Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sweden for the Swedes

The appearance in a Swedish newspaper this week of a blatantly antisemitic article (posing as anti-Israel news) should come as no surprise. Sweden has been a source of both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiment for some time.

The article in question claims the IDF has kidnapped and stolen organs from Palestinians. While we can take some comfort in an immediate rebuttal from a competing Swedish newspaper, the invocation of the ancient blood libel is disturbing to say the least. But, as a I said, not surprising.
An article in Haaretz (reprinted here) from 2004 revealed that many Swedes now publicly hide their Jewish identities for fear of verbal and physical abuse. One "does not dream of walking down the street while wearing a skullcap, Star of David or T-shirt with Hebrew on it." In 2002, 131 antisemitic incidents were recorded against a community of only 18,000 Jews. Many suspect the bulk of abuse comes from members of Sweden's 400,000 strong Muslim community. Nevertheless, leftist academic and literary attacks against the Jewish state continue often mingled with traditional antisemtic terminology and imagery.

A 2006 Swedish study, 'Anti-Semitic attitudes and perceptions', a joint project between the National Council for Crime Prevention and the Forum for Living History, revealed that 26% of Swedes believe that there is a 'Jewish influence' over the world's economy, and 15% say that influence to be 'too great'. The study also showed that 14% believed that Jews exploit the Holocaust for political or economic purposes.

Sweden is also the home of an antisemitic writer named Jöran Jermas who for several years has been posing as an Israeli-Russian writer named 'Israel Shamir.' As 'Shamir' Jermas pretends to disclose deep, dark secrets of Judaism and Israel. His work is so virulent that even some Palestinian representtives - Ali Abunimah, a media critic on the Electronic Intifada website, and Hussein Ibish, press spokesman of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) - have distanced themselves from his support, identifying him as a Jew-hater.

The source of much antisemitic (posing as anti-Zionist) discourse are Sweden's influential Left Party and members of the leading Social Democrats who have, in the past, called for the expulsion of Israel's ambassador to Sweden.

Last week, NGO Monitor revealed that both the Swedish government and Sweden-based Non-Governmental agencies have been funding anti-Israel activities within Israel. NGO Monitor "examined over 20 major NGOs funded through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Diakonia, the multi-national NGO Development Center (NDC), and the Swedish Mission Council (SMR)." According to Gerald M. Steinberg, NGO Monitor head and professor of political science at Bar Ilan University, "many of these NGOs routinely accuse Israel of "genocide," "ethnic cleansing," and "apartheid," and some compare Israeli military and political officials to Nazis. This propaganda warfare is waged through the façade of "research" reports which routinely quote Palestinian "testimonies," taken and repeated without question."

This intrusion into the political affairs of another state seems to me to be at the very least, inappropriate. But, of course, it's business as usual for Israel. I've said in the past that I'm reluctant to accuse anyone of Jew-hatred. Except when it is.

An Irving Layton poem comes to mind:


Gray-haired, soft-spoken, and her blue eye bright,
No, she's not your graceless anti-semite;
For while decrying them does she not use
That nice word Israelites instead of Jews?

UPDATE, Aug. 25, 2009: Much to the chagrin of the Swedish government, this story doesn't look like it's disappearing anytime soon. Here are a few articles and blog posts well worth reading.

Yaacov Lozowick, no stranger to the subject as the former director of the Yad Vashem archives, writes on Swedish antisemitism here.

This Op-ed, 'Abusing Freedom of Speech', by Michelle Mazel, wife of former Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Tzvi Mazel, is a must-read.

No surprises here. The family of one of the Palestinian 'victims' says "We didn't say organs taken...The mother denied that she had told any foreign journalist that her son's organs had been stolen." Khaled Abu Toameh of Jerusalem Post spoke with the family and reports here.