Thursday, March 17, 2011

SWC’s Rabbi Cooper on Malmö Situation: “We have a lot of work ahead of us”

Two days ago the representatives from the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, met with a variety of Swedish representatives in Malmö in order to discuss the worsening situation for the city’s Jews, and in particular the issue of security for the city’s small Jewish community. High security costs to protect the Jewish community are paid by the community, and not by the municipality.

The Swedish newspaper for English speakers the Local
ran a provocative headline: “Wiesenthal Center slams Sweden for 'Jewish tax'”.  JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) that also indicated that the purpose of the SWC visit was to urge the authorities to finally take responsibility for the security needs of the Jewish community. JTA quoted Rabbi Cooper’s emphasis on the need for the government to take action:
"Sweden intelligence has identified over 400 Islamist radicals and neo-Nazis. Coupled with global threats from 'lone wolf' operatives, Jews are a primary target for hate crimes and terrorists."
The representatives from the Wiesenthal Center met during Monday with Malmö Mayor Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat), who has been heavily criticized for comparing Zionism to anti-Semitism. The SWC representatives also met with Malmö Police Chief Ulf Sempert in order to bring to the table further suggestions on how to stop hate crime.
After the meeting with Reepalu, three apparently unhappy SWC representatives abruptly left the building, as the local newspaper Sydsvenskan reported.  In response to Sydsvenskan’s reporter’s questions on how the meeting went, Rabbi Cooper answered as he was leaving:
      “It was a very serious meeting and the key question was naturally the security for the minorities. We have a lot of work ahead of us”.
Reepalu on the other hand seemed relieved and happy about the encounter and stated to the press:
-“It [the meeting] was very good, straightforward and open. We wanted them to tell us about their experiences with Malmö and hear their suggestions on solutions. After all, they do have a broad international experience and we wanted to take advantage of the best examples on how we can stop hate crimes in Malmö.”
However, JTA showed a different angle of Reepalu’s remarks:
-“[Shimon] Samuels decried the mayor's comments following the meetings, in which Reepalu referred to ‘the powerful Wiesenthal Center's influence,’ calling it reminiscent of conspiracy theories against Jews in the 1930s.”

While Reepalu seemed satisfied, the representatives left the meeting hastily. The explanation offered by Reepalu was that the SWC reps had to run to another meeting with Malmö’s chief police Ulf Sempert. However, as Sydsvenskan pointed out, that meeting was not scheduled until 2 ½ hours later.
The Wiesenthal representatives also used their time in Malmö to meet with other minority groups in Malmö. They concluded, Samuels stated, that amongst the Muslims, Jews and Roma (Gypsies) in Malmö there is a feeling that Mayor Reepalu is failing to listen to the issues placed before him.
The Wiesenthal delegation explained to Reepalu that the Jews of Malmö must receive financial aid in order to protect the community buildings at times of high security need—such as holidays when many people attend the Malmö synagogue.
Mayor Reepalu then conveniently wriggled himself out of the limelight of responsibility to spotlight Carl Bildt’s fellow member of the Moderate Party, Justice Minister Beatrice Ask—whom  he claims is responsible for granting such aid. This is an issue, Reepalu stated, which he has already have brought up and but has not received an answer about.  Readers of SIJ may recall that we first covered this excuse in April of 2010, and that an answer was given that the national government would not pay for local security, especially as the district had been allotted 400 more police personnel.
In the meeting with local police chief Ulf Sempert, who was satisfied with the meeting, the representatives suggested a special hate crime unit, similar to that which currently exists in Los Angeles. This unit would be able to deal faster and more efficiently with the groups under threat in Malmö. Optimally, this would increase security by preventing these minorities from being forgotten or left out of security concerns. Ideally this would cover most of the Jewish community’s security needs as well.
Reepalu stated that the meeting with the representatives was “positive, forward and open”. Rabbi Cooper more realistically commented, “We have a lot of work ahead of us”, meaning, the Jews of Malmö are still paying the price of a security situation the authorities have refused to control.
Obviously, when Reepalu lays the blame on Justice Minister Beatrice Ask for lack of action, he is still failing to take responsibility for Malmö’s ongoing problem in the streets. The problem shows his unwillingness to act to protect all citizens. Until Reepalu resigns and a more capable individual is elected to the position as mayor of Malmö the inhabitants and especially Malmö’s Jews, must continue to pay the price of Reepalu’s indifference and antagonism.
By Sara and Chanah Shapira

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