Israeli and Swedish officials responded furiously Wednesday to a Swedish newspaper article that suggested Israeli troops killed Palestinians and harvested their organs.
The article published Monday in Aftonbladet, Sweden's largest circulation daily, implies a link between those charges and the recent arrest in the U.S. of an American Jew for illicit organ trafficking.
Headlined "Our sons are plundered for their organs," the story made news in Israel, where some commentators compared it to medieval accusations that Jews killed Christian children for their blood. Daniel Seaman, who heads Israel's government press office, said the article played on "vile anti-Semitic themes."
The article was illustrated with a photograph of a dead Palestinian man with a line of surgical stitches running the length of his torso, apparently taken after an autopsy, as well as pictures of stone-throwing youths and Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, a New York resident arrested in an FBI sting last month and charged with plotting to buy a kidney from an Israeli and sell it to an American patient for $160,000.
Story based on 'accounts from Palestinians'
The writer, Donald Bostrom, based the story on accounts from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza whom he identified only by their first names. It quotes an Israeli military spokesman denying the charges and saying that Palestinians killed by Israeli forces are routinely subjected to autopsies.
Bostrom writes of a shortage of organs for transplant in Israel and mentions a 1992 government campaign to recruit new donors.
"At the same time that this organ campaign was going on, young Palestinian men were disappearing and being delivered back to their villages five days later at night, dead and cut open," he writes.
'Worried by allegations'
Interviewed on Israel Radio on Wednesday, Bostrom said he was worried by the allegations he reported but could not vouch for their accuracy.
"It concerns me, to the extent that I want it to be investigated, that's true. But whether it's true or not — I have no idea, I have no clue," he told the station.
Aftonbladet's editor, Jan Helin, was not immediately available for comment.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor would not say if Israel planned to file an official complaint. However, Palmor said, "This piece is so blatantly racist and can induce to hate crimes in such a way that we think authorities need to take care of the matter."
In a statement Wednesday, the Swedish embassy in Tel Aviv said the article was "as shocking and appalling to us Swedes as it is to Israeli citizens."
"We share the dismay expressed by Israeli government representatives, media and the Israeli public," the embassy said.
In Sweden, the article drew a critical editorial from a rival daily, Sydsvenskan, which said it followed the "usual template of a conspiracy theory."
There were few other reactions to the piece in the Scandinavian country but Israel's ambassador there, Benny Dagan, said the piece did not indicate a climate of general hostility toward Israel.
"It's certain elements," he told Israel Radio. "It's not all Sweden or mainstream Sweden or the Swedish parliament."