Sweden 'in the same league as Iran'

Anti-Semitic attacks over the past decade have risen by almost 90%, yet the established Lutheran church has done little to raise its voice in defense of the nation's Jewish citizens

Swedish synagogue_311 (photo credit: wikimedia.org)
Swedish synagogue_311
(photo credit: wikimedia.org)
In January 2009, a container marked with a swastika and the words “Cyclone B” – the same gas used in the Nazi gas chambers – was found outside a synagogue in Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö.
In 2010, a bottle containing a flammable liquid was thrown into a building adjacent to the city’s Jewish cemetery, while an explosive device was set off outside the main synagogue, destroying several of its windows. Weeks later, a gathering of Jewish children was attacked by egg-throwing youngsters spewing anti-Semitic slogans.
With such incidents on the rise in Sweden, the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a travel advisory for Jews in December, 2010. The global Jewish community was urged to use extreme caution when visiting southern Sweden – the first time the normally docile nation was the subject of such an advisory.
Studies indicate that anti-Semitic attacks in Sweden over the past decade have risen by almost 90 percent. In 2000, there were 131 such incidents registered by Swedish police, but those figures jumped to 250 in 2009. In comparison, the UK had 703 reported anti-Semitic incidents in 2009, with a population close to 62 million, while Sweden has only 9.3 million.
When The Christian Edition paid a recent visit to Malmö, the spokesman for the local Jewish synagogue, Fredrik Sieradzki, said he has been surprised by the recent rise in hostility.
Choosing his words carefully, Sieradzki said, “Our rabbi is regularly harassed.
This is a new phenomenon which didn’t exist when I was growing up, and it has to do with changes in the population structure, which today is less homogeneous than in the past. Today, we can see an increase of anti-Semitism in relation to a higher immigration from the Middle East. We are hence dealing with radical Muslim groups with a general hate toward Israel and the Jews, instead of extreme groups from the Right.”
Jews in Malmö expected Swedish authorities to take measures to prevent further incidents, but instead the mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, chose to ignore the problem. In 2010 he reportedly said, “There have been no attacks on the city’s Jews. If the Jews would like to move to Israel, it is not a concern for the city of Malmö.”
He was further cited as claiming that the Jews had themselves to blame for the situation.
“It is sad that Sweden, in this matter, has ended up in the same league as Iran,” assessed Sieradzki.
The city council of Malmö finally acknowledged the problem and set up a forum for the Jewish and Muslim communities to dialogue with local authorities. But Sieradzki said he is unsure whether the forum will bring positive longterm results, especially when it is tested by the next escalation in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the established Lutheran church in Sweden has done little to raise its voice in defense of the nation’s Jewish citizens. In 2009, when the then-Swedish archbishop was invited to an official Holocaust remembrance event, he declined due to the situation in Gaza.
Yet Sieradzki noted that certain individual Christians and pro-Israel organizations have sent comforting messages, which have been much appreciated.
Sweden is officially considered a Christian country, with 71.3% of its population being members of the Church of Sweden as of 2009. But such high figures do not reflect the actual number of church attendees. And many who are still churchgoers have yet to throw off the sad legacy of Replacement theology.
The same former Swedish archbishop who supported the Gaza flotilla has also endorsed boycotts against Israel. In 2007 a group of 12 leading Swedish Christian organizations and churches organized the HOPE campaign aimed at boycotting products from Jewish settlements.
With another Gaza flotilla due later in June, the Jews of Malmö are anxiously awaiting the local Muslim reaction and hoping that some measure of support will be heard from the Christians. •