Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The State Should Pay for the Jews’ Security

On 22 March Siewert Öholm, the editor of the Christian newspaper Världen Idag, wrote an article about what it was like to visit the Jewish community in Göteborg, Sweden’s second largest city.
Öholm got in a cab to go to a gathering at the Jewish community center in central Göteborg. He gave the address to the driver, yet the cab did not stop outside the closed off entrance. “I am not allowed to pull up here” the driver explained. Öholm was dropped of half a block away from the Jewish center that was guarded by police cars and concrete barriers.

This was a normal night at the center with ordinary communal meeting activities; there was neither a religious service, nor any meeting in which important people or politicians were participating.                                                       

What happened next came as a further shock to Öholm. To be let in to the Jewish community building he first had to ring a bell and was asked over a loudspeaker to state who he was and what the purpose of his visit was. He then proceeded into a security room. When he was inside this room the outside door was locked. He was then once again further questioned via a camera with loudspeaker. Thereafter he was ushered into a security corridor which led to the hall in which he and some hundreds of others would gather for a meeting.

The security measures awakened Öholm’s anger. He suddenly realized that “the personal security which I thought was obvious in a democracy is not there for everyone… definitely not for the Swedish Jews and especially not the Jews residing in Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö.”

In Sweden these are special security laws concerning for example churches and women. Yet there is no security legislation that concerns synagogues nor are there civil demands on society to provide protection to the Jews in the country.

The Jewish communities have to pay millions of Swedish Kronor for these security measures from their own budget. Öholm writes: “what other church or community would agree to pay for build-in security rooms and camera surveillance?”

Although the members of the Jewish communities pay their taxes like any one else, their safety is not guaranteed when visiting their synagogues or community centres. This unless they want to pay for the security themselves.

Öholm’s story of security at the Göteborg Jewish community recalls the daily threats that the Jews in Sweden have to face alone. Öholm remarks: “to say that the Jews have to pay for security themselves means the same as stating that they are responsible for the threats against them.” He argues that security for the Jews should be paid for by the Swedish state until it is no longer needed. This is what can be expected from a democracy which is responsible for the security of all of its citizens.

Source: Världen Idag

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Imam as Role Model: ”Jews are Dirty and Gays Should Die”

“Jews are dirty and gays should die” is one message that the American Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick preaches to his followers. This religious figure has recently been invited by the largest Muslim youth organization in Sweden (Sveriges Unga Muslimer) to speak at their conference in Stockholm, which will be held from April 2-5.

Per Gudmundson, an editorial writer at the national Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet writes in his blog that when the Imam was supposed to speak recently at King’s College London and other British universities he was boycotted by the organization “Outrage!" who called him “anti-Semitic and homophobic”. The organization referred to his statements in the program “Voice of Islam” by Triangle Television (Auckland) in which he states;

•    AIDS is caused by the “filthy practices” of homosexuals
•    Homosexuals are dropping dead from AIDS and “they want to take us all down with them”
•    The Islamic position on homosexuality is “death”
•    Homosexuals are “sick” and “not natural”
•    “Muslims are going to have to take a stand [against homosexuals] and it’s not enough to call names” (this last point comes close to an implied threat of violence).

In an MP3 recording which can be found on the homepage of “Outrage!” he even goes as far as stating that homosexuals should be executed.

In another audio recording Abdullah Hakim Quick further denounces (about 3.50 minutes into the video)  the “filth” of Jews (Yahood) and kaffirs—non-believers—by for example saying “May Allah clean and purify Al-Aqsa from the filth of the Yahood (Jew).

The Swedish Muslim youth organization received 2.2 million Swedish kronor during 2009 from Swedish taxpayers directed via the youth board (ungdomsstyrelsen).

The chairman of the organization RFSL- The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights has unsuccessfully tried to convince the Muslim youth movement to withdraw the invitation of the Imam.
According to the Muslim youth movement, Abdullah Hakim Quick “never has held any homophobic views”.
Still, on Swedish national Radio (SR)  Hakim Quick mentions in an interview from the homepage “Enjoy Islam” that "One of the most dangerous groups in society is the homosexuals."   

The purpose of the conference to which the Imam is invited is to provide role models for the Muslim youth in Sweden. It is highly disturbing to find that this hate-inciting Imam will provide guidance and encouragement to many young Swedish Muslims. The youth organization has posted a message on their homepage in which they claim that they have been subjected to anti-Muslim actions and that when they contacted Hakim Quick received the answer that “he doesn’t stand for these opinions and he, as well, has been subjected to anti-Muslim forces. At the end of the message the youth organization states clearly that “they will not cave in to the anti-Muslim bloggers and will hence not cancel Hakim Quick’s visit to the conference”.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reepalu’s (in)Actions May Affect Municipal Elections

As this blog has frequently mentioned, Malmö’s mayor Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat), has during the past weeks continuously understated or ignored the rising number of hate crimes that the Jews in Malmö are facing. He has succeeded in damaging his own reputation, that of the Social Democrats as well as that of the city of Malmö.

A number of Swedish and some international newspapers have followed the many wrong steps and statements made by Reepalu during the last two months. The local reactions have however been surprisingly insignificant, as noted by the leading local daily Sydsvenskan’s political editor in chief Heidi Avellan  The only serious response was when Ewa Bertz (Popular People’s Party) confronted Reepalu in the City Council.

The political editor in chief of this liberal newspaper writes in one of her recent chronicles, that Sydsvenskan supports the Alliance in the upcoming national elections this fall. Avellan argues that the Alliance parties should continue governing as Sweden needs prolonged change from the Social Democrats, who have ruled the country during most of the post-war period, the more so as they have prominent members such as Reepalu.

Avellan states that Sydsvenskan might not support the Alliance on the municipal level. Still, and most probably due to Reepalu’s recent political blunders she can’t help herself but writing: “Change is good… The Social Democrats in Malmö could use a pause for reflection; Reepalu has been a municipal councillor since 1985.”

