Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Community Security: Better Late than Never

Secure Holidays at last?
At the beginning of September—and at long last, the Swedish government finally decided that the Jewish community in Malmö would receive funds in order to strengthen security around Malmö’s only synagogue. Due to international pressure, the authorities allocated funding, but only two years after reports that Jews have been leaving the city due to frequent occurrences of anti-Semitic hate crimes.
According to sources cited by the Forward:
-“ The government’s decision to allocate money for heightened security came after the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe called upon Sweden to do more to combat anti-Semitism. With 56 participating member states, OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization.”

The back story is that the Simon Wiesenthal Center opened the issue with the OSCE as we reported in March of this year. SWC representatives visited Malmö and sharply criticized Malmö’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat), for failing to tackle the problems of growing anti-Semitism.  Reepalu has consistently and hatefully blamed Malmö’s Jewish community for the acts of anti-Semitic violence it suffers, while allowing lawless elements among the immigrant Muslim community to wreak havoc in the city.
Belatedly, the foot-dragging Immigration Minister Erik Ullenhag (Liberal Party) has said it is “totally unacceptable” that Jews on their way to synagogue are regularly subjected to verbal abuse and physical threats. Previously Ullenhag made statements which compared Jewish support for Israel with Muslim links to the September 11th terror attacks, calling these the causes of hate crime in Malmö. He also advocated using school education programs to solve the issue of street attacks against Jews—a “too little, too late” approach.
Reports state that the Swedish government’s recently-released fall budget contains 4 million kronor ($622,000) to boost the synagogue security. This funding helps enable Malmö’s 658 Jews to visit the synagogue during the holidays in greater security, in light of violent incidents targeting Malmö’s Jewish community.  It also helps the small community to cover the very heavy cost of security arrangements—previously, the city and national authorities refused to provide any security assistance to the beleaguered community. As a result, Malmö’s Jewish citizens paid heavily for security out of their own pockets.
The new funds reportedly will be used to add police presence around the synagogue premises and also for camera surveillance to avoid the attempted arson and similar attacks which have continued during the past two years. If this is the case, we welcome the reversal of the Malmö police refusal to allow cameras as part of the Jewish community’s essential security. As SWC previously stated:
-“During our one week fact-finding mission, we met with Jewish, Muslim and Roma leaders who all concurred that the municipality, the police and the State were obfuscating their responsibility to protect their citizens. Even security camera permits, for community institutions at risk, have been denied as a violation of privacy.”  
It is good news that the Jewish community has finally received state funds to help keep its members secure as they exercise their freedom to practice their religion. Providing for its citizens’ security is what governments are supposed to do.  Sadly, Swedish authorities require outside pressure to provide security for their own citizens. We’re pleased that they are finally acting, but wouldn’t it be better if authorities tackled the real issues so that special funds for Jewish security would be unnecessary?
 By Sara, with Chanah Shapira

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