Sweden 4: “The Crucifixion of Arafat”; Jews afraid to be Jews

February 18, 2004

CONTENTS

1. Ha'aretz: "Sweden's 18,000 Jews are afraid to say they are Jewish"
2. Headline in Sweden's best-selling newspaper: "The Crucifixion of Arafat"
3. Socialist Party newspaper in Ukraine: "400,000 Jewish SS invaded Ukraine along with German troops during World War II"
4. Swastikas painted on graves of Jews massacred in Bloody Sunday (1905) in St Petersburg, Russia
5. Prominent British Jews targeted by Muslims and the far Right



[Note by Tom Gross]

This is a follow-up to the three dispatches in January on Sweden, and to dispatches in the last three years on Russia, Ukraine and Britain. I attach four articles from recent days, with summaries first for those who don't have time to read them in full.

SUMMARIES

1. "Vandals Daub Swastikas, Slogans on Jewish Graves" (St Petersburg Times, Russia, February 17, 2004). "About 50 Jewish graves were defaced with fascist signs. Unknown vandals painted swastikas on all the graves and wrote racist graffiti on some, including "Yids Get Out of Here! The cemetery, which in the 19th century was exclusively Jewish and the largest burial site for Jews in the city, had suffered separate acts of vandalism before, but it never witnessed such a massive act, " Mark Grubarg, head of St. Petersburg's Jewish Religious Community. "We are in shock," said. The cemetery also contains the graves of many people shot on so-called Bloody Sunday in 1905. "Any nation is sensitive to acts of vandalism at cemeteries, but Jews are especially vulnerable to them," Grubarg said. When he went to the cemetery on Monday the scene reminded him "of the early years of fascist Germany, where the genocide started exactly the same way," Grubarg said.

2. "Opposition parties face dilemma pitting free press vs. anti-Semitism" (Agence France-Presse, Kiev, Feb. 15, 2004). "Ukraine's liberal and socialist opposition is in the center of a political storm after leaping to the defense of a newspaper ordered to shut down by a Kiev court for publishing anti-Semitic articles... The Silski Visti newspaper, which has a circulation of more than 500,000 and is affiliated with the opposition Socialist Party, published two articles by professor Vasil Yaramenko, accusing Jews of having organized the great Ukraine famine of 1933 that killed millions of people, and that "400,000 Jewish SS" invaded Ukraine along with German troops during World War II... The discontent escalated when all three opposition parties - including the liberals - rose to Silski Visti's defense. Jewish community leaders said they were stunned by the opposition's position."

3. "Jews in Sweden are afraid to be known as Jews" (By Amiram Barkat, Ha'aretz, February 10, 2004). "Daniel Schechner, a 21-year-old law student from Stockholm, makes sure to conceal even the slightest hint of his Jewishness when he goes out in public... He uses his non-Jewish last name, which he asks the reporter not to print. He does not dream of walking down the street while wearing a skullcap, and when he went to Israel, he told people that he went to another country.

...Schechner says that when he and his friends speak about "Jewish" subjects like synagogue or kashruth, they use code words... Schechner, whose grandfather came to Sweden at the beginning of the 20th century, says that until three years ago, he was deeply rooted in Swedish society, but is not so sure anymore that Jews have a future in the country... "But I have an even harder time with the unwillingness that I feel from the Swedish establishment to deal with the roots of the hatred that is directed at the Jews living here."

...Mikael Tossavainen said "If people see a Jew they react, usually with verbal violence and on rare occasions physical assault, as well." Anders Carlberg said that Swedish Jews are seeing an old behavioral code that has reappeared. "The Jews only began to be proud of their Jewishness in the 1980s, at which time Swedish society went through a process of openness to multiculturalism," he says, "but things have changed in the past two years, and now a lot of people once again prefer not to be so up front about their Jewishness."

...Officials in the Swedish Jewish community emphasize that they consider only a small percentage of Sweden's 400,000 Muslim immigrants to be a threat... Tossavainen conducted with about 20 school teachers in Stockholm, Malmo and Goteborg. Most interviewees complained that they met opposition from some of their Muslim students when they tried to give lessons about Jewish or the Holocaust.

...Carlberg and Posner-Koeroesi claimed that "as a result of the one-sided reports in the Swedish media about what is happening in the Middle East, there has been a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic expressions in Swedish society." ...One prominent example is the headline "The Crucifixion of Arafat" given to an editorial that appeared in Aftonbladet, the most widely circulated newspaper in Sweden, on the eve of Easter 2003, while Operation Defensive Shield was underway.

...[After] last month's incident in which Israeli ambassador Zvi Mazel damaged the "Snow White and the Madness of Truth" installation at the historical museum of Stockholm, a commentator in another important newspaper, Dagens, wrote that the ambassador's actions were inspired by the "God of Vengeance of the Old Testament."