Reepalu’s misbehavior could not have come at a more important time. It seems that many citizens of Malmö as well as the local press are loosing faith in him and the Social Democrats. Blogger Ilya Meyer has written about the “unholy trinity” of the Social Democrats, The Green Party and the Left. They will if they win the fall elections promote their special manifesto for the Middle East which amongst others promotes the "halt of security cooperation between Israel and Sweden as well as the return of its military attaché in Israel to Sweden.".More about the “unholy trinity” can be found here.

Reepalu has proven that both he and the Social Democrats are not able to lead a just and secure Malmö or Sweden where all citizens have equal rights. This now seems to have been acknowledged by many of Malmö’s citizens, as well as the local press. Hopefully this will also play an important role in the national and municipal elections this year.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eurabia is a Place Called Malmö

About a month ago, Daniel Schwammenthal wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Eurabia is a Place in Sweden” that talked about the problems the city of Malmö faces when dealing with its large Muslim population. The term “Eurabia” has, according to Schwammental, become a reality in Malmö as “roughly 20% of Malmö's 290,000 residents are of Muslim, mostly Arab, origin.” This, he argues, “together with traditional Swedish anti-Zionism—the result of the left's ideological supremacy here—form an explosive cocktail”.

In Schwammethal’s article one can, as I continuously mention in this blog, find information about the unbearable situation  that today drives many of the Jewish residents away from Malmö as well as the inadequate response  by the city’s mayor. Schwammenthal also highlights the participation of several leading Swedish Social democrats such as Mona Sahlin who participated in anti-Israeli rallies last year where “where the Jewish state's flag was burned while those of Hamas and Hezbollah were waved”. He also gives the example of vice chair for the Social Democratic Women's organization in southern Sweden, Ingalill Bjartén (Social Democrat), who stated "I think Gaza is comparable to the Warsaw Ghetto,"

According to Schwammenthal “This sort of demonization of Israel and Israelis—which meets the European Union's own definition of anti-Semitism—is increasingly common across the Continent.” A clear-cut case is Malmö.

Yesterday, also the British Guardian decided to run Associated Press writer Richard Steed’s report on the story of Malmö and Marcus Eilenberg. Malmö Jew Marcus Eileberg stated in an interview with Swedish newspaper Skånskan at the end of January that the hatred against Jews in Malmö has led him and some 15 other Jews to leave Malmö.  His reason, as can be read in the Guardian yesterday, “is a rise in hate crimes against Jews in Malmo, and a sense that local authorities have little desire to deal with a problem that has exposed a crack in Sweden's image as a bastion of tolerance and a haven for distressed ethnic groups.”

According to Richard Steed’s report, it was previously believed that the aggression against Jews came from the extreme right. But as can be seen in Steed’s interview with Malmö Rabbi Shneur Kesselman this is not the case. Kesselman instead argues "In the past five years I've been here, I think you can count on your hand how many incidents there have been from the extreme right. In my personal experience it's 99 percent Muslims."

While Rabbi Kesselman has reported some 10 anti-Semitic hate crimes during last year, a typical situation according to him is; "walking in the streets and a car with Muslim youth between 18 and 30 will roll down the window and yell '(expletive) Jew,' give me the finger and shout something in Arabic".

On of the reasons for the increased hate crimes against the Jews in Malmö, according Susanne Gosenius, a hate crimes investigator at Malmo's police department, seems to be that individuals in Malmö originating from the Middle East can’t distinguish between Jews in Malmö and the state of Israel. It is noted in Steed’s report which was published in the Guardian that some 7 percent of Malmö’s 285,000 residents were born in the Middle East.

The reality in Malmö is that there is a major problem with Muslim immigrants. This is something that the city of Malmö has failed to acknowledge and which now has led many of the city’s Jewish residents to leave. While the Jews often seem to be the first ones to take a blow they will most probably not be the last to suffer the consequences of the rapidly growing and segregated Muslim population in Malmö. This leaves on to wonder, does Mayor Reepalu really want to be Mayor of Malmö or of Eurabia?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Professor Gerdmar: Anti-Zionism is the new Anti-Semitism

According to Anders Gerdmar , Professor of Theology at Uppsala University; “ever since Malmö’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat), connected Israel’s foreign policies with Malmö’s Jewish community, he expressed the basic elements of racism. If we don’t deal with these problems now, he argues, “Sweden might within a short time become known as a country where Jews should not come to live”. Gerdemar also argues that Sweden should establish a national action plan in order to combat anti-Semitism.

While many of the people that have followed the Reepalu affair argue that the statements the mayor made were nothing but “unfortunate”, Anders Gerdmar, on the other hand, argues that Reepalu’s statements might just be “the tip of the iceberg”. As Gerdmar notes, Reepalu is a highly influential politician and has been so for many years. Such a politician would have most probably developed his political skills and would know how to deal with the media. If Reepalu were a young and inexperienced politician, one would perhaps be able to argue that the statements he made recently were just “unfortunate”. Still, one has to remember that this is an election year and Reepalu knows that there are elements in Malmö which exemplify the so-called “new anti-Semitism”. 

The argument that his statements were just one-time phenomena also falls apart as similar expressions are shown in both interviews with the Sunday Telegraph, Skånskan as well as the Wall Street Journal.

According to Professor Anders Gerdmar, when looking back at the anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust in Germany, this could be seen as the result of many seemingly politically correct statements, just like Reepalu’s, which could be used by populists in a “revolutionary situation”.

“When Reepalu draws parallels between the State of Israel and the Jews in Malmö he expresses thoughts that all Jews fundamentally are the same as well as that they are active everywhere. If one Jew is involved in something negative in the Middle East there are connections to Jews in other places.” This is the unfortunate situation of the Jews in Malmö who have to suffer the consequences of what is going on in Israel.

