Monday, August 24, 2009

Stale Antisemitism

Have a look at this face:That's Jan Helin, and he's an antisemite. He's not even a particularly interesting antisemite, with some novel angle that gives you pause or forces you grudgingly to recognize his intellectual innovation. This fellow, he just regurgitates stale old canards and lots of very worn clischees.

Helin, in case you don't already know him, is the editor of Aftonbladet, the Swedish Guardian-lookalike that last week published the sickening pack of lies about how the IDF kills Palestinians so as to harvest their organs. Lest you thought it was an editorial oversight, a few days later Helin published a second story, by a different reporter. Or rather, it's the same story, only repeated by a different journalist.

I'm not going to analyse this story; partly I'm blogging about it simply by way of bookmarking it's components for future use in a better setting. Still, you might want to note the following, among other aspects:

Netanyahu is responding as the Prime Minister of the Jewish State should. By demanding the Swedish government condemn the rot. He's perfectly aware of the issue of freedom of speech, is MIT-educated Netanyahu, and he's not demanding the Swedish rag sheet be shut down, say, or its editor burned. Other folks do that sort of thing, but not the Jews. What Netanyahu is demanding, and right he is, is that the Swedish government condemn the allegations for the unaceptable lies they are. In democracies people may lie, of course; and others may condemn them.

Talking about violent demonstrations with burnt effegies and embassies, the Jews of Sweden responded true to European form: by wistfully wishing the Israelis wouldn't make such a fuss. How unsurprising. When you're a Jew committed to living in a society that is saturated with hatred of Jews, you do your best not to make waves; this has been one of the major Jewish responses for centuries. (Not the only one, of course).

Helin apparently gave an interview to Y-net, and was so uneducated about his topic that he trotted out one of the oldest canards in the book: some of my best friends are Jews.
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."
Neat, isn't it? I thought Israel was a democracy; now I know I was naive. There's more there; you really have to read the entire interview to see how effectively the man's Weltanschuung protects him from accepting any wrong-doing, even things like publishing baseless allegations with nary a sliver of evidence, because "the claims exist so we published the story".

Back to his picture: gaze at it, and ponder. He looks like a nice man. His collar is open and informal. He seems the kind of person you might enjoy having a beer with. He's the editor of an important newspaper, so he must be educated and intelligent. Were you to seek the villain from a row of mug shots you'd never choose him. And yet he certainly is a villain, in a malicious though unintelligent manner, hate infused and barbaric. Keep that image in mind: appearences can be totally misleading. Antisemties can look like nice and be highly educated.


Dennis said...

Good piece. I think this is more egregious than the initial error of printing the piece in the first place. I was willing to grant that the initial piece was written by a crank and foolishly printed. Now, I think its obvious antisemitism that pervades the paper.

The intellectual question is, let's say the article was written about American soldiers in Iraq. Wouldn't the bigotry be obvious?

Anonymous said...

here is another nice Swedish guy
- a journalist turned spy turned thriller writer - the thrillers are well ...
but I've continued reading a little pile of them because I was fascinated by how he depicted Palestinians in Sweden
- they were never really guilty because they kind of couldn't be
here I read he is back into journalism and - sursprise, sursprise - his newspaper is Aftonbladet - I understand he is quite prominent, also has written a trilogy? of the crusades, also well o worse outright tedious

Unknown said...

The banality of evil, indeed.

By the way, for those of you who are interested, the link to excerpts of the ynet interview are here.

Also, I see that the Egyptian daily, al-Ahram, is claiming that Israel is using blackmail against the West's freedom of speech. I wonder what al-Ahram's position on those Mohammad cartoons was...

Morey Altman said...

Yaacov, as usual, some good points. I have a few thoughts on this story over at my blog:

Although I studied 'Media Law' 20 years ago, I think Helin might have actually admitted to committing libel (the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated OR IMPLIED to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image.)

