Sunday, February 27, 2011

Israel’s Ambassador Receives Unpleasant Greetings In Uppsala University

Last week Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Benny Dagan, visited one of Sweden’s most prestigious academic institutions, Uppsala University, not far from the Sweden’s capital Stockholm. Dagan was invited by the Uppsala University to talk to students about “Stability without instability – Israel and the Middle East”.
According to local newspaper, security considerations dictated that only people who had registered prior to the lecture with the Uppsala foreign politics association, were allowed in. 
Although security was tight, this did not prevent a disruptive protester from attending the lecture. Not long after the ambassador started speaking a young man in the crowd stood up and shouted "You are not welcome in Uppsala!" and held up a t-shirt that displayed the same message. In response, another participant replied that the ambassador was indeed very welcome.
In reaction to the outburst the police escorted the young man and the rest of the lecture continued peacefully.
In addition to the disruptive protester in the auditorium there were some 30 demonstrators who gathered in front of the university and chanted threatening slogans. This has become standard when Ambassador Dagan makes an appearance, as reported in a previous post. The crowed disbursed after about an hour.
According to students interviewed after the lecture by local newspaper, it appears that many were satisfied with the lecture as a whole and luckily the hate-mongers did not manage to prevent the lecture from taking place. Ambassador Dagan presented an analysis of the current crisis in the Middle East, discussed Israel’s booming hi-tech industry and economic growth, and also discussed Gaza and the peace process.
It appears like Ambassador Dagan so far have not been able to represent Israel is Sweden without meeting agressive responses. One can hope that the future in Sweden will hold more pleasant welcomings for the Israeli Abassador. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Swedish Woman Convicted for Hate Speech against Jews

In January of 2009, Benny Dagan, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, visited Uppsala (a city not far from Sweden’s capital Stockholm) where he was met by an agitated crowd. The ambassador had come to visit the “Livets ord” (Word of Life) community. “Livets ord” is a fundamentalist church, which has taken a number of controversial stances, including allying itself with Christian movements in the U.S. which are sympathetic towards Israel.  At  the “Livets ord” church hall, Dagan encountered a crowd of some 30 demonstrators and a number of policemen who were present to keep the hostile demonstrators under control.
The situation has been reported as a near-riot; according to policemen present, a 45-year old women shouted out “Death to all Jews” loudly enough so that many people in the crowd heard it.  She also allegedly threatened to kill one of the policemen who was there to maintain order, although this charge was dropped in her favor.
The woman, who has now been convicted for incitement to racial hatred, later denied the allegations. Despite her protestations of innocence, she was found guilty in a district court that accepted the testimony of the policemen who were present at the demonstration. Her sentence is probation and a fine of 3,600 SEK ($560 US). This is a seemingly mild sentence for threatening an ambassador (and possibly an officer of the law) with death.
It should be noted that this was not the last hostile encounter with Swedish hate-mongers for Ambassador Dagan.  In the following month, during a lecture Dagan was giving at the University of Stockholm, two individuals threw objects at him, one heaving a shoe and the other a book. It should be noted that the thrown shoe is an Islamic insult, and using a book to try and hit someone, as far as we can tell, is something illiterates would do. Using a university forum—which is supposed to be a forum of ideas—as an opportunity for physical violence parallels the Lars Vilks lecture (which began as verbal aggression, and ended in a brawl).  In the case of his lecture, Dagan soldiered on and was able to complete his talk about Operation Cast Lead.