In a TV interview hosted by Ulf Ekman which was broadcast on March 11th, the general secretary of United Israel Collection- Keren Hayesod (of Sweden), Ulf Cahn argues that anti-Semitism for most people today rather can be seen as part of an academic discussion. For Ulf Cahn on the other hand, who is a Jew from Malmö, this discussion is a matter of life or death. He notes that anti-Semitism, as can be seen throughout history, has led to the prosecution and killing of millions of Jews and hence, the issue of rising anti-Semitic hate crimes in Malmö should be taken very seriously. One could further argue that when the mayor of the city, Ilmar Reepalu, at the same time publicly fails to take a stance against anti-Semitism without bringing Israel into the picture, the Jews of Malmö might have something to worry about. According to Cahn, what Sweden and Malmö both need is a “vaccination campaign” against anti-Semitism which incorporates a continuous yearly discussion about the history of anti-Semitism in Swedish schools which will help educate young students about the horrible things that Jews have had to endure.
This “vaccination” campaign would, according to Cahn, also help the Swedish population to understand that anti-Semitism is not just a word, it leads to real persecutions against Jews.

In the same TV interview Professor Gerdmar, who also is an expert in anti-Semitism, argues that since 1968 anti-Semitism has increased in Sweden but in another form. This anti-Semitism can, according to him, be seen as “disguised” anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism. This also incorporates taking use of forms other than the traditional anti-Semitic phrasings while basically saying the same thing. This is also a phenomenon that Prof Gerdmar notes have been thoroughly researched, citing the book written by Henrik Bachner (in Swedish) titled “Återkomsten”, The Return.

According to Gerdemar, due to the recent increase of anti-Semitic hate-crimes in Malmö, it is necessary to not only understand these new signals of anti-Semitism but also to act against them.

To conclude, as also noted by Professor Gerdemar, Reepalu is the one mayor in Sweden that has had the most experienced with anti-Semitic crimes in his city. With this experience, he should be the one who most clearly and quickly than anyone else takes a stance against anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, this is not what has happened and Reepalu has up to now not apologized for his “unfortunate” statements. While this remains to be the reality in the city, it is not surprising to find that many Jews choose to leave.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Israel-hate and Anti-Semitism Thrive among Swedish Social Democrats

Last year, when Israel played Sweden in the Davis Cup Games in Malmö, Ingalill Bjartén (Social Democrat) was one of the people that demonstrated outside the Malmö arena and publicly compared Israelis with the Nazis. Bjartén is a Social Democrat but also Vice President for the organization Social Democratic Women (S-kvinnor) in Skåne county. According to Jonathan Leman, who is a representative of the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism; Ingalill Bjartén’s public statements are largely representative of the new way of thinking in Sweden which can be identified as anti-Semitic.

In an interview with local daily newspaper Sydsvenskan in January last year, Bjartén was interviewed about her thoughts on the State of Israel:

“Israel is an apartheid state. I compare Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto. It is surprising that Israel—where a large part of the population was exposed to the Nazis—is able to do the exact same thing as the Nazis.”
She also called for a boycott of Israeli goods as according to her;
“Israel is butchering children and adults. Those who claim that politics and sport are not connected are unaware of the reality.”

Ingalill Bjartén has also gotten criticism from Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan. According to him; “she is using the same rhetoric as Iran’s leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad”.

While Leman acknowledged in an interview with Sydsvenskan that “people have to be able to criticize Israel as much as they want without being named an anti-Semite”, Bjartén’s comparison of Israel to the Nazis is, according to him, crossing the line. According to Leman, doing just this can be seen as a way to mock the survivors of the Holocaust and part of rhetoric which portrays the Jews and the Israelis as inhuman.

Due to criticism of her anti-Semitic statements, Bjartén consequently decided to quit her post. While she at least seems to have acknowledged her stupidity, Malmö’s Mayor, Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat) still refuses to do the same.
Ilmar Reepalu does, arguably, have the exact same mindset as Bjartén and has, for example, encouraged the Jewish community, after an upswing in anti-Semitic hate crimes in Malmö this year, to take a stance against Israel. He is arguing that the Jews have themselves to blame for the aggression against them. He then only shortly after stated that Malmö is a city which “does not accept anti-Semitism nor Zionism” which is the same as saying that thoughts of Jewish nationhood are synonymous to religious hate crime. Some weeks ago he also stated that there is an Israeli lobby which is out to get him. This statement is, according Professor of the History of Ideas and Science at Lund University, Henrik Bachner, a problematic statement as it is used in anti-Jewish arguments in Europe and the world. The aforementioned statement also suggests that there is a Jewish conspiracy that rules media, politics and consciously manipulates the opinions of the people.

The mayor has up until now, still not apologized for any of his statements nor his stupidity and it does not appear likely that he ever will. Unfortunately for Malmö, Sweden and the fight against racism it does not look like he intends to step down.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Anti-Israeli Propaganda Group Recruits in Swedish Colleges

It is distressing to read on a small anti-Israeli boycott group’s homepage that the group has been using the Malmö Högskola (Malmö University) campus as a recruiting base for their organization. These are public facilities funded by the Swedish taxpayers.

Students attending the meeting in Malmö University

According to the group’s website, an open meeting was held on campus at Malmö University in order to gain more supporters for their distasteful cause. The aim of the meeting was also to form a new group during the spring of 2010 that would be directly connected to Malmö Univeristy.  Prior to the meeting the small faction known as “Isolate Israel” had also managed to put up flyers and posters within Malmö University to call attention to the fact that the school conducts an academic exchange program with Ben Gurion University in Israel. According to the group, this program must end as Israeli universities indirectly contribute to the “occupation of Palestinian territory”. 
As a result of the meeting at Malmö University, a very small new group has formed that will investigate new ways to boycott Israel.

This small anti-Israeli group had no difficulty holding its meetings on campus at Malmö University. On the other hand, authorities at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm [Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH)] tried to stop the spread of similar propaganda on their campus.

During early February 2010, a member of the staff at KTH, Prof. Emeritus Dick Urban Vestbro (Left Party) wanted to hold a seminar on KTH’s campus discussing an academic boycott of Israel.

