Not so fast, Mr. Soder

Sweden Democrats have put forth bill after bill attempting to ban kosher meat as well as circumcision; they are attempting to ban Jewish practices while claiming to stand by the Jewish minority.

Björn Söder (photo credit: TWITTER)
Björn Söder
(photo credit: TWITTER)
In my recent column “He who stands for nothing falls for everything – land, citizenship and identity” I tried to dissect the recent much-debated interview with Deputy house speaker Bjorn Soder and actually understand what it was he was trying to say. By doing this, and by merely addressing a member of the Sweden Democrat-party, I have received a fair amount of flack from my fellow Jews and non-Jews alike. 
That was expected, it’s been an unspoken rule for some time that we do not acknowledge and much less debate the Sweden Democrats, but as the recent national election shows this silence has not diminished their influence or dealt with the underlying factors that brought them into parliament. And, all those things aside, I find that ignoring a party that has received over 14% of the popular vote is deeply undemocratic and honestly, quite insulting to the public one claims to represent. So I debated Soder, I met his argument and gave him credit on the points where we agree, such as the ideas pertaining to land, peoplehood and nation-state. After reading his op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, entitled “Sweden Democrats reject anti-Semitism”, I would like to amend that statement. 
The Sweden Democrats have put forth bill after bill attempting to ban the import of kosher meat as well as circumcision, which means they are attempting to ban Jewish practices while claiming to stand by the Jewish minority of Sweden. This, to me, sounds deeply hypocritical and makes the eloquent passages in Mr Soder’s piece about minority protection sound hollow and disingenuous. 
I am all for having one party in the Swedish Parliament that are champions for the Jewish people, and unlike many Swedish citizens I have no issue with that party being the Sweden Democrats. But, I will not be anyone’s useful idiot, nor will I be thankful for anything but an unequivocal backing without caveats or qualms. 
So, Mr. Soder, what’s it going to be? You say in your article, ”Those who know me are well familiar with my strong commitment to the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” If that is true you cannot demand the prohibition of circumcision, one of the pillars of the Jewish faith. If you claim to stand by us you would not try to outlaw the import of kosher meat, but work furiously to overturn the shameful ban on kosher slaughter that was passed in 1937. You cannot have it both ways. You are with us or you are against us, in this case there is no middle ground and there are no fences to straddle.
There is no lack of anti-Semitism in Sweden, from the left to the right, and I believe that to achieve real change we need to debate rather than dismiss; whoever may be standing at the pulpit. The Sweden Democrats claim to have weeded out their dark past and embarked on a journey of transparency and change, now I am asking to see proof of that change, in action rather than in eloquent articles. 
Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a political adviser, writer and activist. An alumni of the Young Jewish diplomatic seminar (organized by the Mizrad Hahutz) and Tikvah seminars in NYC. She lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with her two children. Follow her on Twitter.