In January of 2009, in response to Israel’s operation in Gaza, the Jewish community in Malmö organized a small demonstration in support of Israel’s right to self-defense and secured a permit to hold the demonstration. The demonstrators were peaceful and acting within their legal right when an illegal mob attacked the demonstration in the central town square. The pro-peace demonstrators were forced to flee the scene, but now the police admit that they were too passive when handling the illegal mob.
The legal pro-Israeli demonstration, ended abruptly after an angry—and considerably larger—mob had thrown eggs, stones and even fired rockets against the peaceful demonstration. Demonstrators, including elderly citizens from the Jewish community in Malmö, some of them Holocaust survivors, were compelled by the police, to flee the scene while being harangued with anti-Semitic curse words. Some of these elderly citizens have stated that the atmosphere was similar to that which they had experienced in Nazi Germany.
The incident was reported to the Swedish Justice Minister who now—almost one years later—levels criticism against the action (or lack thereof) taken by the local police. In the local newspaper Sydsvenskan a quote from Justice Minister reads:
“I note the constitutionally-protected right to demonstrate, including the right to organize a counter-demonstration, but not the right to prevent the main demonstration from conveying its message. The police efforts should therefore have primarily focused on the disturbing counter-demonstrators”.
Another conclusion was that such protection might be costly but that the freedom of expression needs to be supported in a democracy, and that such behavior therefore should not be tolerated at any cost.
The demonstration is one in a row of assaults that the Jewish community has faced in the recent past. Yesterday the local newspaper Sydsvenskan ran a piece on Malmö’s Chabad rabbi, Shneur Kesselman, who is constantly faced with anti-Semitic attacks and abuse.
Kesselman states in the interview that he never feels safe in the streets of Malmö. Just in this past year he has had some (at least) 70 experiences of anti-Semitic hate crime directed towards him. People constantly scream “fucking Jew”, “yahood” and other anti-Semitic curses at him in the streets as well as spitting and throwing cans and apple cores at him. At this point he avoids taking the bus. He also tells the reporter that he has a hard time explaining to his children why people always are spitting after them or screaming curses.
It is sad to realize how much time has gone by and that so little, if anything, has been done to counter this ongoing problem. If Ilmar Reepalu, Malmö’s Social Democrat mayor, claimed in 2009 that he had no idea that there was anti-Semitic hate crime in Malmö, this year he has no such excuse—yet Malmö’s Jews aren’t feeling safer and the abuses continues…