An anti-Israel march in Sweden's Malmo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Malmo is Sweden’s third largest city; more than 40% of its inhabitants are Muslim. According to various media reports, US President Donald Trump’s affirmation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel triggered street protests and manifestations of antisemitism, including the firebombing of Malmo’s Jewish cemetery.
Yet I remember well a visit to that city some 15 years ago, when Trump was not yet a household name. My husband, Zvi, was then Israel’s ambassador to Sweden. In the old Jewish cemetery downtown, we had paused in front of a row of small, nameless white grave markers, the last resting place of several Jewish infants and toddlers, orphans who had been rescued from concentration camps in 1945 and brought to Sweden in the “white buses” operation.
These little children had not survived and there was no one left to give them a name. The watchman told us he spent most of his time erasing from the stout wall protecting the cemetery swastikas and curses in Swedish and Arabic, which he said appeared there on an almost daily basis. The local press did not mention them, nor were they included in the reports about antisemitic incidents.
There is a new cemetery on the outskirts of the city, on a large tract of land allocated by the town’s municipality for that purpose. Said municipality had allocated an adjacent plot for a Muslim cemetery. There is no wall or fence separating the two and no watchman. As it happened, on the day we were in Malmo the head of the Jewish community took us there and showed us the black trail left by a petrol bomb on the wall of the edifice used for ritual cleaning, breaking a window and setting fire to some objects. The damage was not serious, but our host said sorrowfully that repairs following a previous attack had just been completed.
“The police,” he added drily, “are investigating.”
That evening, we were welcomed at a festive dinner in the community building, which was almost as heavily protected as our embassy in Stockholm. Guards outside, reinforced steel door, screening anteroom with a watchful young man behind bulletproof glass, and in the entrance, a poster asking, in huge letters, “Have you been harassed or threatened? Call the community hotline and we are on our way to you.”
While offering some of the traditional dishes prepared specially for us, the mostly elderly members of the community tried to make light of their plight. “Nothing serious,” they told us. “Graffiti, nasty remarks, even menacing gestures sometime, but never outright attack. We usually look away and hurry past.” There was a lone voice of dissent.
“There are no dogs or cats where we live,” said a grandmotherly woman, “and we are on the fourth floor, but every so often when we open the door a dog has been there and left its... mark... on the doormat.”
“Did you report it to the police?” I asked.
“What’s the point?” she answered, before adding, “but it is not very nice.”
The author is the wife of the former Israeli ambassador to Sweden.