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Former Swedish PM tweets satire as news

Carl Bildt takes issue with farcical story about Israeli travel advisory against his country

A link to a satirical report tweeted by former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt on Monday, December 29, 2014 (screen capture: Twitter)
A link to a satirical report tweeted by former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt on Monday, December 29, 2014 (screen capture: Twitter)

The official Twitter account of the former prime minister of Sweden tweeted a satirical news report about an Israeli travel warning to Sweden as fact on Monday.

Carl Bildt, who served as Sweden’s prime minister from 1991-1994 and as foreign minister between 2006 and September of this year, tweeted the article by the Onion-style blog PreOccupied Territory, titled “Israel Issues Travel Warning For US, France, Sweden,” saying: “Israel has officially warned its citizens not to travel to Sweden. That’s somewhat of an overreaction.”

After about an hour, during which many users tweeted at him to tell him that the article was satirical, Bildt removed the link.

The report, published on Thursday, fictitiously reported that Jerusalem’s Foreign Ministry had issued a travel warning for Israeli tourists to stay out of several First World countries for fear of ethnic violence, highlighting internal turmoil in the United States, France and Sweden.

The United States has recently been gripped by nationwide protests after a series of African Americans were gunned down by police, in what many alleged as unnecessary uses of force; France has seen a wave of car and knife attacks believed to be linked to Islamic terrorism; and in Sweden two mosques have been set ablaze in the last week in attacks possibly linked to far-right extremism.

Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt (photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli /Flash90)
Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt (photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli/Flash90)

“We recommend that Israelis refrain from traveling to places marked by instability and violence. While this obviously includes such states as Ukraine and Nigeria, recent additions to the list of dangerous countries include the United States, Sweden, and France,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was quoted as saying by the satirical report.

The report further lampooned the countries, linking Stockholm’s decision in October to recognized a Palestinian state to anti-Semitic incidents reported by the Jewish community in the Swedish city of Malmo.

“The bombs in Malmo followed the government’s decision to recognize Palestine as a state, so clearly we’re not dealing with completely rational actors, and that makes the country even more dangerous,” a fictional Foreign Minister spokesman named Shoter al-Tirabi (Hebrew for “Cop Don’t-Shoot-Me”) was quoted as saying.

“When even seemingly conciliatory or supportive messages spark Islamist violence, better stay away,” al-Tirabi added.

PreOccupied Territory’s creator, David Swidler, a Jerusalem resident and Times of Israel blogger originally from New York, addressed Bildt on PreOccupied’s Twitter account, making light of the former Swedish head of government’s apparent tone-deafness to satire.

Still, Swedish officials (and former officials like Bildt) may be forgiven a defensive attitude regarding statements attributed to Israeli diplomats. In October, Liberman called Stockholm’s decision to recognize a state of Palestine “unfortunate” and implied the Swedish government possessed a furniture shopper’s grasp of geopolitics.

“Relations in the Middle East are a lot more complex than the self-assembly furniture of IKEA,” he said.

In her response to Liberman’s barb, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström stayed with the metaphor involving Sweden’s iconic furniture giant.

“I will be happy to send him a flat pack of IKEA furniture and he will also see that what you need to put that together is, first of all, a partner,” she told CNN. “And you also need to cooperate and you need a good manual and I think we have most of those elements.”

Liberman said he would boycott Wallström during her upcoming visit to Israel, Channel 2 reported.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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