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October 8, 2014 0

Sweden’s Recognition of ‘Palestine’ Premature and Ill-Advised

   By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
   National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

   This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Huff­in­g­ton Post

Many observers were sur­prised by the sud­den announce­ment by the newly elected prime min­is­ter of Swe­den that his coun­try would become the first in the Euro­pean Union to for­mally rec­og­nize the “State of Palestine.”

The announce­ment by Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Lofven, which stip­u­lated that his new gov­ern­ment would even­tu­ally rec­og­nize a Pales­tin­ian state within the 1967 bor­ders, was inap­pro­pri­ate on a num­ber of lev­els. First, it is con­trary to long­stand­ing E.U. for­eign pol­icy. Sec­ond, it appears to reward the intran­si­gence of Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, which was on full dis­play in his recent speech at the United Nations. Mr. Abbas’ over­heated rhetoric only con­tributes to dis­cour­ag­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of resum­ing nego­ti­a­tions between Israel and the Palestinians.

But Sweden’s deci­sion was much less sur­pris­ing if one con­sid­ers the state of dete­ri­o­rat­ing rela­tions between Swe­den and Israel, which in recent years have trig­gered tremors along a grow­ing fault line in Swedish soci­ety between more mod­er­ate forces and the rad­i­cal left.

It should be said upfront here that the bilat­eral rela­tion­ship between Israel and Swe­den remains vitally impor­tant, and that even with this poten­tial change in pol­icy there are still oppor­tu­ni­ties to move for­ward diplomatically.

Com­pli­cated fac­tors are at play in Swedish pol­i­tics and soci­ety, and these are clearly influ­enc­ing its for­eign pol­icy. Zvi Mazel, who served as Israeli ambas­sador to Stock­holm between 2002 and 2004, out­lined some of those fac­tors in recent inter­views in the Israeli press.

Lofven, he noted, only won the elec­tion with 43 per­cent of the vote, and needs to form a minor­ity gov­ern­ment that has the sup­port of the for­merly com­mu­nist left-wing party, which has stri­dent anti-Israel pro­cliv­i­ties and whose sup­port­ers are pri­mar­ily Arab and Mus­lim Swedish cit­i­zens. Mus­lims now com­prise about 8 per­cent of Sweden’s pop­u­la­tion after the coun­try absorbed more than 80,000 immi­grants from Syria and Iraq this year alone.

As a result, says Mazel, Lofven is seek­ing sup­port and pub­lic sym­pa­thy by play­ing “the Israel card.”

Two of Lofven’s cab­i­net appoint­ments are trou­bling as well. They are indi­vid­u­als well known for their enthu­si­as­tic sup­port for the Pales­tin­ian cause and who were deported from Israel because of their activities.

Accord­ing to a report in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, the new city plan­ning and envi­ron­ment min­is­ter, Mehmet Kaplan, a native of Turkey and a for­mer spokesman for the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Swe­den, was involved in the Mavi Mar­mara inci­dent in which pas­sen­gers on the Gaza-bound ship vio­lently attacked Israeli naval per­son­nel in 2010. And the new edu­ca­tion min­is­ter, Gus­tav Fridolin, was arrested and deported from Israel in 2003 for encour­ag­ing demon­stra­tions against the secu­rity fence between the West Bank and Israel.

More­over, highly pub­li­cized spats between Israel and Swe­den in recent years have widened the rift between these two coun­tries that oth­er­wise share many of the same demo­c­ra­tic val­ues and a strong bilat­eral relationship.

Most mem­o­rably, in August 2009 the Swedish news­pa­per Afton­bladet pub­lished a false and mali­cious report that Israeli sol­diers were har­vest­ing organs from Pales­tini­ans. The report mush­roomed into a full-blown global con­spir­acy the­ory and led to a diplo­matic row when Swe­den rejected Israel’s request to con­demn the false report, cit­ing “press freedom.”

Ear­lier that year a mob descended on a sta­dium where an Israeli team was play­ing against Swe­den, with pro­tes­tors car­ry­ing signs con­demn­ing Israel and threat­en­ing to attack Israeli athletes.