Of course, this is Sweden, where apparently freedom of speech gives everyone the right to spread malicious rumours and make any statement regardless of truth, and regardless of the consequences even if these comments may bring about verbal and physical abuse of others. Traditionally, reporters that don't actually investigate stories are called 'hacks' and 'gossip-mongers.' And newspapers that do this are called...well, it's not a very polite term. Anyway, I'm sure he'll be fine. They can always use good stories here:

John Brown said...

Of course, speaking of the banality of evil, is the enthusiastic endorsement he received from that nasty little Oleh Chadash Freedman on the Guardian's CIF blog, which has reached a low only comparable with the most anti-Semitic blogs in the world with the comments it has left standing in response.

Joe in Australia said...

You need to run this post through a spell checker: it's canard, and component.

Anonymous said...

If this guy is universally a bad judge of journalism and consistently prints unsubstantiated stories, then it would be difficult to accuse him of anti-Semitism. OTH, if he only does it regarding stories about Israel, then clearly it is bias. Did Y-net challenge him on his judgement as an editor?

Morey - Could you go to England and sue for libel there?


Anonymous said... reports now that Lieberman said something that gave the Swedes a pretext to rally behind their Aftonbladet

Anonymous said...

I don't always see things Bibi's way, but in this case he is right to ask the Swedish Government to condemn the article(s). The accusations are against Israel's military, and by extension the Government of Israel. That means slander against the government of a friendly country. Any reasonable head of state should be expected to say "We do not believe these accusations" at the very least.

Also this was a "news" article not an opinion piece, or as in the Mohammed case, a cartoon. Opinion is one thing, reporting alleged war crimes as fact without evidence is another.


Anonymous said...

Actually he looks like a mental defective and a thug. He should shave before getting his picture took. And maybe wear a tie, if he's going to wear a suit jacket.

Anonymous said...

Here's a modest proposal:

Since the Aftonbladet stands by its story, and anyone you can't un-ring the bell, why doesn't the Mossad go grab the dude, chloroform him, pith him with an icepick (like we used to do those frogs in Zoology 101), and then just part him out. No reason even to smuggle him whole out of Stockholm, since the kidneys, eyeballs, liver, heart, etc., could easily be Fedexed in styrofoam boxes under dry ice.

The benefit stream could really be maximized: firstly by preserving the reportorial credibility of Sweden's main socialist rag; secondly by responding to the organ market (priced to $$upply and demand!); and thirdly by demonstrating traditional Jewish compassion by allowing him to die peaceably in his native village. Better yet, maybe they still do a prostate transplant, thanks to Mr. Helin, on the Lockerbie Bomber, which if he croaks in mere weeks as expected, would be a tremendous waste, given expected US boycott of Scotland. Maybe even that Israeli filmmaker who was kicked out of the Edinburgh festival (you go Ken Loach!) could pick up some of the organ revenue to make a documentary on Helin's dissection.

That fabulous 2006 Turkish film "Valley of the Wolves (you go, Gary Busey, although he was way better as Buddy Holly!) has all the technical details, including the instruction set for Jewish doctors. "Full disclosure" practice suggests that Helin be show it on DVD before being pithed so at least he'll know he spoke the truth and it was nothing personal.

Anonymous said...

the Lockerbie Bomber got a book deal in the offing - so he is still needed for a book-tour
you can't let him die yet, think of the damage to the wider economy not to talk of the damage to world history if that story never got out there in his own words

SK said...

The article indeed seems to reproduce old antisemitic topoi.

It's the paper who is responsible for that still, so why ask the government distance to itself from what a paper printed? It seems like the wrong address.

Anonymous said...

From Y-net:

"It's true that most of our reporters are social-democrats but we are far from being anti-Semites," he said.

Apparently the SocDems can waive the requirement.

Though I bet the conservatives in Sweden don't think much differently.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Good job. One remark only, re: "Aftonbladet, the Swedish Guardian-lookalike". According to other places and to Wiki, Aftonbladet has a higher circulation in a much smaller country than Grauniad.

"In 2006 the paper had 1,425,000 daily readers".