Yair Lapid at 'Shurat Hadin' conference in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: ODED ANTMAN)
At the Swedish Zionist Federation’s annual rally in Stockholm last week, visiting Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid made undiplomatic history by accusing Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom of anti-Semitism.
While many members of the diplomatic community were no doubt shocked by Lapid’s remarks, they brought a refreshing moment of moral clarity.
For Lapid said what is too often let pass in a futile accommodation with hatred, the kind of enmity that spurred Wallstrom to demand an inquiry into Israel’s killing of terrorists while they were trying to murder Israelis.
“If the Swedish foreign minister is concerned about human rights in the Middle East, she needs to talk about the Palestinians’ use of children as terrorists and human shields,” he said. “She needs to talk about the discrimination against the gay community [by the Palestinians], about the Der Sturmer-like incitement spread by the Palestinian Authority, about the abuse of women in Gaza.”
Lapid categorized Wallstrom’s attacks as coming from a deeper source than the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians: “If your attack on Jews is detached from facts and based only on bias, there is a name for it: anti-Semitism.”
Lapid’s accusation was especially poignant at the rally in Raoul Wallenberg Square, named for the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust, including his own father, the late justice minister Yosef “Tommy” Lapid. The heroic Wallenberg, whose execution by the Soviets following the war was recently revealed, is one shining example of Swedish moral courage during the war.
It stands in glaring contrast to Sweden’s declared “neutrality,” when it supplied Nazi Germany with the iron ore crucial to its war machine – which spearheaded the campaign of conquest that made the Holocaust possible.
Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, wartime head of the German Navy, wrote in Mein Leben (“My Life”), that it would be “utterly impossible to make war should the navy not be able to secure the supplies of iron-ore from Sweden.”
Indeed, Sweden’s profitable relationship with Hitler’s Germany thrived upon existing anti-Semitism. Twenty- five Swedish Nazi groups have been founded since 1924 – of which five are still active. The largest is the national socialist Nordic Resistance Movement, considered the leader of the Swedish white power movement, with branches in Finland, Norway and Denmark.
The 2005 State Department Report on Global Anti-Semitism notes that Sweden has the third-highest rate of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe after Germany and Austria.
Charles Small, director of the Yale University Initiative for the Study of Anti-Semitism, stated that “Sweden is a microcosm of contemporary anti-Semitism. It’s a form of acquiescence to radical Islam, which is diametrically opposed to everything Sweden stands for,” The Forward reported.
Most consumers think Sweden stands for Volvo and IKEA, but in fact one of the most famous Swedish supporters of Nazism is the 90-year-old founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad. Historian Karl Alvar Nilsson wrote in 1998 that Kamprad joined the national socialist New Swedish Movement in 1942 and was actively involved in recruitment, sales of nationalist merchandise, and donations to the party. The NSR’s party organ, The Way Forward, described IKEA in 1991 as in line with national socialist ideology and praised Kamprad’s loyalty to the ideals of his youth.
Kamprad’s ideology finds a sympathetic home in government, according to the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism. It noted in 2012 that European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor condemned Sweden as “the only European country that is refusing to discuss the problem of anti-Semitism prevailing within its borders.”
As unlikely as it may seem, a campaign by a young Muslim of Iranian origin is dealing with the problem of Swedish anti-Semitism. Siavosh Derakhti, 25, lives in Malmö, notorious for anti-Semitic incidents. He openly fights anti-Semitism and recently visited Israel.
Derakhti told Yediot Aharonot that he founded Young People against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia because “it is absolutely terrible to be Jew today in Malmö.” He was recently named by Forbes magazine to its list of 30 influential leaders under the age of 30.
“Everybody hates Israel. I don’t accept this and do everything I can to build bridges between Jews and Muslims through education,” Derakhti stated. His efforts reveal the true spirit of Sweden – he is the proud winner of the prestigious Raoul Wallenberg Award, given for heroic actions that show how a single person can make a difference