There have also been trou­bling anti-Semitic attacks reported in the coun­try this year, tak­ing place before and after Israel’s oper­a­tion in Gaza. In March, a high school in Stock­holm which holds classes for Jew­ish stu­dents was spray painted with anti-Semitic graf­fiti, includ­ing a swastika, the phrases “Jew­ish swine” and dis­gust­ing Jews.” In July, the city of Malmo’s main syn­a­gogue was attacked when van­dals hurled bot­tles at the build­ing, break­ing three win­dows. And in August, a rabbi in Malmo was attacked by a group of men who threw a glass bot­tle at his car while shout­ing anti-Semitic epithets.

At the same time, the coun­try has high lev­els of edu­ca­tion and a very low accep­tance for tra­di­tional anti-Semitic beliefs.

The recent ADL Global 100 Sur­vey found that only 4 per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion in Swe­den is infected with anti-Semitic atti­tudes, the low­est find­ing for Europe. This amounts to just 300,000 peo­ple out of a total pop­u­la­tion of 7.4 mil­lion peo­ple. Com­pared with other coun­tries in Europe (France was 37 per­cent, Nor­way and Fin­land, 15 per­cent) this was a remark­ably low score.

And here is where the issues of Israeli poli­cies and the anti-Jewish rhetoric and vio­lence in Swe­den can get enmeshed. Politi­cians and jour­nal­ists who espouse vir­u­lently anti-Israel mes­sages, con­tribute to an atmos­phere which pro­vides a patina of accept­abil­ity and cover for anti-Jewish hate to emerge. While 96 per­cent of Swedish adults do not har­bor strong anti-Semitic atti­tudes, the small per­cent­age who do are likely among the ones act­ing on those beliefs and doing it under the guise of express­ing oppo­si­tion to Israel’s poli­cies toward the Palestinians.

It is up to Sweden’s polit­i­cal, reli­gious and civic lead­ers to make clear to the peo­ple of Swe­den that anti-Semitic rhetoric and vio­lence against the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion are never accept­able expres­sions of crit­i­cism of Israel’s poli­cies. Prime Min­is­ter Lovfen should be the one to set an exam­ple in this regard, not allow­ing pol­i­tics to trump the government’s respon­si­bil­ity to ensure the well-being and secu­rity of Sweden’s small but vibrant Jew­ish community.

Sweden’s pre­ma­ture recog­ni­tion of the State of Pales­tine will have reper­cus­sions far beyond Scan­di­navia. Swe­den is con­sid­ered a flag-bearer of human rights, and many coun­tries across Europe respond to its cues. The risk is that other coun­tries in the E.U. may soon want to fol­low suit.

The U.S., the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity, and the global Jew­ish com­mu­nity need to con­vince Swe­den that this is the wrong posi­tion at the wrong time.

If Swe­den is truly con­cerned about improv­ing the sit­u­a­tion for the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple, they should be work­ing hard to sup­port inter­na­tional efforts to pre­vent Hamas from replen­ish­ing its sup­ply of mis­siles and rock­ets and to pro­mote the restora­tion of hous­ing and infra­struc­ture for the peo­ple of Gaza.

The time for rec­og­niz­ing a Pales­tin­ian state will come when the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship shows it is fully com­mit­ted to liv­ing in peace and secu­rity in a state side by side with Israel and the par­ties reach an agree­ment through direct bilat­eral nego­ti­a­tions resolv­ing all the issues between them.

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May 5, 2014 0

UAE Book Fair Again Features Anti-Semitic Books

The Abu Dhabi Inter­na­tional Book Fair (ADIBF) in the United Arab Emi­rates, which is open from April 30– May 5th and hosts exhibitors from over 50 coun­tries, includes noto­ri­ous anti-Semitic titles among its offer­ing of over 500,000 titles. The book fair is offi­cially orga­nized by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cul­ture Author­ity, under the patron­age of Crown Prince Moham­mad bin Zayed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in coop­er­a­tion with the Frank­furt Book Fair. Books such as Adolf Hitler’s Mien Kampf and Henry Ford’s noto­ri­ously anti-Semitic newslet­ter, The Inter­na­tional Jew, have been fea­tured along­side rep­utable works on a wide range of top­ics, such as law, soci­ol­ogy and fiction.abu-dhabi-international-book-fair-uae

The ADIBF comes just months after neigh­bor­ing emi­rate Shar­jah fea­tured sev­eral infa­mous anti-Semitic books at the Shar­jah Inter­na­tional Book Fair, includ­ing The Pro­to­cols of the Learned Elders of Zion and con­spir­acy theory-laden Arabic-language titles, such as The Jews and the Secret Move­ments in the Cru­sades.

