Recently, I had the honor to testify in my role as president of the Swedish
Committee against anti-Semitism. I appeared before the House Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Human Rights in Washington.
To the 20,000 members of
Sweden’s Jewish community, anti-Semitism has become a growing problem. Jews
identifiable by dress or otherwise have suffered threats and
The Jewish community center in the city of Malmo was
fire-bombed and its cemetery desecrated.
This comes after worrying
political signals. Malmo’s mayor stated that “[w]e accept neither anti-Semitism
nor Zionism in Malmo” and openly advised the Jewish community that they would
gain protection from violence and problems if they “distance themselves from
Along with other European Jews, members of our community who
have long been patriotic contributors to our country now feel ourselves
increasingly targeted and vulnerable. And we note that the focus of American
monitors on the issue of anti-Semitism is not met with the same commitment among
European politicians. I call for an involvement by leaders in Europe.
know many leaders in Europe have condemned anti-Semitic violence and the open
hatred of Jews. I am also pleased by the steps taken by some leaders of the
Swedish government in support of our community.
However, the question
remains why anti-Semitism is still on the rise in Europe. Three separate factors
seem to me to be in play.
First is the fact that many Europeans have
never accepted Jews as fully integrated members of their societies. Any
legitimacy given to the idea that Jews are separate and alien European
communities encourages today’s anti- Semites to believe that they can
Added to this, efforts to ban circumcision and kosher slaughter
create a further sense on the part of observant and non-observant European Jews
alike that we are unwelcome strangers in our countries.
reasons, condemning anti-Semitic violence and the Holocaust misses the mark and
is no substitute for what is clearly needed: coordinated, continent-wide action
by Europe’s elected leaders that will make forever clear that Jewish communities
are cherished contributors to Europe’s history, and needed contributors to its
present challenges and future prospects. Such an initiative will also
distinguish European leaders willing to pay mere lip service to the fight
against anti-Semitism from those determined to eradicate it.
Europe’s mounting economic problems have begun to cause resurgent cries against
“wealthy Jews” and “Jewish bankers.” It should not be hard to imagine the
anxiety that such scapegoating expressions create among Europe’s Jews, such a
short time from the days of concentration camps like the one my mother barely
Finally, there is the rhetoric and conduct of radical and
avowedly anti- Semitic Islamist leaders – and the frequent appeasement of their
conduct for politically expedient and politically correct reasons. From such
leaders, and often from university faculty enclaves, calls for Israel’s
destruction, rhetoric analogizing Israel to Hitler’s Germany and shrill
condemnations of “Zionist pigs” provide cover for anti-Semitism.
those and other reasons, European leaders also need to make clear that while
debate over Middle East policies should be vigorous, and while Israel cannot be
immune to criticism, its right to exist is clear and hateful rhetoric about its
character and people is not to be tolerated.
Critical aspects of the
hearing in Washington were its bipartisan nature and the fact that its American
witnesses were leaders of US Christian, Muslim and human rights
This was important for two reasons. First, it sends a
message to Europe that failure to effectively confront anti-Semitism will be a
matter of importance to an across-the-board range of America’s leaders. Next,
and most of all, the hearing’s makeup should bring attention to a central fact
of history that was movingly stated a few years ago by a group of US Christian
leaders: Throughout history, calls to “blame the Jews” have always been signals
of imminent disaster – not only for Jews, but for others as well. Likewise,
complaints about “inconvenient Jews” who would make the world a better place if
only they would step aside, if only their sacrifice were passively countenanced,
have always cloaked the march of evil.
If only to make clear that
unchallenged acts of anti-Semitism will harm my fellow Muslim countrymen who
have no wish other than to other live in peace with their neighbors, I will be
deeply honored to help convey that message.
The writer is president of
the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism in Sweden.