The Swedish court’s decision to drop the threat charges and level a small fine against the woman may reflect bias in the courts.  Hate speech in Sweden has in the past resulted in one-month prison terms, and heavy fines.  Interestingly, the court did hand down a one-month sentence against a fundamentalist pastor who quoted Biblical references against homosexuality.  So it seems that when speech conflicts with a liberal agenda, more severe punishment is meted out.
Many posts on this blog have been devoted to showing how the governmental authorities are complicit in contributing to the acceptance of anti-Semitic attitudes and aggression in Sweden.  This recent court decision is definitely another case where the authorities have missed an opportunity to correct their course of hypocrisy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bildt Romances the Turks

Two days too late for Valentine’s Day:  Yesterday’s Local  quotes Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt as saying, ”Turkey and the EU need each other.” Very romantic, but would it be more accurate to add:Like a hole in the head”?
Lately it seems that Turkey is more interested in playing the “big fish” in the Islamic world “pond”. Recent events only reinforce Turkish leader Erdogan’s leading position in the Islamic world. Many big fish in the Middle East today are wondering if they will get thrown out, as a number of shake-ups may follow the fall of Mubarak in Egypt. Erdogan, who continues to move Turkey away from a secular path and towards an Islamic regime, is one of the few leaders sitting fairly securely in office.
Does being a strongman in the Islamic world make Turkey a better partner for the EU? It is unclear how this would work. Erdogan, striving to extend his influence, has cautioned Turkish émigrés in Europe not to assimilate into European society, but to remain Turkish.
On the other hand, Bildt (Moderate Party) has shown support for the Gaza Flotilla, of which many “cruisers” were Turkish IHH members bent only on jihad—the Mavi Marmara carried no aid cargo whatsoever. Nonetheless, Bildt admired the jihadist initiative and lionized Swedish participants. Despite attempts to portray the Gaza Flotilla as a “human rights” mission, the record is clear and public. The Turkish media gave IHH a platform  for their twisted agenda, and the propaganda movie to match.
Additionally, the Local reports that Bildt wants “to have Sweden join the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

The article continues:
-“Meanwhile, Bildt explained that Sweden's foreign development aid policies would centre on fighting poverty through fostering a sustainable and fair development of human rights, democracy, and a strong civil society.”

Turkey is a country which brutally represses its Kurdish minority, was responsible for the massacre of the Armenians—a historical fact which it denies, and currently continues to occupy northern Cyprus. How does Bildt reconcile these inconvenient truths with his romantic vision of a European Union with Turkey, and Sweden’s ambition to occupy the moral high ground of human rights?

Bildt is critical of Belarus, “where the brutal attacks during the presidential election were a serious setback to efforts towards freedom, democracy and human rights in Europe."  Yet on the issue of Turkish human rights abuses, Bildt is hypocritically silent.

Bildt also neglects issues at home—in Swedish cities today, the threat of anti-Semitic brutality forces Jews to pay for extensive security arrangements and hide their identities, civil security is denied as vandalism and violent crime contribute to lawlessness in immigrant neighborhoods, and the Swedish government deports Iraqi Christians back to areas where Islamists terrorize the Christian population.

Shouldn’t Bildt and his fellow ministers work on cleaning up at home—instead of inviting guests with more human rights issues?

Pictured: Bildt as a Young Turk?

By Chanah Shapira

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Alf Svensson (KD) Represents Sweden in European Friends of Israel Conference

