Friday, July 16, 2010

Latest Updates on the Jews’ Situation in Malmö

Ever since the beginning of the year when Marcus Eilenberg decided to speak out about the deteriorating situation of Malmö Jewry, international attention to the rising anti-Semitic atmosphere in the city has continued to grow. The latest contribution to the line of articles about the rise of anti-Semitic segments in Malmö is an article in the Forward written by Donald Snyder which very neatly updates and summarizes the situation in Malmo today.

Below is a summary of Snyder's article with relevant links from the Sweden, Israel and the Jews blog for those who wish to do some further reading on topics and events concerning anti-Semitism in Malmö:

At some point, the shouts of “Heil Hitler” that often greeted Marcus Eilenberg as he walked to the 107-year-old Moorish-style synagogue in this port city forced the 32-year-old attorney to make a difficult, life-changing decision: Fearing for his family’s safety after repeated anti-Semitic incidents, Eilenberg reluctantly uprooted himself and his wife and two children, and moved to Israel in May.

Our posting about Marcus Eilenberg can be found here.

Snyder reports, as we have in the past, that;

Malmö’s Muslim population is growing in both in size and in proportion to Malmö’s general population. At the same time, Sweden has been failing to integrate this expanding population into Swedish life and cultural norms.  This all while the lives of Jews in Malmö have become  “subjected increasingly to threats, intimidation and actual violence as stand-ins for Israel.”

As Malmö has an overall population of nearly 300,000, and a Jewish community numbering just 760 Jews, it’s understandable that the threat of anti-Semitism is a major factor in Jewish life in the city. Nonetheless, the community decided to hold a demonstration/peace rally in the public square in Malmö during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 2009 Gaza incursion in response to years of missiles fired at its citizenry by Hamas terror squads. As Snyder notes:

A small, mostly Jewish group held a demonstration that was billed as a peace rally but seen as a sign of support for Israel. This peaceful demonstration was cut short when the demonstrators were attacked by a much larger screaming mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists who threw bottles and firecrackers at them as police seemed unable to stop the mounting mayhem. 

The result was that Jews were hustled into an alley by police as the unlicensed counter-demonstration threatened to spiral out of control.
Our posting about what the Jews in Malmo had to endure during and after the campaign in Gaza can be found here

Snyder also notes the changing orientation of anti-Semitism in Europe: 

Anti-Semitism in Europe has historically been associated with the far right, but the Jews interviewed for this article say that the threat in Sweden now comes from Muslims and from changing attitudes about Jews in the wider society.

In addition to the growing number of anti-Semitic attacks by Islamic immigrants, we have also noted the passive and active role of Swedish society in both ignoring this phenomenon as well as tacitly supporting this behavior by demonizing Israel and tarring Swedish  Jews with the same brush.
More on this here, here, here and here .

Snyder interviewed Beate Kupper who was involved in putting together a study  in Europe which looked at anti-Semitic attitudes “[There is] quite a high level of anti-Semitism that is hidden beneath critics of Israel’s policies,” said Beate Kupper, one of the study’s principal researchers, in a telephone interview with the Forward, citing this data and a tendency to “blame Jews in general for Israel’s policies.”

 More about how the Jews in Malmo are held responsible for politics in Israel can be found here.

Kupper also remarks that whereas it is often impolite to express anti-Semitism, it has become very accepted to instead bash Israel. This is a convenience which is clean of any unpleasant Holocaust associations.

Snyder points out a few more major factors in keeping anti-Semitic feelings high in immigrant society, including isolation from Swedish society, an unemployment rate of 80% overall (up to 90% for young men), and a constant stream of imported propaganda:

Satellite dishes dot the high-rise apartments to receive programming from Al-Jazeera and other Arabic-language cable networks that keep Malmo’s Muslims in constant touch with the latest Arab-Israeli developments.

More information on the situation in Rosengård can be found here, here and here.

However, some sectors are beginning to tire of the excuses made in Sweden for the often disruptive behavior of immigrant.  According to Per Gudmundson of Svenska Dagbladet, there are some politicians who: offer “weak excuses” for Muslim teenagers accused of anti-Semitic crimes. “Politicians say these kids are poor and oppressed, and we have made them hate. They are, in effect, saying the behavior of these kids is in some way our fault,” he said.

More about Gudmundson’s thoughts on rising anti-Semitic segments in Malmo can be found here.

Nonetheless, there are still numerous Swedish politicians who continue to buy into the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic narrative. Members of Parliament have as well attended anti-Israel rallies where the Israeli flag was burned while the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah were waved, and the rhetoric was often anti-Semitic—not just anti-Israel. But such public rhetoric is not branded hateful and denounced, said Henrik Bachner, a writer and professor of history at the University of Lund, near Malmo. 

More information on the participaltion in anti-Semtic situations can be found here and here.

Snyder also spoke with two members of Malmö's Jewish community who have suffered attacks. 

Malmo’s only rabbi, Shneur Kesselman, 31, is a prime target for Muslim anti-Jewish sentiment. The Orthodox Chabad rabbi said that during his six years in the city, he has been the victim of more than 50 anti-Semitic incidents. An American, Kesselman is a soft spoken man with a steely determination to stay in Malmo despite the danger.

More about Rabbi Kesselman's experiences can be found here and here.

Another victim is Jonathan Tsubarah, 19, the son of an Israeli Jew who settled in Sweden:

As he strolled through the city’s cobble-stoned Gustav Adolph Square on August 21, 2009, three young men — a Palestinian and two Somalis — stopped him and asked where he was from, he recalled.
“I’m from Israel,” Tsubarah responded.
“I’m from Palestine,” one assailant retorted, “and I will kill you.”
The three beat him to the ground and kicked him in the back, Tsubarah said. “Kill the Jew,” they shouted. “Now are you proud to be a Jew?”
“No I am not,” the slightly built teenager replied. He said he did this just to get them to stop kicking him. Tsubarah plans to go to Israel and join the army.

More about the feelings amongst the younger Jews in the city can be found here.

The situation has generated some points of potential light.
Recently, Ilmar Reepalu, the mayor of Malmo, convened a “dialogue forum” that includes leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as city officials, to improve social relations in the city and the city government’s response to conflicts.

More about the forum can be found here.

As we have reported extensively in this blog, there is still a long way to go in both acknowledging and solving the problems that currently continue to beleaguer Malmö’s small Jewish community in particular and Sweden in general.  For the few Jewish souls in Malmö, there is the drastic option of leaving for Israel or elsewhere, but for the rest of Sweden that would like to preserve its democratic Western values, there is no choice but to find a solution. 

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