14 year-old boy on anti-Semitism in Sweden:

I’m not free to wear my Star of David

I’m afraid every time I’m alone in the city. Just because I’m Jewish, I’m constantly attacked by racist guys with roots in the Arab countries Journalists such as Helle Klein in Aftonbladet deny that the hate that I experience almost every week even exists As a young Jew, I want to treat others and be treated with respect.

These are the words of fourteen-year old Nadav Meyer in Swedish daily Expressen on 29 January 2004.

I am Jewish, 14 years old and born in Gothenburg. And I’m afraid every time I’m on my own in the centre of town – on my way to school, sports training, friends.

I’m afraid because I am often threatened. I am threatened and attacked and have even been thrown off buses because I wear my Magen David, my Star of David, which shows that I am Jewish.

The people doing these things to me are always (with one single exception) young Muslim or Arab guys with roots in the Middle East. I don’t know if they were born there or here. It’s never adults, and never girls; always young guys.

They feel that because of the conflict far away in the Middle East between the Jewish state of Israel and a whole bunch of Arab/Muslim states, especially the Palestinians, it is therefore OK to attack a Jew on the other side of the world – me. For them, I represent everything they hate about Israel and Israelis. They’ve said it to me time after time.

I just walk away when they start, because I don’t want to be involved in any trouble. They swear, push, shove and hit, but I always walk away. Once, when I was hit twice by two guys, I hit one of them hard in the face. His face started bleeding and I took the chance to run off. But I don’t want to fight. They never ask me what I think about the politics of Israel. In any case, I’m entitled to think what I like, but they never even ask.

It’s always the same: “Pity Hitler didn’t finish off the job properly, you bloody Jews don’t have the right to breathe the same air as real people, we’ll finish off the job Hitler started” and so on. But just think if I did the same? If I started insulting and beating up Arabs or Muslims on the street just because I don’t like what a Muslim Arab named Osama bin Laden did in the USA, or what Saddam Hussein did to the Kurds? That’s ridiculous.

I still wear my Magen David openly. I’ve always worn it since I was little. Christians often wear a crucifix around their necks. Sikh men wear a turban, Hindu ladies sometimes have a bright red spot on the forehead, Muslim ladies often wear a veil. How can any of this be a problem to anyone? I think it’s great to see so many different styles and colours.

I would like the newspapers to stop writing so much, and above all so aggressively, about Israel. Israel is not the only place in the world where there are problems, although you could easily get that impression judging by the huge number of aggressive articles that are written about Israel. But they never write in an aggressive way about other countries with big problems. The guys who attack me don’t understand the difference between a Jew and an Israeli. If the newspapers keep writing in this aggressive way about everything that Israel does, and never ever write anything negative about any Arab country, it’s really quite understandable that these people are going to see me as their enemy. All they ever hear is negative things. Why should they treat me any differently?

I saw one example of this on Monday 26 January, the morning after I appeared on Swedish TV2 in “Agenda”, where I was interviewed about the anti-Semitic things that have happened to me. On Monday, a journalist called Helle Klein who writes in Aftonbladet, wrote “thankfully, there is nothing to suggest that … Jews are harassed by Muslims everywhere – in schools, on the streets, on the subways”. But just the very evening before, on TV, I had talked about exactly these things, about these exact same places. When we visited Stockholm last autumn, I was attacked on the subway because I was wearing my Magen David. My father tried to talk to the guy, who was about 17-18. My dad tried to calm him down and put out his hand to shake hands, saying adults shouldn’t behave in this way. But the guy just stared at him, he was really insulted, and he shouted “Are you mad? I don’t shake hands with any **** Jews!” Nobody on the train said anything. We got off.

The police, who have been really nice and kind when I reported these incidents, say I should hide my Magen David to avoid making trouble. But just think if the problem wasn’t that I was Jewish, but that I was black? I mean, there are lots of idiot racists who hate black people just because they are black. Would the police tell me to hide my black skin just to avoid making trouble? That means we wouldn’t see any black people on the streets – that’s just sick.

Everyone agrees that Nazis are racists. In Sweden, everyone protests loudly against Nazis, but they are quiet when Muslim or Arab racists say and do exactly the same things against Jews. Nobody wants to be accused of being against Muslims, so they stay quiet. I am not against Muslims or any other minorities. My father grew up as part of a small Jewish minority in India, among Muslims and Hindus. He never had any problems there. My mother’s mother was her family’s only survivor after Hitler finished with his terror of Europe’s Jewish minority. She survived Ravensbruck and Auschwitz. In my family we know what it is like to be part of a minority.

Here in Sweden, I’ve never ever heard of any Jew walking up to people in the street and threatening them or beating them up just because they are Muslims or Arabs. I think that is because we Jews grew up with the feeling that it is always difficult to be in a minority, so we must always show respect to all other people. I would like to talk to people, instead of having to protect myself from them. In my family this is called showing respect.