Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lars Ohly, supporter of Israel’s elimination?

This picture was published in yesterday’s Expressen, a national tabloid daily.
It shows Lars Ohly, leader of the Left Party in Sweden, wearing a scarf common amongst Palestinians, displaying a text in Arabic and a map on which Israel does not exist.

The picture was taken during an anti-Israeli demonstration during the 2009 Gaza War but was only published yesterday. As can be seen the map on Ohly’s Palestinian scarf has the shape of Israel. Eli Göndör, who holds a PhD in Islamic studies from Lund University and Magnus Sandelin, author of the book “Extremists” say that in the context of where it happened this can be seen as a statement arguing that Israel lacks the right to exist as a Jewish state as well as the irrelevance of the two state solution.

Jan Björklund, leader of the Liberal People’s party, has condemned Ohly’s decision to wear the scarf in the demonstration. He says that it might be the most misguided decision by any Swedish politician in modern times. He also stated that unless Ohly has a reasonable explanation for what he did it is inappropriate for him to run in the parliamentary elections.

Ohly, who has a long record of remarks of hatred against Israel, replied that he had no idea what the scarf was representing. He claims that someone put it around his neck and agreed to pose for a picture. Ohly says: “I did not check properly, I did not use a magnifying glass”.

When holding the position as leader of a political party in the Swedish government one would expect, that as a public figure, one would be careful what to publicly choose to wear and represent and what not.

But when asked by Expressen: "Should you not check what symbols you are wearing? What will they hang on you the next time?" Ohly only responded: “Yes, one could think so”.

Gunnar Hökmark, a Member of the European parliament on behalf of the ruling Moderate Party and head of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association said that Ohly displays a hatred toward Israel of a type which often can be traced back to anti-Semitism.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Multiple Truths of Ilmar Reepalu

On Thursday the mayor of Malmö, Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat) met with representatives of the local Jewish community to explain what he had and had not said in connection with the major increase of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city.

Local daily Sydsvenskan published an interview with Reepalu in which he changed his opinion on the situation of Jews as compared to what he said in an interview a few days before with the Telegraph.

On February 21 he told the British daily

- "There haven't been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmo."

In Sydsvenskan on February 25 his opinion had evolved:

- “Of course it is a problem if people move from Malmö because they don’t feel safe here."

When asked by Sydsvenskan yesterday about whether or not there have been attacks on Jews he declared that:

For Reepalu the truth is flexible. He now refers to last year’s Davis Cup tennis game between Sweden and Israel as an occasion where Jews were attacked due to the political situation in the Middle East. In an interview in the daily Skånskan on January 27, he stated:

- "I wish that the Jewish community distanced itself from Israel's violence against the civil population in Gaza". This, Reepalu claimed, would 'cure' hate crimes from happening against them".

This was tantamount to saying that the attacked Jews are guilty of the aggression against them committed mainly by extremely violent Muslims in Malmö. Reepalu is not on record however of having ever asked the city’s many Muslims to distance themselves publicly from the massive genocide in Darfur committed by Muslims against other Muslims.

Reepalu, who has in the past weeks been heavily criticized for his statements concerning the Jews and anti-Semitism in Malmö did initially claim on February 14, that he had been misinterpreted in his interview with Skånskan journalist Andreas Lovén.

The journalist had taped parts of the interview as he felt it was a sensitive subject and he “didn’t want to risk that Reepalu later would claim that he had been misinterpreted or quoted wrongly”.

According to Lovén, Reepalu “had the possibility to say whatever he wanted in the interview” and “he could for example have taken a stance against anti-Semitism”- which he did not do. Instead he put the blame on the police, school and the religious communities.

After the meeting with the Jewish community in Malmö yesterday, Reepalu argued that:

- “We should have had this meeting a long time ago. I have not been sufficiently informed about the seriousness of the situation”.

Is it possible that the mayor of Malmö has not been sufficiently informed?

In April 2009 the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs” Institute for Global Jewish Affairs wrote in a special edition of their Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism publication titled: “The Gaza War and the New Ouburst of Anti-Semitism” that in Malmö, Social Democrat parliamentarian and party colleague of Reepalu, Luciano Astudillo, spoke as someone next to him held up a picture of Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The article mentions also several violent anti-Semitic attacks in the Southern Region of Sweden: “In Helsingborg, the staircase at a Jewish center was set on fire. In Malmö, a Jewish burial chapel was attacked three times.”

As can be read in the text written by Manfred Gerstenfeld and Tamas Berzi, even after the Gaza war the anti-Semitic incidents continued in Malmö. An example of this was when: “an authorized pro-Israeli demonstration in Malmö was attacked by unauthorized anti-Israeli protesters. Rather than protecting those who were exercising their right, the police dispersed both groups. Ted Ekeroth, a blogger, showed how another pro-Israeli demonstration in the same city was attacked by a group who hurled pipe bombs and projectiles at them.”