4. "U.K. Prominent Jews targeted by Muslims and the far Right" (By Rajeev Syal, Sunday Telegraph, February 15, 2004). "Prominent Jews in Britain are being targeted in a wave of anti-Semitic harassment by far-Right and Islamic fundamentalist organisations. The home of Lord Triesman, the former general secretary of the Labour party, has been attacked by Combat 18, the neo-Nazi group. Uri Geller, the Israeli television personality, and Barbara Roche, the former Labour minister, have been the victims of graffiti and hate mail.

"...Combat 18, the banned neo-Nazi terror group, has orchestrated a 14-month campaign of terror against Lord Triesman of Tottenham. His windows have been broken and his walls daubed with swastikas in 12 separate attacks. The problem became so bad that he was advised by Special Branch to erect a 10ft fence around his home in Dartmouth Park, north London. [Tom Gross adds: Will the International Court of Justice in the Hague rule on this fence?]

"...Uri Geller, 57, the Israeli-born exponent of mind over matter, was shocked to discover the word "Jew" painted on a fence at his home in Sonning, Berkshire, last Thursday. He said that his family had been subjected to a three-year campaign of intimidation including hate mail, silent telephone calls and stalkers, but this was the first time that graffiti had been painted on his property. "It is a real shock to be confronted with the word 'Jew' being used as an insult. It is a sickening feeling," he said.

"An opinion poll last month in Britain found that one in five Britons would oppose a Jewish prime minister, while one in seven believed that the Holocaust was exaggerated."

 



ARTICLES IN FULL

VANDALS DAUB SWASTIKAS, SLOGANS ON JEWISH GRAVES

Vandals Daub Swastikas, Slogans on Jewish Graves
By Irina Titova
St Petersburg Times, Russia
February 17, 2004

www.sptimesrussia.com/archive/times/944/news/n_11702.htm

About 50 Jewish graves were defaced with fascist signs and slogans at the city's Jan. 9 Cemetery on Saturday night.

Unknown vandals painted swastikas on all the graves and wrote racist graffiti on some, including "Yids Get Out of Here!," said Mark Grubarg, head of St. Petersburg's Jewish Religious Community. "We are in shock," he said.

The cemetery, which in the 19th century was exclusively Jewish and the largest burial site for Jews in the city, had suffered separate acts of vandalism before, but it never witnessed such a massive act, Grubarg said.

The cemetery also contains the graves of many people shot on so-called Bloody Sunday in 1905, many of whom were Gentiles and are buried separately from the Jews.

"Any nation is sensitive to acts of vandalism at cemeteries, but Jews are especially vulnerable to them," Grubarg said, "especially, when it concerns fascist signs, which Jewish people have terrible memories of."

When he went to the cemetery on Monday the scene reminded him "of the early years of fascist Germany, where the genocide started exactly the same way," Grubarg said.

The vandalism was committed only a few days after a group of teenagers brutally murdered a nine-year-old Tajik girl in St. Petersburg. The slaying caused a wave of indignation in the city and across Russia. No one had been arrested for the murder Monday.

Grubarg said racially motivated vandalism in St. Petersburg had recently became more frequent. It seemed to be all directed to destabilize the situation in the city and the country on the eve of the presidential elections, he added.

"It's obvious to anyone that acts of nationalism in a multi-national country like Russia may have very negative consequences, and President Vladimir Putin always is always warning about that," he said.

"Our society should do everything possible to nip such things in the bud," he added. "We don't know who did that to the Jewish cemetery or if it was skinheads, but if it was them then it's obvious that those young boys are just toys in the hands of adult people, who are interested in damaging Russia."

The city prosecutor's office has opened a criminal case over the vandalism.

 

OPPOSITION PARTIES FACE DILEMNA PITTING FREE PRESS VS. ANTI-SEMITISM

Opposition parties face dilemma pitting free press vs. anti-Semitism
By Sylvie Briand
Agence France-Presse, Kiev
February 15, 2004

Ukraine's liberal and socialist opposition is in the center of a political storm after leaping to the defense of a newspaper ordered to shut down by a Kiev court for publishing anti-Semitic articles.

The incident highlights the tenuous position of the Jews in Eastern Europe after decades of repression, with undercurrents of anti-Semitism still running strong.

The Silski Visti newspaper, which has a circulation of more than 500,000 and is affiliated with the opposition Socialist Party, is being sued by the International Antifascist Committee for "encouraging racial hatred," because it published two articles by professor Vasil Yaramenko.

The author accused Jews of having organized the great Ukraine famine of 1933 that killed millions of people, and which historians blame on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. He also claimed that Jewish agents made up 99 percent of the NKVD political police (later known as the KGB), which he said killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s and was run by a Stalin crony. Mr. Yaramenko went even further, claiming that "400,000 Jewish SS" invaded Ukraine along with German troops during World War II.

For good measure, he attacked "Zionist oligarchs" (tycoons), including Viktor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

The discontent escalated when all three opposition parties - including the liberals - rose to Silski Visti's defense.

The parties - the blocs headed by presidential hopefuls Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Timoshenko, and Olexander Moroz's Socialist Party - claimed the decision to shut down the paper was a ploy by the Kuchma administration to influence the next presidential election, scheduled for October.