The invitation read as follows:

Welcome to a seminar to discuss the case for boycotting Israel [...].
Keynote  speaker: the Swedish-Israeli artist Dror Feiler, President of European Jews for a Just Peace
Assoc. Prof Jan-Erik Gustafsson will report about the Birzeit group for international academic boycott
Representatives of the KTH Ethical Committee and other key persons at KTH have been invited to address the meeting
Moderator: Prof Emer. Dick Urban Vestbro

KTH decided to act fast and stopped the seminar that was to be held on campus. According to the blog “Fred I Mellanöstern” (Peace in the Middle East)  it was both the Dean as well as KTH’s Ethical Committee that put a halt to the planned seminar.

In the daily newspaper Aftonbladet (not available online) one could read that:
”Dean Peter Gudmundson put an end to a meeting yesterday at KTH which intended to discourage all academic cooperation with Israel. The school’s facilities are not allowed to be used for political meetings, as decided by their Ethical Committee; KTH will not promote foreign politics which go against the line of the Swedish state and KTH’s campus will not be used for anything else other than academic activity.

Dean Gudmundsson from KTH further states:
“We don’t lease out facilities for political propaganda. The internal discussion is, of course, free but this is an invitation to a public meeting.. We have rules for how our facilities are used.”

Still, on February 15th, the “boycott-Israel” meeting was held illegally on the grounds of KTH.

It is clear that KTH in Stockholm holds true to its principles as an academic institution and the laws of the Swedish state. It is unfortunate that the meeting was still conducted illegally at KTH.

Conversely, Malmö University and its Dean seem to be clueless as to what is going on.  They should be advised to take a look at what is going on inside their own gates. By doing this they will be able to prevent that illegal political propaganda which currently is being spread around under the cover of Malmö University’s name.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Malmö’s Jews Pay a Fortune for Security

Last week the print version of Sydsvenskan published an article (not available online) by Bibi Häggström which stated that Malmö’s Mayor has decided to ask the government for help in the struggle to combat hate crime in the city. The article further discusses that the Malmö Jewish community currently spends about half a million Swedish kronor on Security. This is a huge amount for a community that has no more than around 650 members.

Last week Malmö’s Mayor Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat) sent two letters to Justice Minister Beatrice Ask in which he requested government aid for the Malmö Jewish community in respect to their extra security costs. Moreover, he also wanted the government to help the Malmö city government establish a hate crime unit.

In the letter to Minister Ask, Reepalu mentions that the municipality of Malmö does not have the legal right to aid the Malmö Jewish community in bearing the  heavy extra expense for security; this, although the Jewish community has been exposed to criminal offenses which fall under the jurisdiction of the local Malmö police. Instead, the Malmö mayor now suggests that the national government should be the source of aid for the Malmö Jewish community.

It should be noted that the Jewish community in Malmö already has contacted the government regarding this matter, but with no result. Fredrik Sieradzki, representative from the Jewish community, notes that the community has some half a million Swedish Kronor in extra yearly expenditures for security. An additional sum of about 2.8 million Swedish Kronor will be invested in outer security. These are large amounts for such a small community.

According to daily newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad, Reepalu stated in a press release that “Hate crimes are threats against the open democratic society. This makes us very keen on combating these kinds of crimes.” He therefore wishes to get help with establishing a special unit of trained police, prosecutors and judges that can cooperate on the issue of hate crime prosecution. This cooperation would lead to prosecutions being processed faster than they are as of now.

Hate crime in Malmö doubled during the year of 2009 and the attacks on Jews in Malmö area have become more frequent as well. This is an issue about which, up until recently, Mayor Ilmar Reepalu has claimed to have no knowledge. As the city of Malmö has failed to protect its Jewish residents, one can only hope that the Swedish government will agree to contribute extra aid to the vulnerable Jewish community. In this way, the Jewish community will at least be able to ensure that Jewish visitors to the Synagogue and the Jewish centre can be protected from violent attacks. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Openly Identifying as a Jew is Dangerous in Malmö

The Christian Norwegian daily Dagen Magazinet published an article  last week  in which a young Jewish woman from the Malmö Jewish community was interviewed and asked about her experiences with anti-Semitism in the city.

The young 23-year-old woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, calls herself “Lena” and explains that she is too scared to show her face in the newspaper as it could be dangerous for her. This is a result of events in Malmö, especially in the past year. According to Lena:

 “In the last few years, most Jewish children and youth in the city have been subjected to various degrees of intimidation, harassment, abuse and violence.

One of the stories which Lena tells Dagen Magazinet concerns her little brother who last summer was abused by a gang of Muslims youths:

“Last summer my little brother (17) was abused and tormented by a gang of Muslim boys from Somalia…When they realized he was Jewish they started shouting “We will kill you, you fucking Jew” and tackled him.

Lena’s father has also been subjected to threats. Last year, during the Israeli peace demonstration held by the Malmö Jewish community, he was threatened with death and bottles were thrown at him. One of these bottles hit Lena in the leg.

Still, according to Lena, such extreme things do not happen every day. The worst might, according to her, be to “meet daily with hateful and murderous looks from Arabs”. Now she is even too scared to take a taxi in the city as the drivers often are Arabs.

She is also too scared to publicly display her Star of David necklace:

“I cannot go and buy fruit at the market with the Star of David around my neck. It is asking for trouble” she states in the interview with Dagen Magazinet.

While many of her Jewish friends feel that Malmö holds no future for the Jews, Lena, on the other hand, argues that the Jews “must stand up and resist” the threat. In a town where there are some 50,000 Muslims inhabitants and only about 700 Jews this might be a task too hard to handle; this is arguably also why some Jews already have decided to leave the city. In the interview Lena was too scared to even show her face which shows that the threat against the Jews in Malmö is frighteningly real.

