Sweden is a remarkable country. In many ways the envy of Europe, not least for
one of its most famous sons Raoul Wallenberg, its vaunted social welfare program
and its industrial successes of the recent past, yet haunted by the murders of
its prime minister Olof Palme and foreign minister Anna Lindh.
And by its
uneasy relationship with Israel. Not just Israel, but everything Israeli,
Zionist and Jewish.
Soon to arrive off the coast of Israel is the
Estelle, a small Swedish vessel that is part of a publicly-funded “Ship to Gaza”
propaganda exercise. Although it claims to be carrying “humanitarian aid” for
the people of Gaza, what it is really carrying is a crew of human-rights
saboteurs intent on vilifying the Jewish state and supporting
While the Estelle is on its way from Sweden to the hotbed of
terrorism that is the Hamas-led Gaza Strip, here in Sweden the nation continues
to contend every day with the climate that spawns “Ship to Gaza”: widespread
anti-Semitism in Sweden’s third-largest city, Malmö, media animosity toward
Israel that easily spills over into tacit anti-Semitism, and political fear of a
sizable Islamist minority following decades of immigration from strife-torn
Middle East countries.
Sweden is a country whose Jews are largely
invisible. Jews have been living here for more than 250 years and number about
20,000 souls. But showing one’s Jewishness in a public place is fraught with
danger. Sweden is a society whose well-established, thoroughly integrated and
officially recognized Jewish minority is cowed into invisibility.
more. On Saturday, August 18, a dangerous and unusual demonstration took place
simultaneously in Stockholm and Malmö: people walked the streets wearing kippot.
Of course, they had to do so under massive police protection.
Sunday, September 2, there will be parallel manifestations in support of Israel,
democracy and truth in Stockholm and Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest
While the “Ship to Gaza” ferries its propaganda from Sweden toward
the Mediterranean, it leaves behind its festering legacy of hatred. Hatred so
virulent it is dangerous, even life-threatening, to walk the streets wearing a
You can wear a turban if you’re a Sikh, a hijab if you’re Muslim
or a crucifix if you’re Christian and nobody will give you a second glance. But
woe betide the Jew who wears a kippa or Magen David. That invites
Not by neo-Nazis or white supremacists, but by immigrants from
Muslim countries. Hence the recent kippa-wearing public demonstration – in which
many non-Jews participated out of solidarity with traditionally strong Swedish
notions of democracy, equality and an open society.
A qualification is
necessary: by no means all, or even a significant proportion, of Sweden’s
Muslims engage in or sympathize with anti-Jewish practice.
as always, is that the silent majority is just that – silent. For various
reasons, fear and intimidation being the foremost. The fact is that most
immigrants from Muslim countries have fled their homelands for the safe haven of
Sweden in order to escape exactly this sort of religious persecution, only to
have it follow them here while official Sweden disengages from the
Sweden’s devotion to political correctness renders its
politicians, cultural elite and media incapable of dealing with Islamist
excesses for fear of offending Islam. The distinction between the political
agenda of Islamism and the religion of Islam consistently escapes
Observers overseas may regard it as an indictment of a society when
a country’s citizens feel the need to parade in the streets in order to assert
their right to exist. It ought to prompt politicians and the media to do some
Instead, the anti-Semitic aura is so rife in parts
of Sweden that the Simon Wiesenthal Center recently took the extraordinary
measure of issuing an advisory against unnecessary travel to Malmö because
Islamist sentiment stoked by its left-wing mayor Ilmar Reepalu is forcing the
city’s Jews to flee en masse.
So worrying is the situation that US
President Barack Obama’s special advisor on anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, was
dispatched to Malmö for discussions with the city’s mayor, who remains steadfast
in his view that “we accept neither anti-Semitism nor Zionism in
Speaking of a Davis Cup tennis tournament between Sweden and
Israel hosted by Malmö in 2009, he declared “Don’t forget, this isn’t a match
against just anyone. It’s a match against the state of Israel.” Reepalu is also
noted for having said that despite repeated – and police-documented – attacks
against Jews in his city, “there have been no attacks against Jews, and if Jews
want to leave for Israel that is not a concern for Malmö.”
It is against
this backdrop that demonstrations are being held in Stockholm and Gothenburg on
Sunday, September 2. These are not demonstrations against anything or anyone,
just manifestations of support for Israel, democracy and truth.
a country where the Church’s politicized leadership – unlike most of its
membership – is rabidly anti-Israel and often borderline anti- Semitic. A look
at its Diakonia “aid” organization, which has a strong presence in the
Palestinian territories, reveals no aid on behalf of the rapidly diminishing
Christian communities of Bethlehem or Gaza, or the terrorized Coptic Christians
of Egypt, or the beleaguered Christian minority of Pakistan – only an unhealthy
obsession with anti-Israel actions.
With some notable exceptions, the
Swedish media suffer from a herd mentality – they trail their colleagues, they
are averse to doing the groundwork necessary for getting to the truth, they have
developed in a professional climate rife with both anti-Semitism and virulent
anti-Israel sentiment, and they have no qualms about letting professionalism
play second fiddle to political propaganda against the Jewish state.
instance, Sweden’s biggest tabloid, Aftonbladet, ran an unsubstantiated story
that the IDF kills Palestinian Arabs and harvests their organs in a macabre but
lucrative trade. It never issued a retraction or apology for this crude medieval
This is the climate of indoctrination in which naïve,
well-meaning Swedes are nurtured. It is where “Ship to Gaza” gains its
nourishment, finances and support. Swedes are by nature neither anti-Semitic nor
inherently anti- Israel. A self-censoring media with an unhealthy devotion to
consensus, a heavily politicized Church leadership and politicians dedicated to
political correctness have all helped create a situation in which wearing a
kippa in public is dangerous, in which waving the Israeli flag and speaking not
against anyone or anything but in favor of democracy and truth, requires a
massive presence by a highly praiseworthy but politically hamstrung police
Sweden, late summer 2012: hatred nurtured at home and exported to
Gaza on the Estelle, while champions of democracy take to the streets wearing
kippot under the protection of police. It’s a worrying contrast.
writer is based in Gothenburg, Sweden.