Monday, April 26, 2010
Liberal Party Leader Minister Jan Bjorklund visits Malmö Jewish community
Yesterday, Minister Jan Björklund (People's Liberal Party) decided to visit the Malmö Jewish Community, as have several other senior politicians, in order to “get the big picture” of the deteriorating situation for Jews in the city. During 2009 the number of anti-Semitic attacks doubled compared to 2008. These attacks come predominantly from members of the large Muslim immigrant population. Björklund's visit makes the fourth in a row of national politicians visiting the small embattled community in the south of Sweden.
In an interview with the local daily newspaper Sydsvenskan, Björklund states:
- "It is a worrying story I have been told. It really brings back to life unpleasant historical associations that Jewish individuals choose to leave Malmö as a response to threats."
The Malmö Jewish community did during the past few months have similar meetings with Migration and Asylum Minister Tobias Billström (Moderate), leader of the Social Democrats Mona Sahlin and Minister for Local Government and Financial Markets Mats Odell (Christian Democrat). The community has also met with the much-criticized mayor of the city, Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat).
Although Mayor Reepalu initially stated that he was completely oblivious to the worsening situation for the Jews in Malmö he decided, probably due the public criticism surrounding him, to write a letter to Justice Minister Beatrice Ask (Moderate), asking for extra aid for the security of the Malmö Jewish community. His request was recently turned down, as Ask contended that Malmö already received extra reinforcements to the police force, and therefore should be able to protect its citizens.
As reported in the English-language Swedish daily The Local, Jan Björklund puts some of the blame for developments in Malmö at the feet of Mayor Ilmar Reepalu. According to Björklund, Reepalu has made ill-advised comments which have fuelled anti-Jewish sentiment in the city.
Therefore, it is also worrying that the Mayor now seems to be the only potential defender of the city’s Jews.
Malmö Jewish community spokesman, Fredrik Sieradszki said in response to Björklund's visit:
-"The fact they're meeting us sends an important signal".
Every minister that chooses to visit the Malmö Jewish community to "get a greater understanding of the deteriorating situation" comes to the same conclusion: conditions for Jews in Malmö are below any normal and acceptable Swedish standards. One could easily reject Sieradzki’s assertion that the ministers’ visits are helping by shedding light on the situation—as it is obvious that the most important people don’t seem to get these important signals, and are neither able, nor willing to put their words into action.
According to Minister Jan Björklund, change should come from the municipality.
Yet, according to local Mayor Ilmar Reepalu, change (and aid for such change) should be coming from the national government. Decision-makers seem to be pointing fingers at each other, while no constructive change appears to be taking place. In Malmö, the Jews still only have themselves to rely on for security in the increasingly hostile environment that surrounds them.