'Anti-Semitism on the rise in Sweden'
An ugly wave of anti-Semitism is on the rise in Sweden, and politicians who compare Israel with Nazi Germany or apartheid-era South Africa cannot claim to be free of responsibility, writes David Stavrou, a freelance Israeli journalist based in Sweden.
Sweden, like most countries in the western world, is obsessed with the Middle-East. The Arab-Israeli conflict receives constant media coverage and public interest, and the recent events in Gaza were no exception. As usual, they sparked a lively and sometimes violent debate. Sadly, and this too is usual, the debate is full of misinformation and misunderstandings.
- Ten arrested at Malmö pro-Israel demo (8 Feb 09)
- Shoe thrown at Israel's ambassador in Stockholm (5 Feb 09)
- SVT denies Vatican conspiracy rumours (4 Feb 09)
Most Swedish political figures positioned themselves between strongly condemning Israel while mildly criticizing Hamas' actions on the one hand and totally supporting Hamas and its administration in Gaza on the other.
On the left many condemned Israel's military operation and the Jewish state in general. "I don’t think Israel is a democracy worthy of the name. It’s a racist apartheid state,” said the Left Party's Hans Linde, calling for a boycott of Israel.
On the right, Carl Bildt, Sweden's foreign minister who visited Gaza last week, blamed Israel for intentionally targeting economic infrastructure and called Israeli policies "neither morally nor politically defensible". These remarks were part of a wider debate which included demonstrations, calls for boycotts and anti-Israel diplomacy.
A leading Social-Democrat, Urban Ahlin, Deputy Chair of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, implored the government to encourage the EU to suspend its cooperation agreement with Israel, while perhaps the most amazing remark was made by another Social-Democrat. “Israel is an apartheid state. I think Gaza is comparable to the Warsaw ghetto,” said Ingalill Bjartén, the vice-chair of one of the Social Democratic women's organizations.
This is all very well and is part of living in a democracy but when one mentions the Holocaust and the latest round of violence in the Middle East in the same breath - a ridiculous and manipulative comparison - one should try to remain true to the facts. These are important since the victims of the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel, Jews and Arabs alike, deserve the truth. Deceitful and over-simplified versions, like those listed above, are an insult to those who live through the reality of the region, and are part of the reason the tragedy goes on.
Here are a few inconvenient truths that Swedish politicians, on the left and right, choose to forget:
There is no Israeli occupation in Gaza. Israel withdrew all its troops and settlements years ago and did not blockade Gaza when its forces withdrew. In fact - and this may come as a surprise to those who don't bother with facts before they make their moral judgments - Israel signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority concerning security arrangements and safe passage of people and goods between Israel and Gaza. The agreement was breached by Hamas, purposely ignoring the best interest of the Palestinians themselves, when they took control of Gaza in 2007 and declared that all agreements and cease-fires with Israel were cancelled and that Israel must be destroyed.
The article was posted in a Swedish English paper - with many attempts to pander to Swedish leftwingers. I'd take a different approach... I doubt facts are what interest those who chose sides against Israel simply because they hate Jews.