A headline of today’s news about Reepalu reads “I was not sufficiently informed.” It once again proves that for Reepalu the truth is flexible and depends on who he speaks with. It seems that also the members of the Jewish community had a hard time believing Reepalu’s words as Fred Kahn and Fredrik Sieradzki welcomed the mayor’s initiative with a cautious comment. “This is the beginning of a process. We'll see where it leads.”

To conclude: Reepalu has finally managed to make Malmö internationally known in its capacity of a hotbed of anti-Semitism. It is also likely that we will read many more truths from Reepalu when other newspapers will come to interview him.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Malmö’s anti-Semitism remains hot topic in Swedish media

Malmö's anti-Semitic problems have today been discussed in the national quality daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) and the major local newspaper Sydsvenskan.

In an op-ed in SvD, Per Gudmundson, who also runs an interesting blog, states that mayor Ilmar Reepaly (Social Democrat), "is just watching as Jews flee Malmö". Recently Reepalu has told the Sunday Times that "There haven't been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews from the city wants to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmö". Gudmundsson’s op-ed today resumes some of the incidents of the last decade:

“An 85 year-old Jewish owner of a shop was almost beaten to death by a gang of youngsters alongside some other less life threatening incidents which have been reported.”He mentions also that there was a time when students in the Pauli school next to the synagogue insulted Jews on their way to synagogue. There are also teachers who are afraid to discuss their (Jewish) background in schools where students talk about “disgusting Jews” and how "Hitler did a great job".

In view of the threatening situation for Jews in it would have been normal for mayor Reepalu to discuss the problems with the Jewish community leaders. His inaction is even more shocking as the leader of his own party Mona Sahlin has met the Jewish leaders in the town. Yet, as Gudmundson stresses: when Reepalu was asked whether or not he had contacted the Jewish community he answered “No, but I was neither contacted by the Jewish community when swastikas where painted on my house”.
As his answer demonstrates, Reepalu does not understand what the responsibilities of a mayor in a supposedly civilized society are, once hate crimes regularly take place. What does it really say about the Social Democrats that such a person can remain in his position?

The second op-ed in SvD is written by the parliamentarian Fredrick Federley (Center Party) who insists that Reepalu must resign. According to Federley not only in Malmö there has been an increase of anti-Semitic incidents. He says that in Stockholm the Jewish community spends half of its budget on extended security measures and in Göteborg Jewish children have been advised not to wear necklaces carrying the Star of David.

Federley refers to Malmö as an “almost lost case” for Jews. This is the more so, he says,as Reepalu refuses even to admit that attacks on Jews in Malmö have occurred.

Local newspaper Sydsvenskan’s political Chief Editor, Heidi Avellanalso acknowledges that Malmö no longer has the image of a multi-cultural city but is nowadays viewed as rather “unpleasant”.
This is mainly due to the many attacks that have occurred on Jews. Avellan agrees that “Reepalu should think seriously about what signals his statements send out in a city where anti-Semitism is growing”.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mona Sahlin’s Hypocrisy on Malmö Mayor’s Anti-Semitic Remarks

The many acts of anti-Semitism in Malmö have recently made headlines in several international media. On February 14, Mona Sahlin, party leader of the Social Democrats visited Malmö to talk to the representatives of the local Jewish community about the anti-Semitic environment in the city. Central in the meeting was the conversation about the dialogue forum that members of the municipal council and Social Democrat mayor Ilmar Reepalu recently started to promote as a “cure” for the many hate crimes against Jews in Malmö.

In the meeting the representatives of the Jewish community wanted to get some clarity about Mona Sahlin’s stance on the much criticized statements made by her party colleague Reepalu on anti-Semitism and Jews in the city.

Reepalu was already subjected to much critique after he tried, at the beginning of 2009, to prevent the Davis Cup game between Sweden and Israel taking place in the town. He ultimately also contributed to the final decision that the tennis game was to be played without any public present. This decision not only caused the city a major loss of revenues but also showed Reepalu to be an advocate for anti-Israeli positions. Recently in an interview with the daily Skånskan he stated that Malmö is a city that “does not tolerate Zionism nor anti-Semitism”.

This statement was so absurd that after a while even Reepalu realized this. He then withdrew it in an interview with the daily Sydsvenskan.

Reepalu has further tried to encourage the Jews in Malmö to take – like himself – a strong stance against Israel’s actions in the Gaza war. He commented that in this way the Jews would prevent hate crimes against them. This is tantamount to saying that the attacked Jews are guilty of the aggression against them committed mainly by extremely violent Muslims.

