Sweden does not intend to apologize for an article in a Swedish daily accusing Israeli soldiers of killing Palestinians and harvesting their organs, the government said Saturday, citing legislation protecting freedom of speech.
"No one can demand that the Swedish government violate its own constitution. Freedom of speech is an indispensable part of Swedish society," Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was quoted by the Swedish news agency TT as saying.
In response, Spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry Yossi Levy said Saturday: "In our opinion freedom of speech is not reserved only for the media, but is also the right of the Swedish government.
"We expect Stockholm to express, clearly and without evasion its position on this anti-Semitic article. We feel that 'freedom of speech' is being used as a fig leaf by the Swedish government," he added.
"The Israeli government itself greatly values freedom of speech," said Levy, "and no less so than the Swedish government, which seems to be using this term as a convenient measure to evade issuing a strong statement saying: 'Anti-Semitism is disgraceful and should be denounced not only when it is expressed in the capitals of Third World countries, but also when it is voiced in the heart of Sweden'."
The article, published Monday in the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, implied without evidence that there was a link between charges of organ theft from Palestinians and the recent arrest in the United States of an American Jew suspected of illicit organ trafficking.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt rejected Thursday Israeli calls for official condemnation of the article, saying freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy.
In his blog, Bildt also rejected claims that Sweden harbors anti-Semitic feelings, adding that the condemnation of anti-Semitism was the only issue in which he has been involved where there has ever been complete unity in the Swedish Parliament.