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Thousands of Israelis have signed an online petition to boycott the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA, in the wake of a controversial article published in the Swedish daily Aftonbladet that suggested that Israeli soldiers "harvested" the organs of Palestinians.

The signatories were also dismayed at the refusal of the Stockholm government to denounce the allegations under the banner of press freedom.

"In the wake of the anti-Semitic publication of a Medieval-type blood libel against IDF soldiers, and the ongoing silence of the Swedish government on the matter, it is unacceptable that we continue to support the Swedish retailer IKEA," the petition read. "Please, don't just sign the petition, we need real action!"

Various figures in the Israeli government have harshly criticized the article and demanded, to no avail, that the Swedish government issue a condemnation. On Sunday it emerged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to press Stockholm for an official condemnation.

IKEA boasts more than 283 branches in 36 countries, and its business cycle in 2007 stood at 19.8 billion euros. The first store in Israel opened in Netanya in April 2001, and a second store, in Rishon Letzion, will open in early 2010.

A Web-based petition calling for a boycott of Swedish furniture chain IKEA's Israeli branch claimed to log over 4,600 signatories on Sunday.

In response, IKEA's local management issued a statement describing the firm as a commercial nonpolitical organization that has, and will continue to have, an excellent relationship with Israeli consumers.

Israeli tourism to Sweden unaffected

There is no significant drop in Israeli tourism to Sweden, a leading travel agency said on Sunday.

"There is no significant change, but the main reason is that this is anyway the end of the tourist season in Scandinavia, because of the weather and the fact that there are no direct flights to Sweden," Yehuda Zafrani, the deputy-CEO of Ophir Tours, said.

Zafrani said that he believed that unless the Swedish government condemned the report Israelis would feel unwelcome and refrain from visiting the country, "just like they boycotted Turkey."

Earlier this year, Israeli tourism to Turkey plummeted in the wake of Operation Cast Lead against Gaza, after Istanbul voiced strident criticism against Israel.