Arguably, the threat against the Jews is not something that the Malmö Jewish community should have to deal with by itself, but something that the Malmö authorities should actively seek to stop. Yet as long as Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat) holds the position as Malmö’s Mayor, Jewish youth in Malmö might have to learn the hard way to stand up on their own and resist these dangerous threats. Others may however already have come to the conclusion that they are much better off elsewhere.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Online Swedish Newspaper Allows Anti-Semitic Content

The online newspaper The Local is an English-language Swedish daily. On March 13, they published an article  called “Three cartoon murder plot suspects freed” which covered the release earlier this week of three people who were arrested in Ireland on suspicion of plotting to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. Vilks has lived under constant threat since 2007 when the local Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda published his satirical cartoon portraying the prophet Muhammad.  The cartoon was printed to emphasize the importance of the freedom of expression.


Lars Vilks satirical cartoon

After The Local’s article about the released suspects was published yesterday, the newspaper enabled its readers to discuss the article. These talkback comments have, according to The Local , “not been moderated in advance and are not produced by The Local unless clearly stated. Readers are responsible for the content of their own comments. Comments that breach their terms and conditions will be removed.”

In The Locals terms and conditions it is guaranteed that:

We will remove posts which put us in legal jeopardy, or which may be prejudicial to the commercial interests of The Local Europe AB, including, but not limited to, those which are:

a. Potentially or actually in breach of copyright laws in that they include direct reproductions of material already published elsewhere;

b. Potentially libellous or defamatory

c. An incitement to break the law.”

Still, in talkback #13 on the article “Three carton murder plot suspects freed”, one reader’s comment was posted and not removed:

17:09 March 13, 2010 by arslan11

Make cartoons about holocaust and see what happens to Sweden freedom of speech??

Is this freedom to hurt feelings of more than billion human beings who follow Islam ??

What will happen if this Jew cartoonist do same with Jesus image?? That's why Jews are worst creatures living on this planet.

The article in the Local did not talk about Jews and Vilks is neither of Jewish origins. The post now has been up for more than 24 hours, and one can therefore only assume that the The Local does not consider this highly anti-Semitic comment as either libellous or defamatory as it is still posted on The Locals discussion board.

If one continues to read the talkbacks on the page, it is clear that many other readers, clearly, are disturbed and outraged by the comment made by “Arslan11”. Conversely, the newspaper does not feel that the comment is libellous or defamatory—The Local lets anti-Semitism live and prosper.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Swedish anti-Israeli activists: “Stop H&M in Israel”

Yesterday about 15-20 Swedish activists demonstrated in Malmö against the opening of H&M stores in Israel. There were also some protests in Göteborg, Stockholm, Lund and Umeå. Most demonstrators were from anti-Israeli organizations but there were also some people from the Swedish Left Party . At the same time, around 40 small organizations from 14 countries in Europe were expected to demonstrate against the Swedish clothing store’s decision to open in Israel.

At the demonstration in Malmö, slogans such as “H&M--Don’t accept the occupation of Palestine,” were chanted by the demonstrators. Maja Backlund who is the spokesperson for the network Isolate Israel was interviewed by southern Swedish newspaper Trelleborgs Allehanda and stated:

“We are against the politics run by the current government, not the actual state of Israel.”

Another demonstrator was Anders Püschel who said “he is not scared that the demonstration will be seen as anti-Semitic.” He also (incorrectly) stated that:

“The country [Israel] is fundamentally racist in an exceptional way. Jews from all around the world are allowed to move there while the non-Jewish groups are denied their rights.”
In Sweden, five organizations which claim that H&M should not be opened in Israel are:

Judar för Israelisk Palestinsk Fred (JIPF)

Palestinska Föreningen i Stockholm

Palestinagrupperna i Sverige (PGS)

Isolera Israel

ISM Sverige

Someone else who wished to air his opinion was the Swedish Israeli-artist Dror Feiler. Feiler is the same man who in 2004 collaborated with his wife Gunilla Sköld Feiler to create the controversial art installation “Snövit och sanningens vansinne” (Snow White and the Madness of Truth) which led to serious diplomatic tension between Israel and Sweden. Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, somewhat defended Feiler, terming Israel’s reaction "a misinterpretation of a piece of art which may very well be in bad taste, very bad taste.”

The installation portrayed a Palestinian suicide bomber floating on a pool of “blood” and was, according to many, a way to glorify Palestinian suicide bombers who attack Israeli civilians.

According to Feiler, the anti-Israeli demonstrations are necessary—if H&M is not boycotted in Israel, local taxes paid on revenues will continue to finance the “occupation” of Palestinian territory.
Obviously, not a lot of people supported this ridiculous boycott of H&M’s Israeli stores. Only some 15 people from these marginal groups showed up in Malmö to demonstrate against the opening. Not even the national press picked up the story. The story was only covered in Trelleborgs Allehanda and Laholms tidning which are published in towns which have 25,000 and 5,000 inhabitants respectively.

Representatives from H&M themselves commented, “H&M is a non-political company and do not take a stance in religious nor political matters. We further think that trade and dialogue promotes development.”

Instead of bashing Israel, which is in fact the only true democracy in the Middle East, these small and petty fringe organizations might have gotten more support if, like H&M, they came up with constructive solutions promoting dialogue and development.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rabbi Shneur Kesselman Speaks Out About Underreported Hate Crime in Malmö

Recently the hate crimes in Malmö and Skåne County have come under increased surveillance as the numbers have doubled since last year.  According to the Swedish daily newspaper Expressen, “During the year of 2009, 270 hate crimes were reported in Skåne County and about 25 percent of these were aimed towards Jews.”  

One of those exposed to anti-Semitic hate crime is Rabbi Shneur Kesselman of the Malmö Jewish community. He states in an interview with Expressen on March 5th that “ever since I came here people have been shouting ‘fucking Jew’ and ‘heil Hitler’ at me.”

What is worth noting about Rabbi Kesselman’s statement in Expressen is that out of the 65 incidents in 2009, according to the Skåne police, three of these incidents were directed at Kesselman. Yet according to Kesselman, 15 separate reports were filed concerning anti-Semitic hate crimes aimed towards him. The worst incident involved someone trying to run him over with a car. Apparently, the authorities have a different method for calculating these figures, as the full number of incidents does not appear in the Skåne police statistics.

