Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Peres: Sweden Doesn’t Understand Us

In a recent interview with the online Jewish cultural magazine Tablet Benny Morris interviews Israel’s president Shimon Peres on his reflections  on his mentor, the late Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion , Israel’s peace partner, and whether the State of Israel will survive.

One of the questions asked early in the interview is: what are Peres’ thoughts on the recent rise of delegitimization of Israel in the world? And does President Peres agree that such a rise in fact is taking place?  To these questions Peres answers:

"For 2,000 years there was friction between the Vatican and the Jews. There are, what is it, 1.3 billion Christians? Now we have excellent relations with the Vatican. This is no small thing. And we have good relations with India, also hit by Muslim terrorists. And that’s together 3 billion. And [we now have] excellent relations with China."

When asked about his thoughts on the particular rise on delegitimization in the West Peres comments:

"Firstly, there is a problem in the Scandinavian countries. They always want to appear like yefei nefesh [the Hebraism roughly translates as “bleeding hearts,” with an undertone of hypocrisy]. And I don’t expect them to understand us. Sweden doesn’t understand why we are at war. For 150 years they have not had a war. There were even Hitler and Stalin, but they kept out of the picture. As did Switzerland. So, they don’t understand why we are “for war,” as if we really like wars. It’s like Marie Antoinette didn’t understand why the people didn’t bake cakes. The same logic."

It is interesting to see that Peres, when commenting on rising delegitimization of Israel in the west chooses to mention Scandinavia as a whole as a problem. Making such a broad and incorrect statement does not help emphasize the problem that does in fact exist currently in the region—not in Scandinavia as a whole, but in Sweden and Norway. It neither helps deal with the problem nor reduces the delegitimization.
Arguably, in order to deal with the growing problem the President should know where to put his emphasis. Instead he makes the mistake of rambling on about Sweden’s supposed neutrality in the Second World War when he could have mentioned that Sweden (as well as Norway) constantly delegitimizes Israel.

Peres could also have mentioned that this rising Swedish trend of delegitimizing Israel is a significant factor in the need for high-cost security for Jewish communities and institutions. Jewish families are currently leaving Sweden’s third-largest city of Malmö as a result of exponentially rising anti-Semitism. As shown in this blog, even the official numbers are dramatic, while attacks are known to be underreported or dismissed by the authorities, making the real picture much grimmer. Malmo’s Social Democrat mayor, Ilmar Reepalu  responded to a jump in attacks by stating that Jews need to distance themselves from Israel in order to avoid these attacks. Furthermore, the Swedish mainstream media sweeps these issues under the rug and publishes “editorials” which are propaganda exercises in delegitimization of Israel. However, Peres forgot to mention important facts like these.

Repercussions from the article have been heard in England—which Peres also mentioned in the interview, referring to it as a highly pro-Arab as well as anti-Israeli country. So far no reactions have been heard from any Scandinavian country, not even from Sweden, Peres’ most direct target. This further emphasize that Peres clearly didn’t get his point across to the relevant parties. As a result, Peres missed an opportunity to start an international discussion on the spread of both delegitimization of Israel and anti-Semitism in Sweden and Norway.

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