Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven gives a news conference in Stockholm.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last week, the newly elected Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven caused a political storm. Löfven declared in his first speech that Sweden would be the first EU country to recognize the “Palestinian state.” In the Israeli media, it was argued that Israel has no supporters in Sweden.
When talking about the Sweden Democrats party, it was even argued that this is a far-right, anti-Semitic party. Unfortunately, this is yet another case where Israeli misinformation about Europe causes an unnecessary loss of support – that could have helped it.
The party, which was founded in 1988, was indeed established by Swedish radicals, including Anders Klarström, a member of the Swedish neo-Nazi party.
However, starting from 1995 the party underwent major reform that changed it completely. In 1999, they officially rejected Nazism; in 2001, all radical groups were completely expelled from the party. In the last elections, the party won 12.9 percent in the Swedish parliament and 9.7% in the European Parliament, making it the third largest party in Sweden.
The party officially bans anti-Semitism.
As part of the popular right in Europe, Sweden Democrats cooperate with the UK Independence Party, promoting a new immigration policy in Europe. Party leader Jimmy Åkesson has fought Jew-hatred straight from assuming office in 2005.
He argues that Muslim immigration is the biggest threat to the country since World War II.
During Operation Protective Edge, Åkesson expressed his support for Israel, saying that “Hamas uses civilians as human shields, we support the right of Israel to defend itself.”
MANY DO not know, but the party actually has a Jewish representative in the parliament, Kenth Ekeroth, fighting against Jew-hatred and Islamization.
The Sweden Democrats are known to be pro-Israeli.
They have participated in many demonstrations for Israel, though have sometimes paid the political price for such support.
The main claim of Swedish Jews against the party, revolves around the issue of the bill by party members in 2013 to prohibit circumcision without medical supervision.
In my view, however, this matter should be considered in the right context: These proposals came to oppose female circumcision/genital mutilation practiced in Islam. In a country where liberalism is sacred, you cannot pass an act against a specific gender, therefore the bill has also affected Jews.
It is clear, though, that these bills came in order to try to handle the issue of the growing Islamization in the country. In recent years, more and more Jews and immigrants have begun voting for the Sweden Democrats.
Despite all of the claims against it, the party is certainly not anti-Semitic. While Israel has to deal with the extreme left-wing government in Sweden, (some of whose members support Hamas), we cannot afford to lose the support of the Sweden Democrats.Matan Asher is a student of Law and Political Science at Bar Ilan University, an intern in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the head of Yuvalim Project in BIU for the World Zionist Organization.