Archive for December, 2005

How Sweden became anti-Israel

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

1. Sociological background
Before WW2, Sweden was one of the poorest, most backward countries in W. Europe. The moneyed elite told the population what to think and do.
After WW2, things changed dramatically in terms of national welfare, but the moneyed elite were replaced by a series of dogmatic left-leaning Social Democratic governments. The concept of looking after an entire nation “from the cradle to the grave” was minted specifically for Sweden.
Result: with the autocratic moneyed elite now replaced by autocratic father-figures in the PM’s office, the populace was conditioned never to worry, never to think. The man in the street was looked after in every respect – kindergarten, health-care, education, job, social welfare, housing, pension, political views. This worked fine as long as the nation’s politics favoured Israel, which it did.

2. Political evolution
Olof Palme changed the attitude to Israel. Reason: Swedish criticism of the USA because of Vietnam. In the mindset of Swedes used to following a strong leader and conditioned for generations never to question leadership figures, the equation was simple: we hate the USA – the USA supports Israel = we hate Israel. At the time that Sweden was supporting Vietnam, it was also supporting regimes in Cuba, the Soviet Union and elsewhere – all anathema to the USA. Anyone linked to the USA – like Israel – was conversely also anathema to Sweden.

3. Lebanon
At the end of the 1970s, Israel was riding on a crest of popularity in Sweden. The Lebanon war didn’t change anything in the minds of the Swedes in itself, but it opened the door to highly vocal input from a minority who over the previous 10-15 years had been quietly taking over one key area in Sweden – the media.

4. National penchant for sad tales – love of the underdog
At the time of the Lebanon war, Sweden was also opening its doors to asylum-seekers from many countries. Most had nothing to do with the Middle East, but the Swedish psyche was now being constantly assaulted with images of political travesties in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Tibet, Assam, China, the Soviet Union and its satellite states. The Swedish mindset was by now a fertile ground for anyone with a sad tale. The slickly related Palestinian narrative fitted right in. By now, Swedes were no longer reasoning – anyone who was perceived as an underdog received automatic and enthusiastic support. The Palestinian cause was embraced by a population conditioned by the media and the governing elite to do what it had always done – see things in black & white.

5. Pro-Israeli self-delusion
Pro-Israel activity had almost totally collapsed by 1981. Simply because the pro-Israel camp had grown smug, lazy, convinced of its invincibility, convinced nothing could shake the support it enjoyed. It rarely bothered to put its case in the media.

6. The rise of the left-wing media
When the Palestinian narrative of Sabra and Shatila broke, the pro-Israel camp had already disbanded, its champions had already been out of the debate for some time, and the field was left open to a coalition of pro-Palestinians and left-wing Swedes. By now, the media was firmly a left-wing breeding ground. With the automatic blockade on neutral or pro-Israeli articles from about 1984 onwards, Swedes rarely had an opportunity to hear the other side. Swedish pro-Israel action was in disarray. Some of its fiercest proponents had moved abroad – many to Israel – and many had simply become disillusioned with what was seen as a hopeless fight against impossible odds.

7. Rising anti-Semitism powered the modern pro-Israel effort
The situation didn’t improve until halfway through the second intifada, when Swedish anti-Israel sentiment became increasingly expressed as open anti-Semitism. This gave new impetus to pro-Jewish and pro-Israel individuals and organisations to take up the fight once again, stimulating and supporting a strongly pro-active effort on the part of Swedes who supported Israel as a democracy and Sweden’s Jews as a natural part of the demographic scene.

8. TT – the monopoly on news
There is one very tangible reason why Sweden continues to be anti-Israel today: TT. The majority of its shares are in the hands of left-wing newspapers, and its reporters have a virtual monopoly on all ME-related news published in Sweden. What TT doesn’t want to say simply doesn’t get said, end of story.

9. Lesson for the future
The anti-Israel lobby is learning quickly from its mistakes. We will probably never see another media onslaught against Israel being tainted with anti-Semitism. Not because this isn’t a major driving force behind much of the Swedish anti-Israel sentiment – it largely is – but because they have learned that this (1) galvanised the pro-Israel effort against them, and (2) it galvanised a strong and public stance against anti-Semitism by the Swedish government and the country’s citizens. The anti-Israel lobby had made the mistake of using the two weapons together, and the result was that in response, the fight against anti-Semitism also focused attention on the fight against anti-Israel propaganda. The pro-Palestinian lobby will not repeat this mistake again.
So if you’re in the Israel advocacy business, don’t wait for the anti-Semitic card to be played again. It won’t. Instead there will be a massive, very slick, very cohesive drive focusing solely on the “illegitimacy” of Israel. It will be mounted within the next 2 to 3 years.