Another disturbing aspect of this case is the time it took before police brought Kesselman in for a hearing. An attack Kesselman reported in September 2009 was only dealt with in February 2010.

The most common anti-Semitic hate crimes have been graffiti or engraved swastikas or Stars of David on buildings or cars but there have also been several arson attacks on Jewish sites in Helsingborg as well as Malmö Jewish community.

According to Expressen, some of the most serious anti-Semitic hate crimes occurred in Northwest Skåne where a family from Helsingborg was threatened with death and a man later tried to run their car off the road.  In another northern Skåne town a man is suspected of etching a swastika into the hand of another person with sulphuric acid. 

It seems as if the police in Skåne lack the will or ability to protect the Jewish population of Skåne County from hate crime. This is especially evident since some Jews have resorted to leaving their Malmö homes and relocating to safer places. Rabbi Shneur Kesselman also comments:
“I hope that the debate on anti-Semitism in Malmö leads to taking hate-crime more seriously. The police must act with more force, and we need to create some sort of dialogue between those who threaten and those who are threatened.”

One must wonder what the actual figures are for hate crime in the Malmö area.  Additionally, why do the authorities act as if minimizing the numbers is the most effective method of dealing with hate crime incidents?

[Hate crimes in Sweden are defined as: agitation against a group of people, illegal discrimination, homophobic crimes, violence and threats against elected representatives as well as crimes where the aim is to insult a person, a group of people or another such group of people because of their race, skin colour, nationality, ethnic origins, profession of faith, sexual orientation or other similar circumstance.] 

Source: Expressen

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Anti-Zionist Party Formed in Sweden

Up until recently, Ahmed Rami and Mohamed Omar were the only Swedes who promoted an anti-Zionist political party.  The recent registration of another anti-Zionist party at the Swedish election authority hence came as a surprise to them.

Last year the Christian daily newspaper Dagen, noted that Ahmed Rami and Mohamed Omar have promoted their anti-Zionist party as one which welcomes right and left wing extremists, both radical Muslims and Nazis—all with anti-Semitism as a common denominator.  Rami and Omar’s political party has not yet registered at the Swedish electoral authority as they have not elected a board for their party. Their unofficial political party has a Facebook page where the party’s agenda is described as “working for democracy by working against Zionist dominance over culture, politics and media”.  It also rejects Israel’s right to exist. 

The “newcomer”, Mohamed Rahhal from southern Stockholm, became the first to officially register a political party with an anti-Semitic theme at the top of his agenda. The party has not yet handed in the required statutes, board protocols and registration decisions to the Swedish electoral board. These are all are required documents in order for a political party to be able to run in the elections this fall. 

In an interview with the Christian newspaper Världen idag, Rahhal states that he is still not sure if he will hand in the documents. He further explains that the party was established to fight “discrimination and Zionism”. He claims “there is always someone who runs the economy, poverty and the wars”—in other words, there is little or no daylight between Rahhal and the rabid concoctors of Jewish conspiracy theories.

According to Rahhal, Zionism is the driving theory behind the Jewish controlling entity. Zionism, he believes “has always planned to rule the world and go from one war to the next”.

What are Rahhal’s chances of gaining legitimacy? In Sweden there are few rules for forming a party. The definition of a party according to the government is:
 “A party is considered every association or group of voters which runs in an election with a special designation”.  Therefore it is not unusual that unconventional parties are created close to upcoming elections.

If Rahhal’s new party decides to send in the required paperwork to the electoral board, it will get legitimacy as a political group with an openly anti-Semitic agenda. This could further encourage the anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish unrest which has already caused some Jews to leave their homes, as Swedish authorities are unable to contain the verbal and physical agression against them.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sahlin defends Mayor Reepalu on Swedish National TV

Yesterday, on Swedish Channel 2, Mona Sahlin, Social Democrats (S) party leader, debated Göran Hägglund, party leader of the Christian Democrats (KD) and Minister of Health and Social Affairs.

The topic of the debate was Ilmar Reepalu’s recent statements on the increasingly anti-Semitic atmosphere in Malmö and the upsurge in hate crimes against Jews in the city. Last week Göran Hägglund also sent an open letter to Sahlin in which he asked her to clarify her stand on questions such as:
● "Do politics conducted in Israel have any relevance in the assessments of attacks on Swedish Jews?”

● “Does not every person, regardless of background, have the right to not be harassed and persecuted?”.

● “Does Mona Sahlin share Ilmar Reepalu’s opinion that the criticism against him is a result of ”Israeli lobbyism?”.

● “How is Mona Sahlin planning to act in order to eliminate any uncertainties about the Social Democrats’ views on anti-Semitism and the Jews’ right to live their lives in safety?”

As stated by Göran Hägglund (KD) in the TV debate yesterday; Reepalu has had many opportunities to apologize for his statements. Still, it seems unclear if the Malmö mayor is merely so ignorant that he does not understand what he is saying, or if he, as Hägglund argues, perhaps is out to seek more support from the Muslim and leftist voters who have a strong presence in the city. Until now, Reepalu has been unable to separate the attacks on the Jews of Malmö from his views on Israeli politics--this is highly disturbing.

Sahlin on the other hand, excuses Reepalu’s statements on Swedish National TV by saying that “it is unfortunate that he did not know more about the attacks that have taken place on Jews in the city”. She further argued that “Ilmar Reepalu is not an anti-Semite” while she completely failed to remember commenting on his most recent statement concerning the “Israeli lobby” conspiracy.

Instead, she tried to divert attention from the Malmö mayor and argued that the question is not what the municipality commissioners such as Reepalu do but what the governments’ role should be and how parties can perform in these kinds of questions. Sahlin also, to further excuse Reepalu’s statements, claimed that there are several ignorant politicians, according to her, also in Hägglund’s party the Christian Democrats.

