Jan Helin, editor-in-chief of Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, which published an article accusing Israel Defense Forces soldiers of harvesting organs from Palestinians, told Ynet Monday that he was disappointed in the Israeli government, saying "I was saddened to see extreme rightist populists using this article as vulgar propaganda."
Having previously explained in an Aftonbladet article that he was not anti-Semitic, the editor criticized Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said Sweden had reverted to World War II sentiment.
On Sunday, Aftonbladet published a second article accusing the IDF of harvesting Palestinian organs. In the article 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 article, entitled "Mother never stopped suffering; she never stopped wondering," quoted Bilal's brother as saying that the killed teen was "hunted by Israel for protecting his people."
Aftonbladet reports IDF soldiers harvest Palestinian organs
Helin explained he had sent reporters to the West Bank to ask the family if it stood behind its story. "There were many rumors about the truth of the claims and we wanted to refute them," he said. "It may not prove anything factual, but the claims remain and this is why we published the story."
When asked why the paper did not verify the claims with the IDF Helin answered, "This is not a news report, but the opinion of a reporter who looked at the situation and held a debate on what he thought. Organ trafficking is a question he thought worth investigating. It may be considered a good or bad idea, but it's not anti-Semitic propaganda."
He added that he didn't believe the Swedish government would condemn the report. "We are not an anti-Semitic paper. It's true that most of our reporters are social-democrats but we are far from being anti-Semites," he said.
"I am very far from being a racist or a Nazi and it's sad to see that officials feel they must raise the horrible history of the Holocaust. Just yesterday we heard Lieberman attack Norway. They jump at any such chance."
Helin said he had not meant to hurt anyone. "I was naïve," he said. "I thought Israel was democratic. I have many Jewish friends and I see Jewish culture as very positive."
Since the publication, the Aftonbladet has attracted global attention, not all of it positive. "I don't regret publishing the story, but I couldn't imagine the amount of publicity we'd get and it wasn't my intention," the editor said.