'It's so typical of Sweden'

Swedes living here not surprised by newspaper publication of organ-harvesting story.

By REBECCA BASKIN
August 23, 2009 23:41
4 minute read.

 
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Swedes living in Israel say that the recent article claiming that IDF soldiers harvest and sell the organs of Palestinians is far from surprising, and is typical of the Swedish media. Dennis Kahn, who made aliya from Malmo in January 2007, said Sunday he "wasn't so surprised to see this article." "The Swedish press is very pro-Palestinian and very anti-Israel, especially this newspaper that published the article," he explained to The Jerusalem Post. "The Swedish media is [full of] left-wing intellectuals, who will definitely be critical of Israel, but I wouldn't call them anti-Semites." He said that Israel was portrayed in the Swedish media as a force occupying Palestinian land. "This is the picture that Swedish people will receive - and they probably won't question it too much," he said. Roxanne Harris, who came from Stockholm to study at Tel Aviv University, agreed that the article was not surprising. "They always do this... the media twists everything. They hardly ever publish anything negative about the Palestinians, only about Israel," she said. According to Mirjam David, who made aliya from Stockholm four years ago, one of the main problems with the Swedish media was that unfairly criticizing Israel has become acceptable. "Especially since the last war [Operation Cast Lead] it's like Pandora's Box has been opened. It's okay to criticize Israel for anything, to demonize all Jews," she said. She added that the organ-theft article is "so typical of Sweden... It's very tiring because you can't really have a debate about it. They [the Swedish public] will believe anything the media writes about us [Jews and Israel]." All three said that they experienced anti-Semitism in Sweden, but it affected each of them differently. Kahn said that he experienced some anti-Semitism in Sweden, but that was not why he made aliya. "I want to come to Sweden's defense," he said. "Sweden is portrayed as this blatantly anti-Semitic country and this is not true. This is not my experience as a Swedish Jew. There is a lot of anti-Israel sentiment but this [article] is not representative of the society as a whole." Harris said she didn't think it was hard to live in Sweden as a Jew. However, she said that "the deepness of anti-Semitism, which you don't necessarily see all at once, especially anti-Israeli media, makes you have to defend yourself all the time." She said that the anti-Semitism in Sweden is so deep-rooted that "the people don't even know they're anti-Semitic." "People have been beaten up for wearing a Magen David," she said. "Wearing a Magen David is definitely provoking it. When I worked in security at my synagogue, we would remind men to take off their kippa as they left." "I wouldn't tell people I was Jewish, because I don't look Jewish," said Harris. "My sister looks more Jewish, she has dark curly hair, and for her it is more natural to say that she is Jewish." For David, problems with anti-Semitism began only when she became religious. "I did not encounter anti-Semitism as a child... [Only] when I became religious - when I started showing people I was Jewish," she said. "If I would wear a Magen David on the street I would be stopped, both by Swedes and Arabs. When I was walking around with people who were very Jewish-looking, I would hear comments from normal people all the time." David decided when she became religious that she would tell people she was Jewish. "Most people in Sweden don't know another Jew. The Jewish population is so small... [that] if you don't live in a major city, you might have never seen or met another Jew." For her, the decision to make aliya was directly connected to the anti-Semitism she experienced at home. She agreed with Harris that the anti-Semitism was so deeply ingrained in society that people didn't even realize it existed, but acknowledged that not every Swedish Jew had the same experience she did. "When I told people that I experienced this anti-Semitism, a lot of people - even Jews in Sweden - couldn't understand it. When I said I was moving to Israel because I didn't want to have children in Sweden and have them have to grow up under these conditions, Swedes were very surprised," she said. All three cited the growing Arab population as a large influence on Sweden. "When I was growing up, in my school, there were a lot of neo-Nazis. Swedish neo-Nazis," recalled Kahn. "During the '90s, this was a big problem in Sweden. In the later years there was not such a problem with neo-Nazis, but more with Arab anti-Semitism." David thinks that the article, and reactions by the Swedish media and government, are partly reflective of the growing Arab population. More so, she said that "people [now] feel free to speak their minds. I think there's always been anti-Semitism in Sweden but nobody dared to say anything, it wasn't legitimate to say anything. Now it's become legitimate. People hide behind their anti-Semitism, saying it's anti-Zionism or anti-Israel." Harris agrees, saying, "Anti-Semitism is now anti-Zionism." More than anything, David is sad to see what her country has become. "It's not the country I grew up in," she said. "It's changed so much. I am just glad I am not living there... I am ashamed to be Swedish."

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