Cutting to the heart of the Sweden / IDF controversy

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I was going to blog something on the Sweden-Israel dust up over the ludicrous charge in a Swedish newspaper that IDF forces harvest the organs of dead Palestinians as soon as I could figure out what to say, but it seems to me the Jewish Week’s Gary Rosenblatt and liberal Israeli blogger Gershom Gorenberg said just about everything that needs to be said on the subject.

In his blog the other day,  Gary cut right to the heart of the matter with this paragraph:

“As infuriating as the charges were, the resulting controversy, with polls showing Swedes backing their government’s decision, could have been avoided if Israeli officials had simply denounced the article as untrue and not dragged the Swedish government into the fray.”

I wonder: what would have happened if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had simply stood before the cameras, shaken his head sadly, and said “these charges are too dumb and offensive for us to comment on.”

Instead, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, with only a faint understanding of the definition of “diplomacy,” and rampaging Israeli politicians managed to turn the affair into a major international incident, thereby giving it far more coverage around the world than a report in a tabloid whose name nobody outside Sweden can pronounce would normally garner and making the Foreign Ministry look like the playground of a bunch of angry schoolboys.

Diplomacy? No way.

Gorenberg, writing in the liberal American Prospect,  looked at how the crisis unfolded, and in particular at the role of Lieberman.

“The lessons of the affair, I’d suggest, are these: Sometimes, some reports critical of Israel really are anti-Semitic. Nonetheless, hysterical responses replete with Holocaust references only increase the damage. At the least, they suggest that just because someone is out to get you, doesn’t mean you aren’t paranoid.”

A nice turn of phrase, it seems to me.

Israel faces very real biases in a world determined to blame it alone for the region’s woes; it seems to me that bias calls for smart, carefully calibrated diplomacy, not the kind of stuff we see from a foreign ministry headed by politicians appointed for reasons of political expediency, not skill and experience.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.