It is unacceptable that Sahlin chooses not to condemn Reepalu’s recent statements in which he links the Jews’ situation in Malmö to the policies of the State of Israel. Reepalu has been the mayor of Malmö since 1994 and it hence seems highly unlikely that he “did not know that the situation for the Jews in Malmö was so bad”. It is also equally important to remember that Sahlin participated in a Stockholm rally only last year where Hizballah and Hamas flags were flown and an Israeli flag was burned. 

As Sahlin excuses Reepalu’s recent statements,one could easily argue that she, too, tries to gain support from anti-Semitic as well as anti-democratic forces.

Malmö Jewish community once again disappointed with Ilmar Reepalu

Last week on the  Danish TV show “Lorry”, Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu argued that there is an “Israeli lobby” which purposely distorted his recent statement about anti-Semitism in Malmö. His latest choice of words was very inappropriate—he contended that there is an “Israeli lobby” which controls the media.  This is a canard popular with anti-Semites, but it really adds insult to injury as he recently met with representatives from the Malmö Jewish community to talk about the rising anti-Semitic atmosphere in the city.

As stated in “The Local”, an English daily online newspaper on Sweden:

“Reepalu and the Jewish Community (Judiska församlingen) have been at cross purposes of late after the mayor drew parallels in newspaper interviews between anti-Semitism and Zionism”.

Still, after their meeting with Reepalu about a little more than week ago, the representatives from the Jewish community felt satisfied with  the meeting’s outcome where, among other concerns,  they discussed the dialogue forum which Reepalu has initiated as a response to growing anti-Semitic sentiments in Malmö.  

Reepalu’s latest statement, however, has once again stirred up the confusion the Jewish community has concerning Reepalu’s agenda and has also resulted in a letter of complaint (an official English version has yet to be published).

The letter (below, translated from Swedish) was also sent to Reepalu’s party leader, Mona Sahlin of the Social Democrats,  and to the chairman of the new dialogue forum, Björn Lagerbäck (Popular People’s Party - the liberals)

Dear Ilmar Reepalu,

We were quite optimistic after last week’s sincere and constructive discussion as well as with the work we have begun which the municipality has agreed upon, for a dialogue forum under the guidance of Björn Lagerbäck.
We want to emphazise strongly that we clearly reject and condemn all sorts of threats and harassments be they against individuals, elected representatives or politicians.
On the other hand, we were very disappointed by your statement on Danish TV2 on March 1, 2010 (see link below) where you indicate that “the Israeli lobby” is behind the distortion of what you have said in the media. This choice of words is used by anti-Jewish, if not anti-Semitic forces which assert that the Jews hold the power in the media.
It was exactly this kind of statement that we described to you as a statement you should avoid in order to not be misinterpreted by those who would use this as a reason to aim threats and harassments against Swedes of Jewish origin.

Best wishes
Fred Kahn and Fredrik Sieradzki
Jewish Community in Malmö

For the original version of the letter click here 

In summary, rather than acting as an honest broker promoting dialogue between the Islamic and Jewish communities, Reepalu is further inflaming the restless atmosphere in Malmö with this anti-Semitic conspiracy canard.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Göteborg Better for Jews than Anti-Semitic Malmö.

Both Göteborg and Malmö, respectively Sweden’s second and third biggest cities are governed by Social Democrats. The atmosphere for the Jews living in these towns is however rather different.

The national daily Expressen two days ago mentioned that there have also been attacks on Jews in Göteborg yet they seem to feel much safer than those in Malmö. Some Jews from Malmö have even moved to Göteborg, where the anti-Semitic threats are much smaller. Why is there such a difference between two towns governed by the same party?

According to Jonas Daniel, the administrative head of the Jewish community in Göteborg, there are several explanations for this. One is that the Jewish community cultivates the connections with other religious groups in the city. In the “Soccer for peace” games for example, Christians, Jews and Muslims play soccer together.

The probably main difference however is the approach by the local politicians. The Göteborg Jewish community meets regularly with local politicians in a forum for national minorities at the municipality. Daniel described this forum as a place with a positive atmosphere where politicians listen with interest.

Expressen writes that the contrast with Malmö could not be bigger.
“There, [the national Social Democrat leader Sahlin] more or less had to order Reepalu [the Social Democrat mayor] to have a conversation with the Jewish community.” He has now initiated a dialogue forum but it has been criticized as no politicians participate in it.

It is hard to tell if Malmö can ever achieve a similar good atmosphere as exists in Göteborg as long as Reepalu is the town’s leading politician. After his recent statement in the Danish TV news program ”Lorry” that an “Israeli Lobby” defames him it is even more unlikely that the Jews of Malmö will have any confidence in him.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Swedish Jewish Umbrella Body Condemns Reepalu

As background material we publish here a letter (translated from Swedish) which was sent to Malmö Mayor Ilmar Reepalu on 28 January by the Chairperson of The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities Lena Posner-Körösi

For the Swedish version click here

Mayor Ilmar Reepalu
Malmö stad
205 80 MALMÖ
Stockholm 28 January 2010

It is with dismay, but unfortunately not with surprise that we have read your deeply insulting statement where you compare thousands of years of hatred against Jews, anti-Semitism, with the Jewish national ideology, Zionism.

No other people in the world are denied the dream of establishing their own state. Ever since the Jewish people after the Holocaust finally saw their dream come true by the decision of the UN (at that time LON) this dream has constantly been questioned.

To constantly mix a nation’s politics, no matter what one thinks about it, with a people’s vulnerability in our time and in our country is, not the least in these days when we remember Auschwitz and the Holocaust, an insult now randomly experienced in our country.

The Jews of Malmö are today exposed to violence and threat. With your statements you heighten the hatred and the violence from anti-democratic and in many cases anti-Semitic forces.

If you care about democracy and every people’s right to equality and think that Malmö should remain a multicultural and democratic municipality where both Jews, Muslims and the majority population live side by side with respect for each others differences – then you should clearly stand up and take a stance against the anti-Semitism which Malmö’s Jews are exposed to. You will also then be credible in other political matters.

The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities demands that you by your actions demonstrate that you take these threats and the violence against the Jews in Malmö with great seriousness and without reservation.

