Archive for December, 2009

Sweden 2009: An Overview

There are a few fixed highlights in the world of rhetoric — speeches delivered at set intervals where important people have the chance to give their view of the world while the world is listening. The President of the United States has his State of the Union, the Pope’s got the Urbe et Orbe, and the Queen has her Christmas address.

And then there’s me.

A few weeks ago, I gave the annual lecture on antisemitism and anti-Israeli sentiments and activities in Sweden during the past year. The result can be enjoyed here.

Unfortunately, the Q&A session — where my heretic views on anti-Israeli sentiments not necessarily being antisemitic were called into question — is not included in the clip.


December 30, 2009 at 09:38 Leave a comment

Apples and Pears

This weekend, Channel 2 showed a news item about the forensic institute Abu Kabir, and how organs were taken from bodies that were brought there without the permission of the families of the deceased. All of this happened more than a decade ago, and it’s been known since then. The new angle to the scandal, was that Professor Yehuda Hiss, then head of Abu Kabir has been caught on tape admitting that operations were carried out without the permission of the families — something that he denied during the investigation.

Helle Klein at Aftonbladet, the tabloid that published the by-now infamous article about organ harvesting, has found references to the Channel 2 report (maybe in the Guardian or from AP), and comments on it on her blog. She’s annoyed that the big liberal papers in Sweden, Dagens Nyheter and Expressen don’t give a prominent enough spot to this story.

She then goes on to state that in the light of this ten year old story, the liberal press that accused Aftonbladet of antisemitism should be ashamed today. In other words, she seems to think (or at least wants her readers to think) that this news in some way vindicates her paper.

Well, let’s just refresh our memory, shall we?

On August 17, Aftonbladet published an article by Donald Boström that wanted to have its readers believe that there was a collusion between the IDF and Israeli hospitals, where the army would kill Palestinians so that their organs could be harvested — maybe even sold to the United States through the help of American Jews.

What happened at Abu Kabir under Dr. Hiss was highly unethical — not to mention illegal. When it was discovered, Dr. Hiss lost his position as the head of the forensic institute, which instead was taken over by the Assaf Harofe hospital. However, no physicians — not even Dr Hiss (whom Klein calls “the infamous pathologist”) — asked the army to kill anyone to get their organs, even though they did use organs of bodies without asking the families of the deceased.  Furthermore, not only organs from the bodies of Palestinians, but also Israelis (including soldiers) were used in this way.

Furthermore, in contrast to what Klein implies, both the Guardian and AP point out that this story doesn’t prove what Aftonbladet wrote in August.

I don’t know, but to me it seems that DN and Expressen have made a pretty accurate judgement of the value of this story when they chose not to give it pride of place.

UPDATE: Several Swedish bloggers, like Jonathan Leman and  Stefan Olsson, as well as newspapers like Sydsvenskan also write about this latest turn of events.

December 23, 2009 at 15:19 Leave a comment

From Poland with Love

It can’t be easy to be Polish.

No, I don’t refer to the “sitting-alone-in-the-darkness” bit of it, rather to the fact that almost every time Poland makes the international headlines it’s not for its fascinating cities, tasty beer or rich cultural life, but rather somehow connected to the Holocaust. Just a few days ago it happened again: everyone — at least in Israel — was talking about the theft of the “Arbeit macht frei” sign over the gate to Auschwitz.

Luckily, the sign has been recovered already and today I note that Yediot reports that the suspected thieves apparently were going to smuggle the sign out of Poland and deliver it to someone in — Sweden.

December 22, 2009 at 15:55 1 comment

Dividing We Fall

The year 2009 is drawing to a close, and so is the Swedish presidency of the European Union. All the important summits, glitzy conferences and obligatory photo-ops are behind us and it’s time to summarize.

How did it all go?

Svenska Dagbladet asked a number of experts to evaluate the Swedish presidency, and overall the Reinfeldt got a passing grade. David Král from the independent research institute Europeum in Prague is quoted as saying that after the — shall we say “weak”? — Czech presidency during the first half of 2009, Sweden managed to reestablish the credibility of mall countries and their ability to lead the Union.

One of the few points where Král is critical of the Swedish presidency, is the suggestion to make Palestinian demands to divide Jerusalem official EU policy. In Král’s view, this weakened Europe’s role as a broker in the peace process.

The whole article can be read here.

December 21, 2009 at 08:43 Leave a comment

Cycle of Violence

Lately, Jerusalem has been rocked by rioting Haredim out to protest various secular behaviors that they don’t approve of. Avid readers of this blog are no doubt already aware of this fact, since I’ve written about it before.

People sometimes say that such problems with the ultra-Orthodox trying to impose their lifestyle on their fellow men are typically Israeli, and that abroad they would never do such a thing because of darkei shalom — or because they just wouldn’t dare to.

Well, it turns out that the Hasidim of Williamsburg, New York, either don’t care that much about the ways of peace — or maybe they just have bigger balls than others.

Heeb Magazine reports that these New Yorkers protest the existence of bike lanes on the streets leading through their neighborhood. Not that biking is against Halakhah per se, but rather because some bike-riders are so immodestly dressed. This, apparently, poses an existential threat to the whole Hasidic community.

The whole report can, and should, be read here.

December 14, 2009 at 12:48 Leave a comment

Altalena Anno 2009

Tonight the Defense Ministry announced that the IDF will no longer work together with the yeshivah Har Brakhah. The decision, which lacks precedent but nonetheless was far from unexpected, is the climax of a growing conflict between Rabbi Melamed and the defense establishment. For some time now, Rabbi Melamed has been inciting against the army, encouraging religious soldiers to refuse to carry out orders to evacuate settlements.

In light of the fact that he refuses to stop doing so, this was the only logical step that defense minister Barak could take.

Yes, it’s true that in a democracy, everyone — including rabbis — has the absolute right to state their opinions — even stupid or dangerous ones. 

However, one still has to take into account that one’s statements may have consequences, and it’s not an absolute right for one’s yeshivah to work within the hesder system.

Furthermore, in a democracy, politicians make the decisions and the armed forced must be nothing but an a-political tool that just has to carry out what the democratically elected leaders have decided. If people within the army start to make up policy of their own, that would soon lead us all down the path of anarchy or even a long line of military coups.

This is the logic behind the cutting of the ties with Har Brakhah, and this was the logic behind the sinking of the Altalena. A country like Israel that needs a strong defense can’t afford to compromise on this point if it wants to safeguard the crucial principle that the army serves the body politic and not the other way around.

If the price is the sinking of a arms ship or a yeshivah, it’s a small price to pay.

December 13, 2009 at 19:06 Leave a comment

Mazal Tov!

December 10 is the day when all of Sweden grinds to a halt and the whole nation sits down in front of the TV to watch this year’s Nobel prize laureates eat a well-deserved meal in the Stockholm City Hall. 

I wish to extend a congratulations to all of them, but especially to Ada Yonat, this year’s Israeli winner. She had the honor of sitting next to the King himself during the three hour-long dinner.

I wonder if there was chemistry between them?

December 11, 2009 at 04:26 Leave a comment

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