During the meeting Sahlin did not condemn the perverse position of her party colleague. Instead she stated that she will encourage Reepalu to promote the dialogue forum he thinks will solve Malmö’s problems of anti-Semitism. This forum has been criticized for instance by the member of the municipal council on behalf of the Liberal People’s Party, Ewa Bertz, for lacking credibility as it has no politicians as members.

It is apparent that the representatives of the Jewish community expected an apology from Sahlin for her party colleague’s offensive statements. This was expressed by Fredrik Sieradzki, Fred Kahn and Jehoshua Kaufman: “We do not need a dialogue forum, we need to know what Reepalu has said and not said and what he thinks”.

Mona Sahlin’s seemingly showed an intention of goodwill by initiating the meeting. Without a strong condemnation of Reepalu’s statements it is however difficult to believe that Sahlin is genuinely interested in making an effort to stop the massive anti-Semitism in Malmö. As long as she remains silent on the Social Democrat mayor’s misbehavior she will be seen as caring only for the image of her party in the upcoming Swedish national elections in September 2010.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Aftonbladets Political Editor in Chief Helle Klein calls for boycott of Israel

Helle Klein, political editor in chief of the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, published an opinion article yesterday on the future foreign policies of the Swedish alliance parties; the Green party (Miljö Partiet), The Left party (Vänster partiet) and the Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterna) before the elections in 2010.
Yet due to Aftonbladet's prior libelous articles against Israel such as the one concerning the Israeli organ thefts in the Palestinian Territories as well as Helle Klein's history of anti-Israeli writings including; "Glöm inte Gaza" (Dont forget Gaza), "Befria Betlehem från bosättarna"(Free Betlehem from the settlers) and "Goldstone ger offren en röst"(Goldstone gives a voice to the victims) it did not come as a surprise to find that also this piece would come to reflect Helle Klein's outspoken anti-Israeli sentimens. Klein does, except for writing political opinion articles in Aftonbladet, also run a blog where she at numberous times has expressed her strongly negative feelings about Israel and its government.

In yesterday's op-ed Helle Klein wrote that in connection to the seminar held by the Swedish curch, Amnesty and Olof Palme's International Center on "Gaza and international rights" it is of essence that the EU, UN and Swedish government demands that the war criminals (Israel) will be held accountable for their actions in the Gaza war. What is more important, she argues, is that the Swedish Green Party, The Left party as well as the party of the Social Democrats, as stated in an article by Urban Ahlin (S), Hans Lind (V) and Per Gahrton (MP) last wednesday, have highlighted that the key for solving the conflict in the Middle East is;

"that all touch upon parties respect international law, resolutions of the UN and the right to a peaceful co-existence within a two-state solution where both populations can live together in safety and security".

The key points of the three parties foreign policies concerning the Middle East as presented in the debate on the governments foreign policy debate last wednesday is the support of a "free Palestine" which also includes the "halt of security cooperation between Israel and Sweden as well as the return of its military attaché in Israel to Sweden."

Klein does not only praise the suggested anti-Israeli foreign policies as presented by the three opposition parties but also suggests herself a cultural boycott of Israel that will encompass "a boycott of Israel's participation in the Eurovision songcontest, academic and sports exchagnes and so on..."

Helle Klein is a hardcore anti-Israeli as also can be seen by the end of her article when she writes that the three opposition parties' foreign policies for the election in 2010 "bodes well for the future".

Monday, February 22, 2010

Minister Mats Odell visits anti-Semitic Malmö

A few weeks ago Marcus Eilenberg started to draw attention to the
large number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the southern city of
Malmö, the number of which has doubled in 2009. His statement was initially published in Skå where Eilenberg stated that the radically deteriorated situation for Jews in Malmö forced him and his family to leave the city. He thereupon decided to emigrate to Israel..

Eilenberg's story led Skå to start a series about the "hatred of jews", which has become a hot issue for Swedish politicians, the population in Malmö and has now also caught the eye of the international media.

Yesterday the London based newspaper "Telegraph" published Eilenberg's story alongside an interview with Judith Popinski who arrived in Sweden after her rescue from a Nazi concentration camp. Popinski, like Eilenberg described the situation in Malmö as unbearable for the Jewish population. She said: "I never thought I would see this hatred again in my lifetime, not in Sweden anyway," She mentioned elements of the Moslim population as the main originators of the racism and stressed that it is not contained by the Swedish government.

Today the Minister for Local Government and Financial Markets Mats Odell (Christian Democrat) visited the Jewish community in Malmö to inform himself about the major anti-Semitism. This is the second initiative of a leading politician to discuss the problematic reality for Jews in the city. Mona Sahlin the leader of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, met with representatives of the Jewish community on February 14.