The anti-Semitic books for sale at the ADIBF are listed under var­i­ous cat­e­gories and clas­si­fi­ca­tions. Adolf Hitler’s noto­ri­ous 1925 auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal man­i­festo is listed under the cat­e­gory “Pol­i­tics,” while the Pro­to­cols is fea­tured under the cat­e­gories “Polit­i­cal Sci­ence” and “Strate­gic and Mil­i­tary Studies.”

The book fair also fea­tures sev­eral Arabic-language anti-Zionist and anti-Israel books pub­lished in the Arab world, such as Zion­ist Ter­ror­ism, The Bar­barism of the Zion­ist Entity and The Tem­ple and the Strate­gic Plans to Judaize Jerusalem.

The guest of honor at this year’s book fair is the King­dom of Swe­den, which will have a spe­cial pavil­ion at the fair. The Swedish Ambas­sador to the United Arab Emi­rate, Max Bjuhr,  attended a spe­cial cer­e­mony hon­or­ing Swe­den ear­lier this week.

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August 12, 2013 0

Egyptian Magazine Blames Jews For Muslim Anti-Semitism In Sweden

october-magazine-sweden

“Octo­ber Magazine”

Anti-Semitism is a result of “Jew­ish racism against other minori­ties,” an inves­tiga­tive report by Egypt­ian jour­nal­ist Mohamed Hilal states in the lat­est issue of the Egyptian-weekly Octo­ber Mag­a­zine. The report pur­ports to address the rise of anti-Semitism in the south­ern Swedish city of Malmo, a city known for its large immi­grant Mus­lim community.

Octo­ber Mag­a­zine was founded in 1976 to rep­re­sent the polit­i­cal views of Egypt­ian national secularists.  

Enti­tled “The Sub­ver­sion of Jews in the City of Seren­ity and Tol­er­ance,” the report claims to inves­ti­gate the rise of attacks against Jews in Sweden’s third largest city, which are often attrib­uted to young immi­grants with roots in the Mid­dle East.

The report asserts that anti-Semitic attacks against Jews stem from the Jew­ish com­mu­nity and its actions, stat­ing, “Some experts con­firmed that the solu­tion of the prob­lem is not through increas­ing secu­rity forces and safety mea­sures, because the prob­lem is rooted in the Jew­ish com­mu­nity itself; they are used to break­ing the norms and pro­voke other reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing the Mus­lim community.”

The report also sug­gests that one of the roots of anti-Semitism in Malmo is the Jew­ish community’s sup­port for Israel. It draws on a state­ment made by Malmo’s for­mer mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, who, in 2009, sug­gested that mem­bers of the Jew­ish com­mu­nity had them­selves to blame for sup­port­ing Israel.

“As usual, the Jews attack, and then com­plain,” the arti­cle con­cludes when describ­ing a recent rally held by Malmo’s Jew­ish com­mu­nity in protest of the con­tin­u­ous attacks and harass­ment fac­ing their community.

Octo­ber Mag­a­zine has pre­vi­ously pub­lished anti-Semitic arti­cles and drawn com­par­isons between Israeli lead­ers and Nazis. The magazine’s Sep­tem­ber 2011 issue, for exam­ple, fea­tured an image of Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu as a Nazi offi­cer with an accom­pa­ny­ing arti­cle accus­ing Israeli lead­ers of per­pe­trat­ing crimes exceed­ing those com­mit­ted by the Nazis.

In the past, ADL has expressed con­cerns about ris­ing anti-Semitism in Malmo.

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