Hear the Israeli position from two Israeli ambassadors

Tired of Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt’s silence?

Here are two Foreign Ministry officials who do speak out. They are both from Israel.

Carl Bildt caused a major rift between his country and Israel after ordering that Sweden’s ambassador to Israel withdraw her remarks from the embassy website. There she expressed dismay over a highly inflammatory anti-Semitic article by left-wing tabloid Aftonbladet.

Israel did not want the Swedish government to curtail the newspaper’s writing – freedom of expression is as entrenched in the Israeli mindset as it is in the Swedish constitution. What it wanted was an expression of sympathy after Israel was accused in Sweden of systematic organ harvesting from Arabs.

Neither did Israel want an apology from the Swedish government – an apology can only be issued by the newspaper itself. It is not the Swedish government that is anti-Semitic, it is large swathes of the Swedish media that are adopting an increasingly troublesome stance.

However, Carl Bildt’s abrupt removal of the Swedish ambassador’s sympathetic remarks was seen as an act of insurmountable arrogance and ill-will consistent with past behaviour – part of a very troublesome pattern. Israel now wants the Swedish government to make its position clear. It does not expect or advocate curtailment of freedom of expression, but simply for the Swedish government to make good use of that freedom itself, to express its regret that Israel was so grossly insulted.

On Saturday you could see here the current Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan, in a TV interview in which he presented Israel’s views on the current crisis. Mr Dagan was a textbook example of cool, articulate forthrightness. He did an excellent job of putting Israel’s case and highlighting the ethical shortcomings in the Swedish media’s dealings with Israel. Not least by asking them whether they were now, in light of the disgraceful allegations of organ harvesting, going to pursue research into other classic anti-Semitic blood-libels such as the Jewish conspiracy that blew up the World Trade Centre, the baking of unleavened bread using the blood of Christian children, the spread of AIDS in the Arab world and so on.

Today Sunday you can see an interview with one of Israel’s former ambassadors to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, today a Fellow of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs.

Mr Mazel provides a wide historical perspective and a first-hand view of the situation in Sweden. This interview too is compelling viewing, revealing interesting insights and explaining the background to Sweden’s increasingly strident position on Israel.

Both interviews are in English, although the interview with Mr Dagan also features some background commentary in Swedish.