Remember Freedom Fries, which in some traitorous circles used to be known as pommes frites? Who remembers what all that petulant Franco-bashing was about? Something about France standing in the way of the Bush-Cheney-Rumseld onrush to war against Saddam way back in the dark ages of 2003 (or so). France’s refusal to rubber-stamp our efforts in the UN to paint Saddam as the contemporary equivalent of Hitler brought on a spasm of anti-French feeling that was typically petty for the neocon right. Hate those elitist French eggheads who represent everything that Republicans are not: intellectuals, lovers of culture and art, gourmands, etc.
Well, from the fire-breathing coming out of the Lieberman Israeli foreign ministry it seems that Sweden is set to become the new France. A Swedish daily published an op-ed piece (for anyone knowing Swedish) claiming that the IDF was harvesting the vital organs of young Palestinian prisoners and possibly selling them on the black market. In short, the story appears to be sheer lunacy. The writer provides no evidence other than the reports of the family members of the victims (who in truth were killed by the IDF). There is no confirmation whatsoever from any Israeli source of the phenomenon and no left-wing Israeli journalist who might have quite an interest in such a story were it plausible, has reported anything like this.
But instead of ignoring this stupid story, Lieberman decides the appropriate thing to do is virtually declare war on Sweden. He trots out the “big guns” of the Jewish historical arsenal: “blood libel,” Jew-hatred, anti-Semitism, you name it. He demanded the Swedes formally and officially denounce the article. Israel’s highly experienced and highly democratic foreign minister seems not to realize that in democracies governments don’t generally interfere in journalistic matters. There is something called a free press which, since Israel doesn’t really enjoy one, is an alien notion to Yvette.
It’s not clear what Israel will do if Sweden doesn’t capitulate. Stop buying Volvos? Stop making Swedish meatballs? Maybe the IAF will make a few bombing runs over Stockholm as part of their training to knock out Iran’s nuclear capability? Recall its ambassador? Lieberman has actually talked of personally suing the reporter for libel. It seems the foreign ministry must run itself so well that the minister has time on his hands to get involved in shtuyot like this.
Thus Sweden in 2009 has everything that France had in 2003: socialist political traditions, sympathy for Palestinian suffering, a reputation for caution and deliberation in world affairs, not to mention blondness and a cold climate. In short, everything Israel is not. It’s making Lieberman see, well not red since he’s not particularly fond of socialism–perhaps orange, since that’s a color to which he’s clearly more partial.
The whole thing begins to remind me of that Marx Brothers movie in which one of the boys becomes the prime minister of Fredonia and goes to war over some imagined slight by an official of another government. Does Israel, in this case, have grounds to be sore? Sure. Does it have grounds to make an international incident out of it? Not at all. Such full-throated jingoism is the mark of a hard-right government looking for an issue to rally its supporters. This is the equivalent of Terry Schiavo for Tom DeLay or well, Freedom Fries.
The best response I can think of is Rick’s in Casablanca:
…It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.
I doubt Lieberman ever will. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t see things for what they really are. And this tempest in a teacup story simply doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.