by Annika Hernroth-Rothstein
Why have Swedish MPs endorsed a rally calling for the slaughter of Jews and why hasn't the entire country risen up against them?
It's Sunday night and as usual, I am browsing the Arab news sites online. I get to Shehab News Agency and I see something familiar, a city where I once lived, and a crowd chanting in unison, in Arabic with angry voices.
The video was shot at a rally for Palestine in the Swedish city of Malmö this past Sunday, and a few hundred people had shown up to listen to speeches given by, among others, parliament members Hillevi Larsson of Socialdemokraterna (the Social Democrats) and Daniel Sestrajcic of Vänsterpartiet (the Left Party).
Before, after and during the speeches, the crowd chanted in Arabic, yelling slogans such as "Slaughter the Jews," "Stab soldiers," and "Terror attack after terror attack." They referred to the knifers as "heroes" and called for "fedayeen" (guerrillas) to attack children and "start a third intifada." The signs they carried called for "resistance by any means possible" and showed graphic images of dead children.
As soon as I saw this video and had it translated, I posted it on Facebook and Twitter, calling the politicians out by name and demanding answers as to why they chose to support a rally that called for the slaughter of Jews. The post got picked up and reposted numerous times, by everyone from everyday citizens to journalists and even the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, but now, two days later, neither party has made an official statement. Larsson tweeted earlier today that she "does not support violence, particularly against civilians." But beyond that, she has not distanced herself from the movement represented by the masses that yelled "itbah al-yahud" (slaughter the Jews) a few feet from her -- nor has Sestrajcic or representatives of either of their parties.
Both MPs who spoke at the rally have made headlines before. Larsson has received awards for her work from the Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden, an organization linked to Fatah, and has been seen posing with a map of "Palestine" on which Israel has been erased. Sestrajcic has been active in the anti-Zionist movement for many years and most recently made headlines for being arrested and charged with kicking a police officer in the head as he was protesting on behalf of a group of Palestinian immigrants. These two prominent politicians are not unique in any way, but part of a long-standing tradition of Swedish politicians cozying up to anti-Israel forces and violent leftist mobs. The ruling party, the Social Democrats, refers to Fatah as its "dear sister party," and has shown an astounding moral relativism when equating terrorism with political resistance and Israeli self-defense with murder.
Parliamentarians Larsson and Sestrajcic seem to want to claim ignorance, saying they repudiate violence while they fully support the cause behind the incitement. But ignorance does not hold, and there is no way they did not see those signs or hear those angry chants and did not realize what they were actually endorsing.
For the past four years, I have been writing about and living with the growing anti-Semitism in Europe. I am writing not out of hate of my country of birth, but out of love and heartbreak. I am fighting for my right to be here as a Jew, to live anywhere in the world, freely, and for my children to not feel like strangers in this land. I pray that people of this country, and of Europe, will stand up for us and fight the masses calling for our destruction. I beg to be proved wrong, that this is not reminiscent of the 1930s and that we are not the first to be thrown on the fire by our assailants as well as by those standing idly by.
There is no defense for what took place that day, no free speech argument for what they did -- the slogans supporting an intifada, the killing of soldiers, the redemption of Palestine by knife and the carrying out of terrorist attacks. That is hate speech, and that hatred leads right back to the doorsteps of each and every Jew in this land.
As I go to sleep tonight, I will pray that the tide will turn and that they will fight for us; that this continent, the birthplace of enlightenment and true liberal thought, still has enough life in it to quash this vicious hatred on our shores. As a Swedish Jew, I want answers. I want to know why parliamentarians endorsed a rally calling for the slaughter of Jews and why in these 48 hours since then the entire country has not risen up in anger against them.
Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a political adviser, activist and writer on the Middle East, religious affairs and global anti-Semitism.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.