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Sverige

Political strategy behind Sweden-bashing

There are two possible reasons for Israeli political leaders to attack Sweden.

One is to gain domestic support.
The other is to put pressure on Sweden as chairman of the European Union in advance of coming peace talks on the Palestinian conflict.
The third alternative, that does not seem plausible, is that Israel really thinks that Carl Bildt and Fredrik Reinfeldt will give in to pressure, criticise the Aftonbladet article on organ theft and thus go against the constitution.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign secretary Avigdor Lieberman must have advisors that are by now familiar with Sweden’s freedom of speech regulations
Only once in recent history has a minister in Sweden censored the media. In 2006 the then foreign secretary Laila Freivalds acted against the party newspaper of Sverigedemokraterna, SD-kuriren, when it published satire cartoons of the prophet Mohammad on its web page. Freivalds ordered an official at the foreign office to contact the web hotel where the home page was hosted and have it removed.
t the time the Muslim world was in uproar over the Mohammad caricatures in the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten. Her action got her sacked by the then PM Göran Persson. Later on she was censured by the constitutional committee of the Swedish parliament.
It must be considered very unlikely, even to the Israeli politicians, that Reinfeldt or Bildt would repeat her mistake. If they didn’t understand it to start with, they would only have had to read Israel’s largest liberal newspaper Haaretz.
“Governments in countries who respect press freedom are not responsible for what is published,” said Tom Segev this weekend. He is an Israeli historian and journalist. In a prominently placed article he wrote that Lieberman’s demands for a Swedish denouncement shows that the foreign secretary, born in the Soviet Union, “still thinks in Soviet terms.”
Evidently not everyone in Israel is attacking Sweden.
Domestic politics could be one reason Lieberman and Netanyahu are going about the debate in such a aggressive way. After the elections this spring – just after the Gaza war – the nationalists won.
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is now heading a coalition of ultra nationalist and orthodox parties. Tom Segev describes Avigdor Lieberman and his party Our Israel as “racist”.
Most probably some of the politicians engaged in Swede-bashing during the last week have done so to gain domestic popularity. Maybe the fact that Sweden is the chairman of the EU this fall also plays a part in this.
Carl Bildt has (or had?) plans to travel to Israel and Palestine in the near future. The EU is an important player in the peace negotiations and Netanyahu is under heavy pressure.
Following the bloody war in Gaza, Israel has continued to expand its settlements on the West Bank and to demolish Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem. This has drawn hard criticism from both the US and Europe.
The Israeli leaders can hardly still believe they will get an apology from the Swedish government. But perhaps they think a EU-chairmanship on the defensive would be to their advantage in the coming peace talks.
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