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.