The article in the Swedish tabloid that suggested that Israel has been killing Palestinians to harvest their organs has caused huge damage to the Palestinians’ cause and the profession of journalism.
If the tabloid’s goal was to help the Palestinians, then it is clear that the article has had a boomerang effect.
As one Palestinian journalist put it, “This is a nice story, but it’s harmful to the Palestinians because it’s not based on any evidence. Who’s going to believe us the next time we cry ‘Wolf!’”
The “investigative report,” which is based on a rumor that has been circulating among Palestinians for many years, makes it more difficult for Palestinians to market their perspectives and views to the world.
The journalist who wrote the report has since admitted that he does not have any proof to back up his allegations.
Even the family at the center of the article, the Ghanems from the village of Imattin in the West Bank, say that they do not recall that they had ever complained to a Swedish journalist that the organs of their son, Bilal, had been removed after his death.
Ironically, now that they have read about the alleged organ-theft in the tabloid, Bilal’s mother and brother are demanding an inquiry more than 17 years after their son was shot dead by Israeli troops.
The Palestinian Authority does not seem to take the Swedish report seriously, a fact that explains why most of its leaders and spokesmen have refrained from repeating the allegations.
If the tabloid’s goal was to publish a journalistic scoop, then it clearly failed in this regard too.
When Palestinian journalists first heard about the article in the tabloid, most were convinced that they had missed a big story. At first glance, it seemed as if a serious and credible journalist had flown all the way from Stockholm together with a team of researchers and assistants to investigate the scoop of the century.
But when it turned out that the article was largely on a rumor, there was a sigh of relief among the Palestinian journalists, who did not have to explain to their editors why they had missed the scoop.
The Swedish tabloid has made a mockery not only of the Palestinians, but the profession of journalism.
In addition, the article serves as a reminder that rumors continue to play a major role in Arab society. If one were to believe every rumor on the streets of Ramallah and Gaza City, then it would be safe to say that the Jews are responsible for all human-made and natural disasters, starting from the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the 9/11 terror attacks to the Tsunamis and earthquakes.
The article in the Swedish tabloid is now being cited by many as an example of how Palestinians and their supporters in the West spread lies and false accusations against Israel.
The denial by the Ghanem family and the failure of the tabloid to come up with evidence supporting the organ-harvesting is a real blow to the Palestinian PR machine. The next time a journalist writes a serious report about a certain topic related to the Palestinians, there will be those who will be sarcastically asking whether it’s as credible as the Swedish article.
Now that the report has been totally discredited, many foreign journalists will undoubtedly think twice before publishing any story they hear from Palestinians.
Similarly, readers (and viewers) will be wondering whether the news they are receiving from the Palestinians is based on facts or fiction.
Besides undermining the credibility of Palestinians, the Swedish tabloid has also reminded many of us why we are sometimes ashamed to tell people what we do for a living.