Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström’s now infamous statement on the complex situation between Israel and the Palestinians, in which she allowed herself to become the voice of Palestinian terrorists by saying, “We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence,” is very problematic, but not an exception. The Swedish online newspaper Nyheter Idag this week also wrote about a recent conversation Wallström had with a woman who confronted her about her statement on Palestinian terrorism.
Wallström was told during the conversation that many people were upset by her words. The Swedish foreign minister replied, “The Jews are campaigning against me.” That is an appallingly inappropriate reaction by our foreign minister. Wallström is failing to get the whole picture.
The truth is that Wallström has received a lot of criticism from Swedes in social media and from the majority of representatives of various Swedish parties in the parliament. However these recent statements by our foreign minister are just a few in a string of very worrisome statements. Here are some more: “Does recognizing the state of Palestine indicate Islamophobia? Or does the continuous governmental support to Islamic communities in Sweden? Or the state’s contribution in financing Islamic non-governmental schools? Isn’t this proof of consideration and solidarity?” That is how Wallström begins her statement on solidarity and Islamophobia posted in Arabic on March 20 on the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s website. It reveals a new apparent reason why Sweden last year recognized the Palestinian Authority as the state of Palestine: to show solidarity with Islam.
In her statement Wallström goes on giving examples of how Sweden shows solidarity with the Muslim and Arab world by receiving refugees from Syria and Iraq as well as funding the building of a Palestinian state. That Wallström begins her statement of solidarity with the Islamic world by mentioning the Swedish government’s recognition of Palestinian statehood indicates how much importance she thinks that recognition has in the Islamic world.
There is however nothing Islamic about the concept of Palestine as it is not even mentioned in the Koran.
Wallström has even herself stated that it is important not to turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious conflict.
Wallström is in fact doing exactly that by her statement.
If Wallström had wanted to show how good Sweden is for Muslims she could have mentioned Sweden’s anti-discrimination laws and freedom of religion. But she didn’t. She chose to highlight the recognition of Palestinian statehood. If that recognition is in solidarity with Islam, is there also room for solidarity with Israelis and Jews? Later in the spring during an interview in front of a live audience Wallström said that Sweden has the same conditions as the EU for removing Hamas from its list of designated terrorist organizations. Hamas wants to destroy the State of Israel and according to its charter the terrorist organization is against all peace negotiations and has declared war on all Jews. In the light of this Wallström’s statement is out of touch with reality. Hamas, like Islamic State (IS) can not be removed from list of designated terrorist organizations. It can only be ostracized and fought.
According to the Arab news website Arabnyheter (Arab News) Wallström answered a Palestinian journalist’s question regarding the Palestinians right to “self defense” by saying that every nation has the right to self-defense, by all means. Wallström said that if the diplomatic ways to solve the conflict would fail, then armed efforts are legitimized, Arabnyheter reports. I contacted Wallström’s press secretary regarding this statement. He forwarded my questions to the Foreign Ministry, which has failed to properly refute the statement. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such a statement is problematic as the concept of self-defense in the anti-Israel Hamas and PA propaganda includes deliberately attacking Israeli civilians. Legitimizing armed efforts in this context means legitimizing terrorism.
All these statements are proofs of the Swedish foreign minister’s lack of understanding of the Middle East and the forces and actions the Swedish government is motivating with its statements.
The Swedish government claims it is pro-peace and a two-state solution. But it acts against Israel with the same rhetorical language as those powers in the Middle East that do not want peace, or for a Jewish state to exist. There are many Swedes who want the relations between Sweden and Israel to heal. Sweden and Israel have so much in common when it comes to our democratic core values and common challenges.
We now even share the same existential threats from Islamist terrorists. We need strengthened ties between our two countries. But I very much fear that as long as Wallström is in charge of the Foreign Ministry relations between our countries will worsen. I and my organization, Perspective on Israel, encourage members of the Swedish parliament to call for Wallström’s resignation and for a new, reformed foreign policy based on knowledge and common sense.The writer is the chairman of Perspective on Israel (PPI).