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.

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