an article, reproducing anti-Semitic gossip reminiscent of Medieval blood libels, and connecting it to the organ trade scandal in the United States.

This isn’t the first time Aftonbladet has published anti-Israeli articles, but this kind of racist content is very rare. For the Government Press Office, the publication was the proverbial straw. Yediot reports that, as a consequence, it has decided not to issue press cards for journalists working for Aftonbladet until the issue has been resolved.

Judging by the tone employed by the editor-in-chief of Aftonbladet, that means it’ll be quite a while until any reporters from his paper will receive a hekhsher from the GPO.

August 23, 2009 at 09:22 Leave a comment

Educational Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

In Sweden, a debate has raged for the last three or four decades, where some people claim that grades and tests are useless, because they give very little — or even misleading — information about what the students actually know. Since they also cause a lot of stress, they should be abolished and students from first grade up till post-graduate level at university should just study for the joy of learning.

As someone with decades’ worth of educational experience, both as a student and as a teacher, I always thought that to be the stupidest educational policy ever.

It turns out, yet again, that I’ve been overestimating humanity.

It’s a well-known problem in Israel that the Haredi education system isn’t up to snuff — at least if one by “snuff” refers to giving the students the proper knowledge and tools to get on in life, and maybe even get a job so that they’ll be able to support themselves and their families. Politicians have tried to find different solutions, but to no avail it seems. Haredi men are still unemployed to a large extent — partly because they’re unemployable.

And they’re unemployable because they don’t learn anything in school. Or at least nothing that would interest an employer outside the religious sector. Anyone who doubts this can just take a look at the score results for Haredim who undergo the matriculation tests for university.

In other words: the matriculation tests work. They give people a chance to realize that they don’t have the adequate knowledge or educational background to get through a university education — before they’ve paid tuition fees and wasted months, or at least weeks, of their lives agonizing over course material that they clearly can’t handle.

Now, apparently, Haredim have started to complain. In their view it’s not, if you had already jumped to that conclusion, their education system that needs to be reformed. No, instead they claim that the matriculation tests are too hard, and not sufficiently geared toward the knowledge of the Haredi students.

I’m sorry, but to become an engineer you need to know algebra — not gemara.

And what is the response of the Education Committee? Has it told the representatives of the Haredi education system to start teaching mathematics, English and other evil secular subjects? Alas, no. Instead, they’ve launched an initiative to explore ways to adapt the matriculation tests to the Haredi students.

The silver lining, as Haaretz reports today, is that two thirds of the Israeli school children still don’t study in Haredi schools.

August 19, 2009 at 14:37 Leave a comment

Organ for Anti-Semitism

A time-honored anti-Semitic lie is that Jews kidnap non-Jews and kill them to use their bodies for various — usually ritual — purposes. In Christian Europe of the Middle Ages, it was claimed that Jews used the blood of Christian children to bake matzah for Passover.

In a modern-day version, it’s claimed that Israel kills Palestinians and use them as involuntary organ donors for ill Jews in need of a kidney, liver or spleen. The Swedish journalist Donald Boström tried to push this story in a book already in 2003, and now he’s found another opportunity to recycle the accusation: the illegal organ trade scandal in the United States.

Yesterday, Boström published a long article connecting the events that have rocked the Jewish community in New Jersey with the rumors and unsubstantiated hearsay he was fed in the West Bank during the Second Intifada. 

The culture section of Aftonbladet, the leading organ of the social democratic movement in Sweden, is Boström’s willing mouthpiece. His article can be read in full here.

Fortunately, the publication has already met some reactions, both in Sydsvenskan and in Svenska Dagbladet.

UPDATE: Also Haaretz writes about Boström’s claims in English here and in Hebrew here.

August 18, 2009 at 09:55 11 comments

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