Misinformation can be murder

Misinformation can be murder

The recent debate over health care, as detailed at length in this newspaper, demonstrates that misinformation, misperception, and even downright misrepresentation abound throughout the body politic. While in some sense lives are at stake in this debate – people without health care certainly can’t protect their health as well as those who do have that protection – generally the vitriol and distortions are not intended to demonize a particular group. In some instances, however, distortions are intended to do exactly that.

In a recent news alert, JTA reported that a leading Swedish newspaper accused Israeli soldiers of harvesting human organs from Palestinians.

Read the following without flinching, if you can: “In a large spread in its culture section, the Swedish daily Aftonbladet reported that young Palestinian men were seized by Israel and returned to their families with missing organs…. The story ran under the headline, ‘They plunder the organs of our sons.'” The hateful article goes on to cite the recent arrest of a New York rabbi accused of trafficking in human organs.

While Israel, of course, has responded angrily to the story and has lodged a protest with both the Swedish government and the newspaper – and other Swedish newspapers have expressed outrage – the damage has been done. According to its publisher, “Aftonbladet and aftonbladet.se reach around 3.9 million readers weekly and are thus a dominant player – not only in Sweden but throughout the Nordic region.”

Blood libels are pernicious and highly dangerous. What is truly frightening is how long they have been around and how they persist today (for example, in a 2003 cartoon of Ariel Sharon eating babies). According to JewishEncyclopedia.com, this horrible idea arose as early as Greek times, with the Alexandrian grammarian Apion accusing the Jews of “annually fattening a Greek in the Temple, killing him, offering his body as a sacrifice, eating of his internal organs, and swearing an oath of enmity against all Greeks.”

Accusations like this – and the many that have followed throughout history, in both east and west, from Shiraz, Iran, to Kielce, Poland – are both shocking and dangerous, leading to indescribable violence against entire Jewish communities.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon got it right when he condemned the Swedish article as “a 21st-century blood libel … reminiscent of the darkest periods in history.”

“This is pure anti-Semitism, from which I do not exonerate the Swedish government,” said Ayalon, as quoted on Ynet.

Neither do we.