An enemy by any other name

Those who are now putting hatred in power all over Europe do so to the backdrop of the Holocaust; as the last witnesses draw breath, history is allowed to repeat itself by ballot and popular vote.

October 7, 2014 11:58
4 minute read.

Sweden's Prime minister Stefan Lofven announces his new government during a Parliament session in Stockholm October 3. (photo credit: REUTERS)

“We enter parliament in order to supply ourselves, in the arsenal of democracy, with its own weapons. If democracy is so stupid as to give us free tickets and salaries for this bear's work, that is its affair. We do not come as friends, nor even as neutrals. We come as enemies. As the wolf bursts into the flock, so we come.”

- Goebbels on democracy
A few weeks ago, my country of Sweden got a new government. Or, it’s not so much a new government, but a return to a past I had hoped was long forgotten. Chances are you wouldn’t have heard of this electoral upheaval, had it not been for the newly elected government choosing its first political overture to be one involving foreign policy. Many have expressed shock and confusion over the fact that Sweden’s new center-left government has decided to recognize the State of Palestine, thus making it the first major European country to do so, but most of us familiar with the political landscape of Sweden knows this move has been a long time coming. 

The now ruling Social Democrats are a party with a long pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli tradition and a seemingly never-ending flexibility toward anti-Semitic attitudes within the flock; from former Prime Minister Olof Palme’s close friendship with Yasser Arafat and his comparisons between Nazi Germany and Israel to the infamous Malmö-mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s anti-Zionist policies. And now , most recently, the popular politician Adrian Kaba publically claiming that Mossad trained ISIS to kill Muslims and that the Islamic State is a pawn in a Jewish-European right-wing conspiracy.

One might think that such outlandish statements would cause national outrage, but they don’t. One might also draw the conclusion that spreading anti-Semitic myths might lead to Adrian Kaba leaving the Social Democratic party in disgrace, but then one would by sadly mistaken. Instead, Mr. Kaba is heading up the Malmö taskforce against anti-Semitism and Islamofobia. Yeah, that’s not a typo. That’s the political environment of the country I currently call home. 

As a proud, public and outspoken Swedish Jew I am often asked if I worry about getting attacked on the street for wearing my Magen David or having my home vandalized for flying a large Israeli flag. My answer is always the same: as much as I fear violent anti-Semitic individuals, it can’t even compare to how much I fear the systemic anti-Semitism eating its way into our political system. 

The Swedish decision to recognize the State of Palestine may seem like a thoughtless stunt from a land of little consequence, but it speaks to a larger trend with grave consequences for us all. As the anti-Semitism of yesterday dresses up as the anti-Zionism of tomorrow the latter gains political momentum to do what the former never could. The coalition of the Social Democrats, The Left and the Environmental Party was elected not in spite of these policies, but because of them. They are now not attempting a coup, but merely fulfilling a promise.  

One of the newly appointed ministers in the new coalition government is Mehmet Kaplan of the Environmental Party (MP). Mr. Kaplan is no longer allowed entry into Israel after his active and repeated involvement in the Swedish anti-blockade organization Ship to Gaza. Mr. Kaplan has compared Swedish Muslims going overseas to fight global jihad with the freedom fighters going from Sweden to fight in the Finnish Winter War, and he is often a prominent speaker at anti-Israel rallies across the country. During one of these rallies Mehmet Kaplan said his dream was to one day see Jerusalem “liberated”, without caring to specify whom the capitol of Israel needed to be liberated from. This former head of the Swedish Muslim council and current member of the Free Gaza movement has now been appointed the Swedish Minister of housing and development and thus he is one of the most powerful people in our land.  

And this is what keeps me up at night. If I get attacked for wearing my Magen David I turn to the police, I depend on the law and the powers that be to correct the wrong that was done to me. But what to I do when my attacker is appointed to one of the highest offices in the land? Who will protect me when I am no longer considered the victim, but the criminal – just for being me? 

In 1933 they cast their votes for death and ruin, but they did so claiming ignorance of what was yet to come. Those who are now putting hatred in power all over Europe do so to the backdrop of the Holocaust; as the last witnesses draw breath, history is allowed to repeat itself by ballot and popular vote. 

However expected, this latest turn in Swedish foreign policy is chilling in all its calm deliberation. Because this, after all, is how it starts and how it ends. Not by committing illegal acts toward us, but by making us illegal, and by going after the home we flee to once we have no place left to go.  

In 2014, they cast their votes for hate and ruin. And as the wolf bursts into the flock, so they have come. 

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a political adviser, writer and activist. An alumni of the Young Jewish diplomatic seminar (organized by the Mizrad Hahutz) and Tikva seminars in NYC. She lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with her two children. Follow her on Twitter.

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