Thursday, March 31, 2011

Integration Minister’s "Novel" Plans to Prevent Intolerance

photo source: Swedish Parliament website
The Local reports today that the government is now going to chart the rates of intolerance directed at minorities in Sweden, and produce a report in August.  According to the article, Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag (Liberal Party) is now urging that something be done about the “intolerance” (read: “hate crime”) in Sweden. 
Apparently as the result of a meeting with Muslim leaders in January, Ullenhag has decided that it is time to start teaching history to students to discourage hate crime. He claims that “What worries me an awful lot is that, in my conversations (with both groups), I’m receiving signals that both Jews and Muslims are testifying to being the subject of harassment because of their religious symbols.”
Let’s hope that what Ullenhag really means is not “symbols”, but “identity”. No one is abused because they wear identifiable symbols of faith. To make that assumption neglects the totality of religious and ethnic prejudice. It also implies that removing these items would render the wearers acceptable to bigots—and that is certainly not the case.
Ullenhag makes another problematic statement:
- “Jews in Sweden are held accountable for what the Israeli government does, and the Muslim group has been met with suspicion ever since the 11th of September as potential terrorists.”
This eerily parallels remarks made by Malmö’s Mayor Reepalu equating Zionism and anti-Semitism. Equating these two “rationales” for hate crime is inexcusable, and constitutes a type of justification for hate crimes from both angles.
At any rate, clocking rates of hate crime and teaching history to high school students are useful, but it hardly seems that this will protect those who are currently targets of hate crime. It would be better if Ullenhag would push for better security now, so that Malmö’s Jewish residents don’t have to pay a “Jew Tax” for community security. Reports are fine if you don’t have a picture of what’s going on, and it’s also fine to preach tolerance in the classrooms, but the problem is well-known and out there on the streets.
We also wonder why the Local couldn’t be bothered to cite the recent visit of the Simon Wiesenthal Center as the impetus to finally do something. Maybe it’s because the SWC already described the situation and proposed doable solutions which could be put in place for the Muslim, Jewish and Roma communities.
It’s hard to miss the facts that the Ullenhag plan is a delaying tactic in the form of the report, and that by throwing the hate crime issue to the schools, it completely and cheaply fails to solve the security issues which face all communities.
By Chanah Shapira

Friday, March 25, 2011

OSCE Human Rights Meeting Takes Sweden to Task

Malmö Police Refuse to Allow Use of Security Cameras
At a recent Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting the Simon Wiesenthal Center presented its findings and suggested corrective measures on the situation in Malmö, which SWC has been tracking for some time. SWC’s Shimon Samuels, a permanent representative at the 56-state organization, attended the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institution and Human Rights (ODIHR) High Level Meeting on “Confronting Anti-Semitism in Public Discourse”.
 In a press release the SWC notes it has characterized Malmö as “A case-study of chronic anti-Semitism”. With an eye to the worsening situation in Malmö, the SWC issued a travel warning in December 2010 urging extreme caution for Jews visiting Malmö.  The travel warning was issued only after repeated appeals to the Mayor and authorities were met with inaction and often scorn on the part of Malmö’s mayor Ilmar Reepalu (Social Democrat). 
Readers of SIJ are familiar with the Malmö’s failure to provide protection to the city’s Jews, and rising rates of hate crime. As listed by the SWC, grievances include police failure to prosecute cases of  violent attacks in the street, no police protection for Jewish freedom of assembly, anti-Semitic diatribes by Mayor Reepalu which further inflame the situation, and the resultant “Jew tax”—meaning that the community must pay exorbitant security fees out of its own pocket.
The most shocking new point in the press release is that the Malmö police refused to issue the necessary permits to install security cameras:
“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.”
Let’s be clear:  it’s not about privacy. (Anyone who opens up a Swedish paper to the photos in the bars or follows Julian Assange’s “rape” case can see that Swedish privacy is nearly nil.) “Privacy” here means either protecting elites—not exposing the Queen’s father’s Nazi  past—or not creating evidence which the authorities will have to act on. Actionable events create statistics, and in the la-la-land of Sweden where the government funds the media, if your stats look good, life is good.  So, denying camera permits means you can ignore what’s happening.  That’s why when Malmö’s rabbi files complaints because he is assaulted in the street, the police can barely be bothered to record a complaint, let alone pursue the attackers.
We urge Malmö’s authorities and the Swedish government to act on the SWC’s reasonable suggestions for improving community relations and for the police to assume responsibility for security for the Jewish community and all minorities. A wastebasket for complaints is not city management—current policy is endangering lives and denying basic human rights.
By Chanah Shapira