Reepalu replied to Mrs Posner on February 02 in a two page letter.
The full version in Swedish can be found here

The first paragraph reads:


I think that anti-Semitism is an abomination and that it is completely unacceptable that Jews in Malmö should be harassed or be held accountable for what the State of Israel has done. We must always be able to hold opinions about horrible conflicts that exist in other parts of the world but at the same time we all have a responsibility to act decently with each other.Although Reepalu states that it “is completely unacceptable that Jews in Malmö should be harassed or be held accountable for what the State of Israel has done.” he just a few days earlier argued in an interview with Skånskan “– I wish that the Jewish community took a stance against Israel’s harassments of the civil population in Gaza. Instead you choose to hold a demonstration in Stortorget, this can send out the wrong signals”

The third paragraph of Reepalu’s letter to Mrs Posner reads:

When Skånska Dagbladet interviewed me about my criticism of Israel I used the word Zionism in the wrong way. I did not refer to the original meaning which is the idea of an Israeli state but gave an account of how extreme aggressive groups of settlers in the name of Zionism and completely contrary to international law, occupy parts of the West Bank, expel the Palestinian population and destroy their water supply and their olive groves. I have always pleaded for a two state solution. I consider this the only way to peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. In the conversation with the journalist it was very clear what I meant and I am indignant about the way he chose to describe my opinions.

It is clear already from Reepalu’s early letter to Lena Posner-Körösi, that he is incapable of separating the Jews in Malmö from the State of Israel. This is one of the core elements of his anti-Semitic statements.

Reepalu’s letter then continues about how all citizens of Malmö should be able to live together in equality and peace which should be accomplished by a continuous discussion in society about peoples’ differences. The final paragraph reads:

My opinions have been wrongly twisted and distorted in the debate. I suggest that you listen to the municipal council meeting on January 28, 2010. There I answered a question from Sten Andersson (SD) on how we should respond to the growing anti-Semitism in Malmö.
After Reepalu felt that his opinions had been twisted in the debate he initially blamed the Swedish journalists. This week on Danish TV he invented a new enemy: the “Israeli Lobby” which according to him is out to get him.

The audio tape Reepalu is referring to in the last paragraph of his letter is available on:  when one scrolls down in the left column, click on ”Kapitel 5, Svar på enkla frågor” and then drag the marker in the strip under the video to 42 minutes and 19 seconds.
If one listens to this audio tape (in Swedish) it becomes evident that Reepalu does not answer the question on how Malmö should respond to the growing anti-Semitism but that he only and as usual condemns hate crimes of all sorts.

The question now is not whether Reepalu will again twist the truth but only how fast that will happen.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mayor Reepalu Keeps Inventing New Fallacies

A month ago Malmö’s Social Democratic mayor Ilmar Reepalu compared anti-Semitism in his city with Zionism. After much criticism he said that he had been misquoted. Thereafter he admitted that he had expressed himself in an inconvenient way and now he argues that people purposely are campaigning against him. It gets continuously worse…

Reepalu, the strong man of Malmö, who is fifteen years in office does not seem to be able to get anything right in this matter. A good summary on the Reepalu affair can be found here.

He now complains that he feels threatened. Today in the Swedish magazine Resumé, Reepalu says that he has received letters with pictures of magnum revolvers.

There, he also argues that Svante Weyler’s latest broadcast about him on Swedish national radio SR in “God morgon, Världen” is extremely serious and he is considering to complain to the police. Weyler however, do not regret the harsh criticism of Reepalu.

Yesterday, Denmark’s national TV channel 2 interviewed Repaalu about his much criticized statements on anti-Semitism in Malmö.

Reepalu there stated: “You encounter many people, which one can call the Israeli lobby and who aren’t interested in what I say and what I think but rather want to ascribe me lots of opinions”.

The Danish reporter then asked Jeshua Kaufman, spokesperson for the Malmö Jewish community his opinion about Reepalu’s statement that there is an Israeli lobby which tries to portray him negatively. Kaufman answered: “I hope this is not what he said or that it is a misunderstanding”.

One increasingly wonders whether Reepalu is capable of understanding what he himself is saying? He also told Resumé that “the threat against me is more serious than ever and reminds me a lot about the month before Olof Palme was killed.

One can only hope that this was not what he referred to when he claimed to Danish TV that there is an Israeli lobby out to get him. If it is that what he really meant he has already prepared the ground for taking his scandalous behaviour yet another stage further.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Anti-Israeli Rioter in Malmö Sentenced to Prison Term

There were 6000 anti-Israeli demonstrators when the Davis Cup game between Sweden and Israel was played in Malmö in March 2009, two months after the end of the Gaza war.During the riots, there was major violence against the police by part of the demonstrators and last week, one of these hooligans -- a 23-year-old man from Stockholm – was sentenced to six months in prison.

The controversial Swedish-Israeli Davis Cup-game, which made headlines worldwide, was held in an empty hall as decided to Malmö’s municipal council led by Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat). Malmö municipal council is controlled by a majority of Reepalu’s party and the Left Party. The council first argued that the game was to be boycotted but later ruled that the games would be played without public. On a national level these two parties together with the Green Party have decided on a common anti-Israel policy if they win the next parliamentary elections in September 2010. The majority on the Malmö municipal council claimed at the time that the decision to have the games held in an empty hall was based on security considerations. This despite the fact that the police had stated that public could be admitted.

Barbro Posner, a member of the Malmö Jewish community, said at the time that it was hard to believe that the municipal council’s majority decision was not a political one. In an interview with the national daily Svenska Dagbladet Posner also mentioned that anti-Semitic hate crimes had increased when the Davis Cup was held. She said that every time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict takes a new turn the situation for Malmö’s Jews got worse.
Posner concluded her interview by saying: “I can not feel safe in a town where the municipal council makes foreign policy out of tennis.”

Due to the recent disclosure of a large number of anti-Semitic incidents and several hateful statements by Reepalu, Malmö has become internationally known as a hotbed of the widespread anti-Semitism in Sweden.