Will the Real Henning Mankell Speak Up?

The best-selling Swedish author, who was part of last year's aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip, ponders why someone has seized his identity.


This story was originally published in June, 2011.

I am fascinated by all the new technology that creates places for us to meet in what is called cyberspace. I understand what it must have meant for the rebellions in the 19th century, especially in 1830 and 1848, when the mass circulated newspaper became so important for the spreading of information. I realize that Facebook today is a global success with more than 600 million users worldwide. But I also understand, maybe a bit sadly, that it is not for me. Perhaps it is because I am a bit too old? Or perhaps it is because I am more interested in exploring the epic text, which I have lived with for all my life. And that there is not enough time for me to be interested in everything that is new.

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It was, therefore, a surprise to me when, in May, I discovered that there was a fake Henning Mankell on Facebook. Someone was posting strange, but most of all, untrue political statements in my name. On the fake Facebook profile it was posted, for instance, that I defended statements made by the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah. I had to do something. What would happen to my credibility if people started to believe that I supported Hezbollah? I declared to the Facebook organization that an impostor had kidnapped my identity and that the profile had to be removed. I also contacted the Swedish police and filed a report.

The fake profile disappeared. But a couple of days later it was back up. Then I told Facebook that they had 24 hours to remove the fake profile. Facebook removed it once again. And now they did it in such a way that it would now be impossible even for me to open a Facebook account in my own name. Fine with me.

Fake emails too

But a few days after that someone started sending emails in my name. In those emails it said that I did not want any Israelis to be able to read what I write in the future - neither my novels, nor anything else. This text, that I am writing here for Haaretz, obviously proves that the aforementioned email was false.

Who is behind all this? I can only establish a few things: that the impostors - I suspect it is not a single individual - were not entirely stupid. The emails were sent using Gmail, which makes it impossible to track, unless you file a police report - something I am contemplating. The perpetrators know French and Spanish. But on the other hand, the English, which is used in the emails is very bad and nothing is written in Swedish. (However, that could be an attempt to mislead me.)

I do not know who is behind all this. But I can ask one question: Who would benefit from discrediting me? I can link this with the article that Haaretz published on Nov. 28, 2010 in which it was reported that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs had sent out an urgent request to the embassies in London, Rome and Berlin, among other cities, to assemble a list of at least 1,000 "allies" in each country. Those allies should, through media and various forms of manifestations, be prepared to do what could only be labeled as PR for the Israeli regime.

Obviously I cannot and will not claim that it is either the Israeli regime or the Israeli embassy in Sweden that is responsible for my kidnapped identity and the attempts to spread lies in my name. But the question remains: Who would benefit from this?

And obviously it is only with the uttermost contempt that I regard these people - their cowardly act of not telling me who they are, their pathetic and desperate will to discredit and lie instead of engaging in an open dialogue.

That this is not a "school prank" is obvious. It is a deliberate campaign directed against me, and it will not succeed. And the reason is that lies are not a useful democratic tool.

As I am writing this I am thinking about what probably takes place at the meetings where the Israeli military is trying to decide what strategy to use in order to stop the new flotilla. I am guessing that the fatal attack that was launched last year, in which nine people were murdered, will not be repeated. Israel cannot afford that. (That Ban Ki Moon has decided to alter his opinion completely and now thinks that the flotilla will be "an unnecessary provocation" is both sad and pathetic. He is determined to try to be re-elected and fully understands that to make that happen he will have to express the voice of his master, the United States, instead of saying what he really thinks.)

An act of solidarity

My participation in last year's flotilla and my decision to join the upcoming flotilla are acts of solidarity with a single purpose: to try to participate in ending the illegal blockade of Gaza. Nothing else. This should be regarded as an honest attempt to contribute to a reasonable dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. Moreover, the illegal settlements should be stopped and demolished at the same time. Then it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to decide what kind of future they want. One state? Two states? They should decide that. Not me, nor any one else. If the Israelis could only understand that what I am doing is in line with the most basic manual in solidarity. Non-violence, true humanism. Exactly what they themselves have, through history, asked for. And got - even from me.

One thing is certain: It cannot continue like this. An oppressed people will always rise. What is happening in North Africa is proof of this. And I notice that more and more Israelis in Israel talk to me about the political developments in their own country and how unbearable it is. They protest against the fact that the Palestinians are treated like second class citizens in their own country. Not everyone is narrow-minded. That hand in hand with this development there is also growing conservatism in Israel is not strange. Desperation leads to both reason and its counterpart.

As a writer, I am an intellectual. I believe in the ideals of the Enlightenment, I believe in the written word, in dialogue and in truth. I hate lies more than anything else. Most of the time I react by writing. But sometimes I believe that other kinds of manifestations are crucial. Like this flotilla. Its aim is peaceful. No weapons will be transported. Perhaps there are one or two knives in the kitchen of each ship to make it possible to cook. Or a masked commando soldier can show me one of my disposable razors - like last year - and tell me that it is a weapon.

The road to reason's triumph can be long. And often unnecessarily so. But sooner or later the Israeli regime will be forced to realize that the Palestinians cannot be treated as second class citizens in their own country.

One last note: Last year, after I had been deported from Israel, I had a few literary events scheduled in Germany. I was happy to see that they were sold out everywhere. But I was also told that there were to be demonstrations outside the event, by groups protesting against my involvement in the Freedom Flotilla. I naturally went out to talk to these people. And I can assure you that there was no shouting or screaming. We managed to have a serious dialogue. Naturally we did not agree, but we listened and we talked. That is the way it must be done.