Thursday, February 3, 2011

Malmö, Amsterdam and Budapest- Europe’s Anti-Semitism Centers

Jörgen Lau's recent article in Die Zeit (in the well-known German newspaper’s Zeit Online edition) mapped out Amsterdam, Malmö and Budapest as the cities in Europe where Anti-Semitism currently has its most powerful strongholds. Early last year we already cited Malmö as Europe’s capital of anti-Semitism due to the high and increasing number of assaults on the few Jews in the city.


According to Lau, although in Budapest the anti-Semitic influence comes from the far right, in Malmö and Amsterdam he notes that it is primarily young men from the Middle East who are the perpetrators of anti-Semitic hate crimes.  Lau details the difficulties of living openly as a Jew in Amsterdam, which, unsurprisingly are not that different from the experience of Jews in Malmö. Committed Jews, who look to the future, are increasingly looking to leave both Malmö and Amsterdam—neither of which is a desirable place to raise Jewish children, given the hostility on the street.

When all eyes were on Malmö after the outing of information that Jews in Malmö felt forced to leave during the increased level of harassment in the city, Mayor Ilmar Reepalu failed to remedy the worrying phenomena, which led Malmö to be singled out as the anti-Semitic capital of Europe. Instead, Reepalu worsened the situation by making a number of statements which amounted to putting out fires with gasoline. Criticism of the mayor culminated last year when Mayor Reepalu stated that the Jews have to distance themselves from Israel in order to avoid harassment. This is equal to blaming the Jews themselves for being threatened. Lau also ironically notes that despite the mayor’s behavior, “Reepalu is still in his post and supported by his party”, the Social Democrats.
Yes, Reepalu is still in power and Jews are still exposed to harassment and danger in the southern city of Sweden. As noted in local Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan: “At home the criticism has now toned down—but the German newspaper gives a fresh reminder of the shocking world image the mayor has”.
Nearly a year has passed since Reepalu’s alarming and bigoted statements came out in the Swedish and world media. Sadly, little change if any has been seen since the storm blew up, and now with the storm having blown over, Mayor Reepalu still sits firmly in his office.
 It seems that Swedes, and especially the Social Democrats, don’t care that Sweden now has a world reputation as country that could care less about the anti-Semitic hate crime within its borders.  The indifference and ineptitude of the Swedish authorities seem to be as firmly entrenched in Swedish government as Reepalu is in the mayor’s office in Malmö.

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