Short-term thinking outweighs long-term strategy

Here and There

A pro-palestinian supporter wears a Palestinian and Union flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London last week. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A pro-palestinian supporter wears a Palestinian and Union flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London last week.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In October 3, the newly elected prime minister of Sweden, Stefan Lofven, used his inaugural speech to announce a decision to recognize the “state of Palestine.” His center-left government is now on track to recognize “Palestine” officially, and if it carries through on this proposal, it will be the first member of the European Union to do so. Ten days later, on Octo - ber 13, the British Parliament voted to recognize the “state of Palestine” as well.
While in the latter case the decision is non-binding, this clear direction of recognition without negotiation never - theless poses several questions.
The first question is, with all that is happening in the Middle East to - day, why is it that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to take center stage? Hardly a day passes in Syria and Iraq without hundreds being killed or wounded. Yes, there are “general” re - ports in the international media, but we do not see the equivalent of the virulent anti-Israel media reporting that came out of Gaza during the IDF’s recent Op - eration Protective Edge.
Coming to light now is that when the journalists left Gaza, some were courageous enough to speak of the severe re - strictions placed on their reporting. For example, Indian journalist Sreenivasan Jain, working for NDTV together with a cameraman, reported and filmed a tent that covered a rocket launching pad in a heavily populated civilian area next to a hotel where journalists were staying. He dared not show the film until his return home. Sadly this was too late to correct the distorted view that the internation - al media had projected in the first place.
Operation Protective Edge was the forerunner to the Swedish prime minister’s statement and the vote that took place in the British Parliament. There can be no doubt that the impact of the reporting from Gaza, coupled with the growing number of casualties (most of them claimed to be civilians, a claim that we now know to be untrue), provided the perfect backdrop for the votes recognizing “Palestine.”
Let’s take a look at what is happening in Sweden. It is difficult to find a definitive figure to quantify the country’s Muslim population. Figures vary between 350,000 and 700,000 out of a population of nine million. Conversely the Jewish population numbers some 20,000, although only one-third of it is affiliated with a community. Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Sweden, states that in this year alone, the Scandinavian country has taken in some 80,000 refugees, mainly from Iraq and Syria. Sixty percent of Sweden’s Muslim population resides in three major cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.
Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city, is home to one-quarter of the country’s Muslim population. It is an established and recognized fact that there are areas of Malmö that are no-go areas for non-Muslims.
In 2010, the city’s Jewish community held a pro-peace/pro-Israel march that was attacked by violent counter demonstrations. Then-mayor Ilmar Reepalu, a ruling Social Democrat Party politician (the same party as the newly elected Lofven) blamed the anti-Jewish violence on the Jews, saying, “I would wish for the Jewish community to denounce Israel violence against the civilian population in Gaza. Instead it decides to hold a pro-Israel demonstration in the Grans Square, which could send the wrong signals.”
So here we have it: Support for Israel sends the “wrong signals,” and that is the reason, Reepalu claims, for the violent anti-Semitic action against the Jews of Malmö. We Jews the victims are projected as the aggressors.
Back in 2003, I participated in a Swed - ish WIZO conference in Malmö. At that time, a US government report indicat - ed that Sweden was already suffering from a growth in anti-Semitic incidents, mainly in Malmö. Could this be con - nected to the reality that every fifth newborn boy there was named Mohammed? Today, in 2014, Mohammed is the most popular name in the city.
In the United Kingdom, the figures for 2013 show the Muslim population to have topped 3.3 million, which is 5.2% of the overall population of 63 million. Census data that the British government has published show that Islam is set to become the dominant religion in Britain within the next generation. On the basis of current statistics, 2050 could see Britain with a majority-Muslim population. Conversely the Jewish community has diminished and is now down to around 250,000.
Prior to the vote in the UK’s House of Commons, members of Parliament were inundated with emails at a rate of at least 38,000 a day, all urging them to vote in favor of recognizing “Pales - tine.” There is no doubt that a strong force in the decision of a number of MPs to support recognizing a “state of Palestine” was the realization that for the first time it might actually cost them a significant number of votes in the growing constituencies where the Muslim vote will decide who becomes a sitting member of Parliament.
Perhaps what is particularly revealing (and exceedingly frightening) is what is happening at UK universities.
This is, after all, the future. A week ago, the National Union of Students’ National Executive Committee shot down a motion condemning Islamic State because it would have been “Islamophobic” to do so. Yet this same union had no problem passing a motion two months ago condemning Israel and calling for a boycott of the Jewish state.
Israel appears as “the problem” in the world today. Where is the street protest against Islamic State’s recent barbaric executions of Western jour - nalists? Where was the protest in the United Kingdom when two Islamists, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Ade - bowale, murdered British soldier Lee Rigby outside the Woolwich Barracks in southeast London in May of last year? Both men were born in Britain, were raised as Christians and converted to Islam as teenagers. At their trial, Adebolajo said, “There is an ongoing war between the Muslims and the British people.”
How does this marry with numerous anti-Israel and blatantly anti-Semitic demonstrations taking place through - out Europe today? There can be no doubt that Sweden’s intention to recognize the “state of Palestine,” and the UK’s vote in Parliament to do the same, serve as a significant and potent trendsetter for other European countries where the influence of an ever-in - creasing number of Muslim voters will be noted by political parties.
Back in 2007, Efraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad and a former ambassador to the European Union – said, “We are in the midst of a Third World War with radical Islam.” Today, as we see how the demographic reality is tak - ing hold in Europe, we also note that European leaders are more interested in the short-term reality of “Will I retain my parliamentary seat in the next election?” rather than the long-term strategy of “Whither my country?”
The writer is the chair of ESRA and has been active in public affairs and status- of-women issues