The soft bigotry of low expectations

February 3, 2015 21:53
3 minute read.
Yasser Arafat

Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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“I am not one to surrender. When Fatah launched the armed struggle, we were nine members. Four of us supported the armed struggle, and four opposed it. My vote tipped the scales in favor of the armed struggle. But everything in its time” – Mahmoud Abbas

Last week, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was invited to speak in the Great Synagogue of Stockholm. He received applause and accolades as he condemned anti-Semitism and vowed to stand by the Jewish minority of Sweden, and nods of approval and gratitude when he promised to remember the atrocities of old.

On February 10, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will arrive in Sweden for a diplomatic meeting with Prime Minister Löfven, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, Archbishop Antje Jackelén and the king of Sweden, Carl Gustav the 16th. According to Löfven, Sweden wants an active role in the peace process and the delegates are meeting with Abbas in order to learn what else can be done for the Palestinian cause after the Swedish government’s recognition of Palestine as a state last year. The Swedish government is said to be “excited” to have the Palestinian’s ear and Minister Wallström has gone on record calling Abbas a “moderate force” in the Middle East while condemning what she calls Israel’s aggressive and counterproductive methods.

This is in no way a new story in Swedish politics. The Social Democrats now running the country are all disciples of former prime minister Olof Palme, a personal friend of Yasser Arafat’s and open supporter of the PLO.

Palme famously compared Israel to Nazi Germany, and made a point of cutting diplomatic ties with Israel during his years in power. What we see happening now is not a shift but merely the continuation of an old foreign policy, with an even older ideology underneath.

When Arafat visited Sweden in 1983, prime minister Palme gave a speech at Stockholm Cathedral.

The topic was Israel and the peace process, and he openly blamed “Israel the occupier” for being the obstacle to peace.

The audience, containing a good number of Jews, booed him, and outside on the steps stood Jewish protesters braving the cold to condemn his actions. How many protesters will we see on February 10? Will the Jewish community stand shoulder to shoulder and call out the lies, as it did in 1983? Will it demand that the prime minister live up to his promise to protect us by at least not aligning himself with the person and party intent on our destruction? I fear it won’t. I fear we no longer have it in us.

There is no question Prime Minister Löfven scored plenty of Jew-points by giving that speech in the Great Synagogue and, alongside the Swedish royal family, somberly making promises he never intended to keep. I’m not surprised that he jumped at the chance for a nice minority photo-op, what stuns me is how we, the members of the Jewish community, keep offering a platform for these people to stand on and to bury us under. We give the prime minister and the king the credibility they need and ask nothing in return, happily accepting that 364 days a year we are of little to no consequence to the powers that be. Time and time again, we are the good Jews, happily giving up our own interest for the good of the land.

And that’s the problem with this: the soft bigotry of low expectations.

In a country where the biggest newspapers openly spread ancient blood libels, the royal family is allowed to whitewash Nazi ties and the economy is built on the post-war seal of immoral silence one stays content to be an unwelcome guest – a Jew in the tent but not in the street.

Words are not action and promises do not equal fulfillment, this is something the Jews of Europe should be well aware of. We are the frogs dropped in cold water, slowly simmering as the heat turns up, day by day and inch by inch. It may be a slow, quiet death, but it is death nonetheless.

The author is a political advisor and journalist based in Stockholm, Sweden. She is a contributor to, among others, Israel Hayom and Commentary Magazine.

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