10. Gaza
At the time of writing (December 2005) the withdrawal from Gaza has created a real, lasting problem for the anti-Israel lobby. They are recovering, however, and the thrust of the new campaign which is in its infancy is the illegitimacy of Israel in the first place.

Totalitarian control of the media in Sweden

Saturday, December 17th, 2005

Stalin’s totalitarian heritage is alive and well – in Sweden.

On Wednesday 14 December 2005 the Jerusalem Post broke the remarkable story that the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, Björn von Sydow, had announced that all bilateral interparliamentary contacts with the Iranian Parliament had been cut the previous day. This was in the wake of increasingly strident anti-Semitic public statements by Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his ever more frequent calls for the destruction of a fellow UN member state, to wit, Israel.

The Jerusalem Post headline read: “Exclusive: Sweden to cut Iran ties”. Jerusalem is less than five hours flying time from Stockholm, and a mere nanosecond away from the domestic Swedish news wires that should have been clamouring for the story.

Sweden’s censored media
But the story never made it to the papers in Sweden. The reason: Sweden’s only surviving monopoly – we’re talking December 2005 – is TT (Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå), a monolithic ‘news’ organisation ostensibly along the lines of Reuters or AFP, but with one significant difference: it pursues an avowed anti-Israel, anti-American policy line. So what should have been a news item of vital importance about Sweden’s foreign policy in a key international arena was simply quelled by TT. It did not fit in with TT’s agenda of continuous vilification of Israel. Nine million Swedes were held hostage by an organisation with a shadowy agenda that is increasingly emerging as a parallel force in shaping the Swedish psyche and Swedish foreign policy.

Deliberate deception
TT’s Middle East desk is staffed by journalists with a highly prejudiced, preconceived goal, journalists whose end-game shapes the news that is allowed to filter through to the paying Swedish public.

It is rather telling that the only Swedish newspaper to carry the story a day later was “Dagen”, a Christian newspaper that prides itself on upholding the principles of professional journalism – a story is a story on the merits of it being a story, nothing else.

No other Swedish paper was able to carry the story, because Dagen is one of the few Swedish dailies that does not take all its Middle East input from TT but instead has its own freelance reporter in the region.

TT’s media crimes
TT’s media crimes are legion: 19-year-old Palestinians shot dead by the IDF while using guns or bombs are routinely labelled “children”, while Israeli children such as the five Hatuel children who were executed from a distance of a metre with a bullet each to the head while strapped into the child seats of their car – are labelled “settlers”. Palestinians who deliberately target and kill Israeli civilians are labelled “activists” while Israelis living on the West Bank are labelled “right-wing religious extremists”, even if they’re just on their way to school or work. Israel’s attacks against specific terrorists are termed “targeted murder”, while Palestinian homicide bombings that cause wanton death and destruction among Israeli civilians are termed “actions”, “attacks” or simply “explosions”. On 10 September 2002 TT described the typical Palestinian homicide bomber as “a suffering refugee camp resident … who ends the miserable life Israel has forced upon him in a final defiant fireworks display”. Yes, this is a correct translation – TT refers to wanton homicide bombings against civilians as “fireworks”.

On 26 October this year TT referred to Israel as “the Zionist regime”. The West Bank and Gaza are routinely referred to as “Palestine”.

Systematic misrepresentation of facts
TT routinely mistranslates documents – even documents that are official, openly available and easily verifiable. On 15 October this year, for instance, TT listed the USA’s four demands on Syria’s Baath regime, quoting The Times of Britain as its source. But whereas The Times gave all four demands in their entirety, TT deleted the one which required Syria to end support for Palestinian terror groups, and instead simply divided the first demand into two separate points, to maintain the image of four separate demands.

A few days earlier, on 12 October 2005, TT published a telegram where the following text regarding the Palestinian population was printed (direct translation from TT’s original wording):

900,000 of the population are refugees, or descendants of refugees, who were driven out of their homes when the State of Israel was formed in 1948.”

However, the above telegram was in its turn a direct Swedish translation from an English text by AFP, but with certain key elements altered by TT. The original AFP telegram reads:

Around 900,000 of the population are refugees who were expelled or left their homes after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and their children.”

No mention of anyone leaving their homes. The bold-type emphasis is mine; it underscores the difference between journalism and the sort of material that TT routinely disseminates to the paying Swedish public.

Little Middle East news gets past the TT censor. The free media – that is, the media outside Sweden – might want to take a close look at TT. Because the way things are, totalitarianism is alive and well in Sweden – the last bastion of monopolistic news censorship in an otherwise free-market economy.