The editor of a Swedish tabloid that published an article claiming Israel Defense Forces soldiers were harvesting organs from Palestinians said Monday, "I'm not a Nazi. I'm not anti-Semitic."
In an Aftonbladet editorial, Jan Helin responded to claims by Israel that his paper had spread a blood libel about the Jewish people.
"I'm a responsible editor who gave the green light to an article because it raises a few questions," Helin wrote. He confessed that the paper had no evidence of such practices.
Donald Boström, the Aftonbladet reporter who wrote the piece, also denounced claims that he was anti-Semitic. "I am not an anti-Semite, and that's what saddens me most in this whole story. I've been a journalist for 25 years and I've always written against racism and segregation," he told Yedioth Ahronoth.
Boström explained that he had not meant to imply that IDF soldiers were killing Palestinians for their organs. "Even the Palestinians don't say that," he said.
"What they said is that when the Israeli army returned the bodies, 62 of them had been autopsied and 20 Palestinian families I spoke to were certain that their sons' organs had been harvested."
But Boström admitted he had no evidence of such deeds, as the bodies returned to the families were never examined to determine whether organs had been taken. "As far as I know no one examined the bodies," he said. "All I'm saying is that this needs to be investigated."
The reporter also denied claims that Sweden harbors anti-Israeli sentiment. "Sweden supports Israel as a country and a people, and I am a part of this," he said.
"There are many people, I among them, who condemn the Israeli government's policy of occupation and violation of international law. Israel needs to withdraw to its borders and evacuate the settlements. If Israel does this, support for you will reappear."
Bostrom added he was surprised the article had instigated such a harsh Israeli response, and criticized Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for his condemning statement against Sweden.
"Lieberman should be aware of how a Western democracy works and what social rights are. He can yell as much as he wants, but the Swedish government can't do a thing," the reporter said, adding that if Lieberman wasn't aware of the rights involved in freedom of speech, he would do well to resign his post.
Second article published
Israel's protests have not had much of an effect on the Aftonbladet, which published a second accusatory article on Sunday. In it, Oisín Cantwell and Urban Andersson report from the northern West Bank village of Imatin, where 19-year-old Bilal Ahmad Ghanem was killed during a clash with Israeli soldiers in 1992.
The second article, titled "Mother never stopped suffering; she never stopped wondering," quotes Bilal's brother as saying that the killed teen was "hunted by Israel for protecting his people."
The Israeli government declared Sunday morning that it expects the Swedish government to officially condemn the first Aftonbladet report.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We do not want the Swedish government to apologize, we want it to issue a condemnation."
News agencies contributed to this report