Sweden’s shame

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Sweden's image as a free and tolerant society has been tarnished by recent attacks on its Jewish community, warns Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.

The following contribution is authored by Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress.

"Last month, firecrackers were thrown at the only synagogue in the Swedish city of Malmö, breaking three windows. The day before, a bomb threat had been left at the building, warning of what was about to happen. Two weeks previously, another attack was launched against the same synagogue.

For months, local Jews have testified to an increasingly hostile atmosphere, with many saying they are frightened to go out on the streets wearing anything that might identify them as Jews. Earlier this year, Daniel Schwammenthal, writing in The Wall Street Journal, explained why in the starkest possible terms:

'Screaming Sieg'Heil and Hitler, Hitler, a mostly Muslim mob threw bottles and stones at a small group of Jews peacefully demonstrating for Israel at this town's central square last year. Worshippers on their way to synagogue and Jewish kids in schools are routinely accosted as Dirty Jews.'

Malmö police say that of the 115 hate crimes recorded in the city in 2009, 52 were aimed at Jews or Jewish institutions. Anti-Semitism is back, and what is taking place in Malmö is merely an extreme manifestation of what is happening across the whole of Sweden.

Let us recall that it was Sweden's top-selling newspaper, Aftonbladet, that last year published an anti-Semitic blood libel by alleging that Israeli soldiers routinely murdered Palestinian children and harvested their bodily organs for sale on the international black market.

The Swedish government responded with indifference, and worse: when the country's ambassador to Israel put up a note on the embassy's website distancing Sweden from such appalling calumnies, her enraged superiors in Stockholm ordered her to take it down.

It is not just the media and the government that is fanning the flames of this hatred. In January 2009, church officials in the town of Luleå cancelled a planned torch-light procession for Holocaust Memorial Day, with a spokesman saying that they were 'preoccupied' and 'grief-stricken' by Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

Cancelling Holocaust Memorial Day? Spreading blood libels and acquiescing in them? Allowing a state of affairs in which Jews are frightened to leave their homes? This does not sound like the tolerant, fair, and just society for which Sweden would like to be known."

To read the op-ed in full, please click here.

Published in partnership with Project Syndicate.

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