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reepalu’s Blowback to SWC:

The Local has run extended quotes of Malmö Mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s remarks in response to the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s concerns and policy suggestions regarding hate crime in Malmö. 
Note that, as we reported earlier, SWC met not only with the Jewish community to hear their concerns, but also with the Muslim and Roma (Gypsy) communities, who also suffer from hate crime. But Reepalu continues in characteristic fashion to make baseless snarly remarks about snobby Jews and Israel:
"I have said that it is always dangerous when one group considers itself worth more than another group of people. When people say that we have a right to take your land because we have some form of thousand-year promise from God that this is our land, then it creates conflicts," Reepalu said to Sydsvenskan.
But of course, according to Reepalu, nasty remarks about Jews and Israel don’t make him an anti-Semite!
"Then they say that I am anti-Semitic when I put this across. I am flabbergasted that they are then able to tie all this together," he said.
In his self-defense, Reepalu claims that he is hard at work trying to fix things in Malmö:
"To be honest with you I think we are working as seriously as we can with these issues, and we will do so regardless of what they say, think and feel," Reepalu told the newspaper.
As readers can see, he has done exactly what the SWC noted—heating things up by bringing Israel into the equation, and blaming the Jews for hate crimes perpetrated against them. Then he has the gall to claim he is moving forward, after he blamed everyone else for his inability to reduce hate crime in Malmö. 

By: Chanah Shapira 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

SWC UPDATE: Malmö Mayor Reepalu Is Provocateur, Irresponsible

The Wiesenthal Centre put out a press release about the ongoing hate crime in Malmö.  The SWC, which visited Sweden and met with Malmö authorities last week, has blasted Mayor Reepalu for instigating tensions and failing to do anything.  SIJ offers its readers key excerpts from the SWC press release.
Addressing Reepalu, for blaming Israel and the Jews for hate crimes perpetrated against Jews in Malmö, SWC states:
"-Your Import of Foreign Conflicts into Malmo Political discourse has exacerbated inter-community tensions and the Potential Risks, in particular, to your Jewish Citizens."
Regarding Reepalu’s handing of Malmö’s hate crime epidemic, SWC condemns his:
"- obfuscation of responsibility in regard to his Jewish citizens, passing the fault for any public apprehension - including those we heard among Muslim and Roma leaders in his city - onto "Stockholm", "the police", etc."
On dishonesty regarding policy:
"- your charge that the exclusion of spectators from the Sweden-Israel Davis Cup heat in an empty stadium was instigated by the police, has been emphatically denied by Malmo law enforcement.”
On opening his mouth again, only to have slurs fly out:
“- your comment…regarding 'the powerful Wiesenthal Centre's influence', is redolent of conspiracy theories current against Jews in the 1930's.”
The release also reiterated the measures needed to reduce hate crime in Malmö, and concluded:
"Mr. Mayor, the status quo is intolerable. We still hope that you will seriously begin to address these matters before the first review of our 'travel advisory' comes up in June."
We share SWC’s hope for a substantial improvement in the situation in Malmö, but we don’t see anything in either Reepalu’s record or attitude that makes this likely.
By Chanah Shapira

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Brutal Murder of Israelis Spun Out by Swedish Press

