jewin' the fat


Freedom of speech, not falsehoods
August 31, 2009, 12:50 PM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , , ,

The libelous claims of author Donald Boström in the Aftonbladet tabloid on August 18 is both a blight on the state of Swedish journalism, and the credibility of the Aftonbladet as a newspaper, who published the article without so much as a fact checker.

The notion that Israel is part of a worldwide conspiracy to harvest organs from Palestinians for money or power is tantamount to the anti-Semitic blood libels of the medieval history, where Jews were accused of killing Christian children to make their Passover Matzah. This link was made by Boström – completely absent of any evidence – to the recent arrest of a New Jersey rabbi who was but one of a group (which included non-Jews) accused of trading organs from live donors on the black market.

In the original article, Boström provides no proof of his accusations, nor any real investigation. His combination of speculation, assumption and unconfirmed testimonies are little more than the re-hashing of a libelous conspiracy theory, with the Israel Defence Forces as the target.

Firstly, the main story of Bilal Ghanan is 17 years old – which calls into question the newsworthiness of the story, as well as the ability to confirm the allegations. However, as Boström makes no attempt to do so the story remains unsubstantiated throughout, except for the “unnamed” sources, quoted throughout. Boström did not contact the Israeli Ministry of Defence or the Israeli Forensic Pathology Centre.

Indeed, Boström did not even contact a medical professional to validate the pathology of the story. Had he done so, he would have discovered that had soldiers intended to steal organs from their victims, they would not have shot them in the chest or stomach. Why? Because it is common knowledge that organs cannot be harvested from bodies with serious upper body wounds.

As for the sources that were quoted? The only Israeli interviewed is an unnamed soldier, without a rank, position or context provided – all necessary journalistic measures of credibility of the source – and all, mysteriously absent. The same applies to the UN staff Boström claims to have spoken to.

I write ‘claims’, because without a name, rank or position on the record, the resulting information is hearsay, and no trustworthy Australian newspaper would be caught publishing it as fact – which is why no Australian papers have repeated Boström’s allegations. Even the family members, identified only as “aunt” or “uncle”, whose evidence is the only ‘source’ quoted directly are now distancing themselves from Boström’s report, and are claiming they never said that organs were stolen.

The Aftonbladet editor-in-chief, Jan Helin admits his paper has no evidence of Boström’s claims, and the reporter himself was quoted by Ynet news services denying the implication that IDF soldiers were stealing organs. He admitted he personally had no evidence of such crimes, as the bodies had never been examined. “Even the Palestinians don’t say that,” he said.

There is no course of action to take regarding the insinuations of Boström’s article, except to question the credibility of the kind of reporter, and publishing newspaper which are prepared to publish a story that neither believe to be true, based on the headlines it will garner, rather than the facts it presents.

Freedom of speech is not a justification to present lies and falsehoods as fact.

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