Christian Democrat and EU parliamentarian Alf Svensson recently attended a conference in Israel held by the “European Friends of Israel” (EFI) where he got a chance to learn more about the developments in Egypt and the political implications they will have for the region. 
As Michael Oscarsson, Svensson’s fellow member of the Christian Democrats in Sweden stated, the aim of the EFI is to “strengthen the connections between Europe and Israel”. Oscarsson also attended the EFI conference in an effort to understand explore possible scenarios which may develop due to the still-ongoing situation in Egypt. In support of Israel, Oscarsson says that we have very much in common; he states; “the roots of our culture comes from the Jewish tradition as well as the Jewish-Christian values”.
In an interview with the Christian magazine Dagen, Svensson comments that in the conference he learned that, “Israel sees the dilemma for the Western regimes which have supported the dictator Mubarak”. He also reflects that “he has met those [in Israel] who are worried that there is no organized opposition in Egypt, other than the Muslim Brotherhood which could be put into power in the September elections”.
While the rest of the world is celebrating the possible democratic transformation in Egypt, it is true that Israel at this point looks at the situation with critical eyes and even with fear, something that is acknowledged by both Svensson and Oscarsson. Israel is located in a hostile neighborhood and has hostile relations with Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip as well as an eminent threat from Iran. In fact, all these states are linked through Iranian influence in the region. The Swedish delegation also noted that Hezbollah managed to fire a rocket into Israel during their stay—emphasizing the never-ending hostilities towards the state of Israel.  It is therefore natural that Israel sees that the overthrow of Mubarak, a leader who has managed to keep peace in the region for decades, might pose a large threat to the national security of the state.
During the three-day conference held by the EFI, some 450 parliamentarians met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Svensson and Oscarsson especially noted that Israel’s president Shimon Peres impressed them, as he showed support of the revolution in Egypt as Egyptians used Twitter and Facebook instead of grenades.
It is good to know that there are Swedish parliamentarians and members of the European parliament who take time to come and get to know the state of Israel and show their support. There is no doubt that the people of Israel support the Egyptian people’s efforts and hopes for the building of a fellow liberal democracy in the region. However, Israelis are wary of Islamist influence in Egypt, as Israel is already contending with Iranian-backed groups on two borders.  The region has already seen two cases—both Iran and Gaza—where democratic elections brought in totalitarian rulers.
It is important that influential politicians such as Alf Svensson have an understanding of the complex security aspects Israel constantly is dealing with, and how these effect the county’s political agenda. EFI’s vital efforts should be saluted for bridging understanding between the EU and Israel.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spy Stories: Aftonbladet Reporters Attacked, Held as Mossad Agents

In a recent article in Aftonbladet a writer from the paper recounts the harrowing story of two correspondents from the paper who were attacked by a mob, held by Egyptian authorities, and released.  It seems that the correspondents were trying to get a story away from the action, but fell into it anyway. According to the report, they were rushed by a mob as they tried filming a woman scavenging for food in the garbage. 
Generally, it sounds like a number of the reports coming out of Cairo. The “would you believe…” moment comes when the mob accuses the Aftonbladet correspondents of being Israeli Mossad spies.
A dramatic sub-headline reads:
-“The military thought that Aftonbladet's team actually belonged to the Israeli security service that would topple President Mubarak.”
Readers, the scale of irony here is huge.  Aftonbladet  (a major government-backed Swedish daily) published a lurid and unfounded blood libel story accusing the Israeli Army of harvesting Palestinians for their body parts.  SIJ had cynical laugh over the idea of anyone associated with Aftonbladet being mistaken for anything even vaguely pro- Israeli. 
Notice that in true anti-Israeli fashion, the Egyptians and Aftonbladet—or maybe just Aftonbladet—make the Mossad responsible for toppling the Mubarak regime.  This is also a laughable bit of conjecture, as Israel’s main interest is in maintaining the status quo regarding the Egyptian peace treaty. Never mind. Aftonbladet is nothing if not sensationalist; when it comes to Israel, they write whatever drivel they want.
At any rate, the report claims that the Egyptian authorities drove them around and threatened to kill them, but luckily, since they spoke no Arabic, they weren’t frightened.  Yes, ignorance kept them cool and calm!  But it is unclear why their translator did not tell them this until later—perhaps when they had to write the story.  As far as one can tell from this rather garbled report, either the Egyptians were too stupid to interrogate suspected Mossad agents, or they realized that the Swedes were not clever secret agents after all, a more likely option. The correspondents were released unharmed, unlike other more serious journalists who have been both interrogated and beaten.
We can guess that the reason why they weren’t interrogated is that the Egyptians could care less about what’s reported in Sweden—there are bigger fish to fry. But this didn’t stop the writer of the article from saying that the fortunate release of the correspondents will allow them to “continue their important reporting”.  
Seems that Aftonbladet is so self-congratulating that it applauds its reporters, no matter what they write.

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.