Ruth, Udi, Yoav, Elad,& Hadas Fogel

Saturday night’s grisly acts of terror in a family home in the settlement of Itamar left Ruth and Udi Fogel and three of their children dead, including their 3-month old baby. Yet Aftonbladet emphasized Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to allow hundreds (400-500) of new homes to be built in existing settlement blocs. In fact, that was the opener in the article titled “Yes to more settler homes after murder”. This kind of placement shows that the main shock for Aftonbladet is that Israelis would dare to build in existing settlements.   Dagens Nyheter, which ran a piece titled “Israel approves more settlements” went out of its way to point out recent events involving settler protests, as if this explained the murders.
The massacre itself was described in the Dagens article in two short sentences, and only after describing the estimated crowd of 25,000 mourners at the funeral as “thousands of angry and upset mourners”. 
Articles, for example this, which were available on both Reuters and AFP (usual international sources for the Swedish media) covered the massacre as a stand-alone item, but were not picked up.
What needs to be said here is that no actions could possibly justify the violent stabbing deaths of any of the Fogels, and most certainly not the killing of young children and a small baby. Both Dagens and Aftonbladet , unlike MEMRI (which translates Arab-language media), missed reporting the reactions of Hamas which called the massacre “heroic” and PA officials who condemned the murder while blaming the settlers for the massacre. If you read Aftonbladet frequently, the PA line may sound familiar…
One PA official had the nerve to tell this really big lie:
-"No Palestinian has ever committed such a murder against [parents] and a baby before... This raises questions regarding the rapidity with which the Israeli side rushed to blame the Palestinians for the act." 
Residents of Itamar have not forgotten the murders of the Shabo family in 2002, in which the mother , Rachel and three of her children were shot to death and 2 others were injured. The youngest killed was 5-year-old Avishai.  Israelis remember a number of Palestinian terror murders in which Israeli children were shot at point blank range as their mothers desperately tried to save them, but were also killed.  It’s also important to repeat that the PA incites terror by glorifying murderers on a regular basis, including the murderers of the Shabo family; the murderers were celebrated on PA TV just last month.
How anyone can be capable of these atrocities is beyond my understanding and I hope yours.  How the Swedish press can rationalize the murders is equally unfathomable.
For more real journalism on this topic see here and here.
By Chanah Shapira

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jewish Family Receives Death Threats in Malmö

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is presently in Malmö in order to get a better understanding of the increasingly bad situation for Jews in the small southern Swedish community. SWC representatives Shimon Samuels and Rabbi Avraham Cooper are to meet with Malmö’s mayor Ilmar Reepalu who has had the responsibility of making the situation for the Jews in Malmö better.
In relation to the visit, one of the Jewish host families of the Wiesenthal Center representatives recently received a death threat. The threat is concrete and specifically aimed at the Kupfer family’s daughter as reported in the Swedish daily Expressen. According to the article in Expressen the threat has been confirmed by the police and extra surveillance has been put in force in order to protect the family.
In an interview with Expressen Noe Kupfer states that the death threat received in a letter began with “Welcome to the final holocaust”… and kept getting increasingly more detailed.
Noe Kupfter continues: “Of course we will increase our vigilance and change a part of our daily routines but we try to live as normal. Hopefully this is only one single crazy person”.
It is embarrassingly evident that any effort made by Ilmar Reepalu during the last year has failed to improve the situation for the Malmö Jews. This recent death threat related to the visit from the SWC representative is another obvious sign that Reepalu has been ineffective.
Sweden, Israel and the Jews will continue to report on the Simon Wiesenthal visit as only one Swedish newspaper at the point of writing, and no blogger, have reported on the story as of this posting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Either Way You Read It, Now is the Time

An opinion column in the Jerusalem Post appeared this week from a Swedish grad student, Anders Persson of Lund University. Persson argued that Israeli fears of BDS (boycott, sanctions, and divestment) are currently misplaced, largely due the prevailing indifference of the Swedish public to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Persson notes that the pro-Palestinian radical activist groups are very small, and no one in Sweden really cares where their tomatoes and oranges come from anyway. Nonetheless, he cautions, should Israel  be drawn into a conflict with Iran or its proxy Hezbollah, and the economy nose dive, well, things could be different. And by different, we are talking about not good.
The sad news is that Mr. Persson has not been reading this blog, or—to give him some credit—not reading it enough. If he were keeping up with SIJ, he would know that anti-Semitism in Sweden is rising, and the government is decidedly not dealing with this issue. On the contrary, the government-sponsored media heats things up by pushing a pro-Palestinian issue. And that is the real problem Mr. Persson. It’s not about Sven and Anna deciding which fruit to put in the shopping cart. It’s about politicians like Ilmar Reepalu and Carl Bildt, who openly either blame the Jews for anti-Semitism or back the extremists who side with the Hamas terror state while helping Iran fend off sanctions.
When the power elites back anti-Semites and terror states, the problem is now. When you write that if the world economy tanks, the Jewish state will take the blame, that’s the result of existing anti-Semitism, and again, time to fix the problem is now.
By Chanah Shapira

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Integration minister Meets to Discuss Anti-Semitism in Sweden

Followers of this blog are well aware that there is widespread anti-Semitism in Sweden, which currently is very vaguely, if at all, handled or prevented by the Swedish government. Yesterday Sweden’s immigration minister Erik Ullenhag (Liberal People’s Party) met with representatives of Jewish organizations to talk about anti-Semitism.

