Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sweden's New Anti-Semites

by Soeren Kern

Police in Sweden's third-largest city, Malmö, are reporting a significant uptick in the number of reported anti-Semitic hate-crimes this year.

During just the first six months of 2011, Malmö police registered 21 anti-Semitic crimes, more than the total number (20) of such crimes reported in the city during all of 2010. According to police officials interviewed by the public broadcaster Sveriges Radio, the actual number of anti-Semitic incidents is far higher.

Recent statistics from Sweden's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet) revealed that nationwide in 2010, there were 161 reported anti-Semitic hate crimes.

The data comes as the Swedish government on September 20 set aside 4 million kroner ($600,000) to help boost security around the country's synagogues, after accusations that Sweden has not done enough to protect its Jewish population.

The allocation will go to "increase security and reduce vulnerability for the Jewish minority," according to Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag. He said the one-time appropriation in the 2012 budget funding is primarily meant to pay for an increased police presence, but that the money could also be used to purchase security cameras if Jewish groups express the need for such equipment.

Sweden has been accused of complacency about the growing problem of anti-Semitism in the country. In December 2010, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center advised Jews to avoid traveling to southern Sweden after a series of anti-Semitic incidents there.

"We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment. There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes," the center said in a statement.

The upswing in anti-Semitic violence in Sweden is mainly being attributed to two key factors: the exponential increase in the number of Muslim immigrants in the country, thanks to some of the most liberal immigration laws in Europe: as well as to leftwing politicians who never miss an opportunity to publicly demonize Israel.

Muslims are now estimated to comprise between 20% and 25% of Malmö's total population of around 300,000; much of the increase in anti-Jewish violence in recent years is being attributed to shiftless Muslim immigrant youth.

During a two week period in July 2011, for example, the only synagogue serving Malmö's 700-strong Jewish community was attacked three times. The synagogue, which has previously been set on fire and the target of bomb threats, now has guards stationed around it, and bullet-proof glass in the windows, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through thick steel security doors.

Jewish cemeteries in Sweden also have repeatedly been desecrated; Jewish worshippers have been abused on their way home from prayer; and Jews have been taunted in the streets by masked men chanting phrases such as "Hitler, Hitler" and "Dirty Jew."

Some Jews in Sweden have stopped attending prayer services altogether out of fear for their safety.

Hatred for Jews is also being stirred up by Sweden's leftwing political establishment and its pathological obsession with Israel. The demonization of the Jewish state by Swedish politicians is so frequent and often so fierce that it regularly crosses the line into blatant anti-Semitism.

Consider Ilmar Reepalu, the leftwing mayor of Malmö. Reepalu, who has turned a blind eye to the growing problem of anti-Semitism in Malmö during the more than 15 years he has been mayor, says that Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism because of their support for Israeli policies in the Middle East.

In January 2010, for example, Reepalu marked Holocaust Memorial Day by declaring that Zionism is racism. In an interview with the daily newspaper Skånska Dagbladet, he also said: "I would wish for the Jewish community to denounce Israeli violations against the civilian population in Gaza. Instead it decides to hold a [pro-Israeli] demonstration in the Grand Square [of Malmö], which could send the wrong signals."

Reepalu was referring to an incident in January 2009, during Israel's brief war in Gaza, when a small demonstration in favor of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles and firecrackers as the police looked on.

In July 2011, after a Hollywood film production company cancelled plans to shoot a movie in Skåne in southern Sweden due to concerns over anti-Semitism in Malmö, Reepalu cast his rage on the Simon Wiesenthal Center for issuing the travel warning.

Reepalu, in an interview with the newspaper Sydsvenskan, said: "I have a feeling that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not really looking for what is happening in Malmö but they want to hang the people who dare to criticize the state of Israel. Are they once again saying I should be silenced? I will never compromise my morals."

The disdain for Israel is not limited to local politicians in Malmö; it goes right up to the top of Swedish politics.

In September 2011, for instance, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a well-known Pro-Palestinian activist, unilaterally recognized the Palestinian representative in Stockholm as ambassador. Bildt said the upgrade of the Palestinian representation follows "great advances made in the development of the Palestinian state."

In December 2009, while Sweden held the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, Bildt called for the creation of a "State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital." Israeli officials, angry over EU efforts to prejudge the outcome of issues reserved for permanent status negotiations, persuaded French diplomats to remove the offending text, as well as other references to a Palestinian state that would comprise "the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza."

In November 2011, Swedish Foreign Aid Minister Gunilla Carlsson disclosed that Swedish taxpayer money had been used to fund a "one-sided" report on the conflict in the Middle East entitled "Colonialism and Apartheid: Israel's Occupation of Palestine."

The Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden (PGS) received 700,000 kronor ($100,000) to produce a report on the Middle East conflict. The money was paid out by Forum Syd, a democracy and rights organization hired by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to provide the agency with information on the issue.

In August 2009, Sweden's top-selling newspaper, Aftonbladet, published an anti-Semitic blood libel by alleging that Israeli soldiers routinely murdered Palestinian children and harvested their bodily organs for sale on the international black market.

The Swedish government responded with indifference: When the country's ambassador to Israel put up a note on the embassy's website distancing Sweden from the article, her enraged superiors in Stockholm ordered her to take it down.

Rabbi Shneur Kesselman, who leads the Jewish community in Malmö, blames the political leaders in Sweden for the rise in anti-Semitism in the country. He recently gave an interview with the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter (in English here) in which he describes Jewish life in contemporary Sweden.

Speaking to Svenska Dagbladet, Integration Minister Ullenhag said: "Jews are one of our national minorities, and the state has a responsibility to ensure that people can go to synagogue and engage in Jewish activities and feel they have the security they believe they need. That is a fundamental human right."

But in "progressive" Malmö, the future looks so bleak that around 30 Jewish families have already left for Stockholm, England or Israel -- and more are preparing to go.

Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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