The following article was first published as an op-ed in Arutz Sheva, Israel National News, and is reprinted here with kind permission from them. The article is in the form of an interview conducted by Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
The article should be read against the background of a pro-Israel manifestation being held in Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden on Sunday 2nd September at 1 pm. A parallel manifestation is being held in the Swedish capital Stockholm.
Interview series: Ilya Meyer, of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association: “The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a travel warning advising Jews not to travel to Malmö for fear of being attacked”.
“There are no official calls by the Swedish government to discriminate against Israel. The current cabinet, a coalition of conservative, liberal and centrist parties, formally adopts a neutral position in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“This has to be qualified with insight into the distinct Swedish psyche. Swedes are often characterized by two traits: distaste for conflict and total dedication to an all-consuming need for consensus – irrespective of the principles or rights and wrongs of the case. In the Swedish mindset, it is better to preserve consensus and adopt an inappropriate decision than to contradict the majority and insist on an appropriate one, even if this opposition is morally justified.”
Ilya Meyer is Vice-Chair of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association, West Sweden branch. He is former Chair of the Board of Information of the Gothenburg Jewish Community. He blogs at www.ilyameyer.com.
Meyer observes: “Another consideration must be added: Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who belongs to the Moderates (Conservatives), the coalition’s largest party, has exhibited a consistent rabid anti-Israel position. He is widely regarded in Sweden as a political opportunist and seems to have international ambitions.
“Bildt often serves the interests of Arab and other Muslim countries. He may need their votes to be elected to an important position abroad. Bildt seems to be convinced that overt anti-Israelism will enhance his chances of personal advancement more than allegiance to principle. One example was his visit to Turkey after the illegal attempt by the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara to break the Israel-imposed blockade of the Hamas enclave in Gaza in 2010.
“Bildt ensured he was photographed together with the vessel’s Swedish and Islamist militant activists. Analysts regarded it as rather incongruous for a Moderate Swedish MP to rub shoulders with extreme leftists. They failed to factor in Bildt’s ambitions and his animosity toward Israel.
“Another Moderate politician of similar thinking is Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development and Cooperation. She claimed that ‘Israel destroys EU-funded Palestinian infrastructure.’ Carlsson avoids mentioning why Israel is put in the position of responding to repeated Arab attacks from that infrastructure. She makes no demands on Palestinians to stop using EU-funded infrastructure for staging attacks on Israel.
“Carlsson’s approach appears to be that whatever the Arabs do, Israel’s foremost obligation is to protect Palestinians from the consequences of their own criminal actions. Like many Swedes in leading political and media positions, she does not realize that denying that Palestinian Arabs can be responsible for their actions is inherently racist.
“Labor is Sweden’s main left wing opposition party. The others are the Green Party and the Communist Party – the latter recently rebranded the Left Party in a bid to boost its respectability. All three are vociferous in their constant criticism of the State of Israel. They are outspoken in their desire to officially recognize the State of Palestine should they come to power.
“Labor’s gray eminence Pierre Schori was a protégé of the Israel-bashing Prime Minister Olof Palme. He consistently sings the praises of both Fidel Castro – calling him “one of the greatest leaders in contemporary history” – and Hamas Islamist leader Ismail Haniyeh. In 2009, Schori drew up a five-point plan which demanded punishing international sanctions against Israel. He did not propose any action whatsoever regarding Hamas for its role in firing thousands of missiles into civilian population centers in southern Israel.
“The left-wing opposition finds itself with the strangest of bedfellows: Moderate hardliners like Bildt, fanatic Islamists working to spread Sharia in Sweden, neo-Nazi groups that hate Jews and Muslims with equal fervor, and anarchist fringe groups. They all unite against Israel.
“In a league apart is Ilmar Reepalu, the populist Labor Mayor of Sweden’s third largest city Malmö, where Muslim immigrants are a large minority. In 2009, a Davis Cup tennismatch between Sweden and Israel was scheduled there. Reepalu tried to prohibit thematch. When he failed, he issued a decree that no spectators should attend.
“Reepalu has made frequent anti-Semitic statements. This has prompted the Simon Wiesenthal Center to issue a travel warning advising Jews not to travel to Malmö for fear of being attacked. Moreover, President Obama’s special envoy on anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal recently paid a visit to an unrepentant Reepalu to persuade him to abandon or at least moderate his stance.
“There is one political party in Parliament on which all the others have imposed a kind of unofficial boycott: the Sweden Democrats (SD). SD is against mass immigration, primarily from Muslim countries. It is also against circumcision, which impacts both Jews and Muslims. SD is also against kosher slaughter, which is not allowed in Sweden, but SD even wants to prohibit the import of kosher meat, which has clearly anti-Semitic overtones.”
Meyer concludes: “In the media, some churches, state-subsidized NGOs and other parts of the Swedish cultural elite, there are many Israel bashers. Unfortunately, the politicized leadership of the Lutheran Church is particularly virulent in this respect. However, among government coalition parliamentarians, there are a number of Israel supporters. Without them, Swedish Jewry would be in dire straits.”