New research done last fall by Sweden’s “Forum for Living History” (forum för levande historia) revealed signs that anti-Semitism in Sweden has not only increased in terms of active hate crimes against Jewish individuals, but rates of negative sentiments against Jews have also increased amongst Sweden’s youth population.

Yesterday, Erik Ullenhag met with Jewish organizations in order to talk about what can be done in order to prevent discrimination as well as anti-Semitism. An odd move as it is not the Jews who at the end of the day should be responsible for preventing discrimination as well as anti-Semitism from being conducted against them in the first place.

The fact that anti-Semitism is on the rise amongst young individuals in Sweden is a worrying sign.  It is important that leading politicians such as Ullenhag acknowledge this.
The meeting took place yesterday and was announced on the homepage of the Ministry of Labor.

What was said or concluded in the meeting is at this point unknown, as not one Swedish online media outlets has picked up on the story. One can only guess that anti-Semitism isn’t an interesting enough topic for the Swedish journalists anymore.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bibi’s List for Bildt

Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, is visiting Israel this week. Bildt is also planning to spend a night in Nablus (Sh’chem) in the Palestinian Authority.  As readers may recall, Nablus has been a major base for Hamas-linked terrorists who carried out attacks against Israelis, including lethal shooting attacks. As Bildt has supported Hamas positions in the past, this is wholly consistent for him.
This official visit was pushed off for nearly a year and a half, as Bildt was originally scheduled to visit in September of 2009. This visit was cancelled due to what Sweden termed a “timing” problem. As Haaretz reported, “a source at the Foreign Ministry said that the real reason was concern in Stockholm that the Swedish minister would receive an icy welcome in Jerusalem.”
The reason for Bildt’s anticipated poor reception was the publication of the notorious “blood libel” article which ran in Sweden’s major tabloid Aftonbladet in August 2009. As Haaretz reported, Aftonbladet’s “journalist” claimed that “IDF troops shot and killed Palestinians and then harvested their organs” in order to sell the organs for transplant. The entire article was an anti-Semitic, anti-Israel smear which also fictitiously claimed that organs from corpses were suitable for transplant.
So why did Bildt have to opt out of his visit? Bildt, as Sweden’s foreign minister, patently refused to denounce the Aftonbladet article. In fact, a condemnation issued by the Swedish ambassador was retracted—and the Foreign Ministry tried to squelch the internal back-and-forth. The entire incident was documented here by Mikael Tossavainen of the JCPA. The Israeli public was furious at the insensitivity and seeming duplicity of the Swedish Government.
But for Bildt and the Swedish government, the available fig leaf used was “freedom of the press”. This is the same fig leaf which has been claimed in repressive Arab regimes to defend blatantly anti-Semitic press and television. This comparison works since Sweden, also has a state-sponsored press, which, as we have shown in a number of posts, censors and edits reporting to fit the perceptions of the political and media elites.
At time of the incident the Swedish government was justly criticized in Israel for its hypocrisy. Failing to show up and hear the criticism was a cowardly tactic on the part of the Swedish Foreign Ministry. Now that Bildt is finally here, it’s time for Sweden to be taken to task, and instead of one item fading into memory, that list has grown.
Since the publication of Aftonbladet’s blood libel Sweden has:
1.    Failed to address the threat of anti-Semitic hate crime in Sweden, especially in Malmö
2.    Continued to fund terror-supporting NGOs
3.    Allowed Bildt to attend the inauguration of Iranian dictator Ahmedinajad, who put a bloody end to charges of fraudulent voting
4.    Accepted that Bildt worked against sanctions targeting Iran’s nuclear program
5.    Failed to chastise Bildt for greeting the “Ship to Gaza Flotilla” participants with a heroes’ welcome after they cruised with jihadists trying to help Hamas get a gun-running port; despite a “humanitarian” label the Flotilla delivered virtually no aid for Gazans.
Mr. Netanyahu, it is up to you to tell Mr. Bildt that Swedish hypocrisy—claiming to promote peace while aiding extremists—is intolerable. Bildt chooses to sleep safely in a nest of terrorists while Hamas continues to fire rockets and missiles at Israelis in southern Israel.  Maybe Bildt should spend a night in Sderot or Beersheba instead of Nablus.  
The bottom line: it’s time for Bildt and Sweden to face reality.
By Chanah Shapira
Image credit: Tundra Tabloids