Liberal political commentators and Jewish community leaders said they were stunned by the opposition's position.

In an article published in the opposition online daily Ukraynskaya Pravda, former Soviet dissident Volodymyr Malinkovich said the parties' behavior pointed to a "problem with democracy" in the former Soviet republic.

"Silski Visti is a tendentious newspaper that publishes gross, provocative articles when asked to. The opposition, which views itself as democratic, should be ashamed of its solidarity with this kind of press," Mr. Malinkovich wrote.

Eduard Dolinsky, deputy head of Ukraine's Jewish community council, said the shutdown of Silski Visti was "a great victory, something unique in Ukraine" - a country where anti-Semitic propaganda is freely available in most bookstores.

"For years, this newspaper has disseminated its hateful propaganda. And the opposition has completely discredited itself," Mr. Dolinsky said.

In what looked like a damage control, Mr. Yushchenko, whose own father was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Germans during World War II, eventually backtracked, saying Silski Visti should "apologize to those who were offended by the articles it published." The paper so far has refused to do so.

However, some opposition deputies were unrepentant.

"This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism," said Socialist Party deputy leader Ivan Boky.

"Mr. Yaromenko is a researcher who writes on complex historical issues. Saying that Jewish bankers reduced Ukrainians to utter poverty is a fact, not racial hatred," Mr. Boky said.

"It is not the first time that the presidential administration has been trying to close this newspaper down," he added.

By issuing such comments, the Ukrainian opposition is harming its own credibility, said former dissident Mr. Malinkovich.

"Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party are shooting themselves in the foot in order to appeal to nationalistic, poor voters who are looking for scapegoats," he said.

 

JEWS IN SWEDEN ARE AFRAID TO BE KNOWN AS JEWS

Jews in Sweden are afraid to be known as Jews
By Amiram Barkat
Ha'aretz
February 10,2004

Daniel Schechner, a 21-year-old law student from Stockholm, makes sure to conceal even the slightest hint of his Jewishness when he goes out in public.

When he says that he lives a double identity, he means that at work, school and in the street he would not voluntarily reveal his religion. He uses his non-Jewish last name, which he asks the reporter not to print. He does not dream of walking down the street while wearing a skullcap, Star of David or T-shirt with Hebrew on it, and when he went to Israel, he told people that he went to another country.

Schechner says that when he and his friends speak about "Jewish" subjects like synagogue or kashruth, they use code words. Nevertheless, the camouflage doesn't always provide perfect protection. Schechner relates that not long ago, when he was standing in a subway car, he was approached by someone who looked like a homeless person, who asked him about the "Jewish situation."

"What do you want from me? I'm a Swede," Schechner replied. The only response was: "Treat the Palestinians nicely." Says Schechner: "Then he muttered something about my having a Jewish nose."

Schechner, whose grandfather came to Sweden at the beginning of the 20th century, says that until three years ago, he was deeply rooted in Swedish society, but is not so sure anymore that Jews have a future in the country.

"I have a hard time with the idea that there is anti-Semitism here," he says. "But I have an even harder time with the unwillingness that I feel from the Swedish establishment to deal with the roots of the hatred that is directed at the Jews living here."

An estimated 18,000 Jews live in Sweden. Some 5,500 of them are registered members of the Jewish community of Stockholm, 1,800 in the Goteborg community, and 1,200 in Malmo. The remainder does not belong to any community.

It is hard to see anti-Semitism in Sweden. A report by the EU's Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (the report which was at first shelved, and only publicized after a public outcry) mentions isolated cases of physical attacks on Jews. Study of the collection of reports for 2003 of Israel's Forum to Coordinate the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism shows that damage to Jewish property was also relatively slight - bottles throws at a synagogue or the daubing of swastikas in a Jewish cemetery.

Nevertheless, Jews living in Sweden says that they, their friends and a majority of the Jews that they know are taking extra precautions when they step out into the street. "Most of the crimes now being committed against Jews are impulsive," says researcher and member of the Jewish community, Mikael Tossavainen. "If people see a Jew they react, usually with verbal violence and on rare occasions physical assault, as well."

Anders Carlberg, president of the Jewish community of Goteborg, says that "when you arrive in a new and unfamiliar environment, you have to be cautious as regards your background; maybe there will be someone Muslim or from the extreme left." Carlberg says that Swedish Jews are seeing an old behavioral code that has reappeared. "The Jews only began to be proud of their Jewishness in the 1980s, at which time Swedish society went through a process of openness to multiculturalism," he says, "but things have changed in the past two years, and now a lot of people once again prefer not to be so up front about their Jewishness."

As Carlberg sees it, the modest number of physical attacks is evidence of the success of the low-profile policy, not an indication that the threat is not serious. "The fear of being attacked in the primary concern of Jews in Sweden today," he states. On the day after the conversation with Carlberg, his son and three of his friends were attacked in a restaurant in Malmo by a gang of Muslim youths, but were rescued without injury thanks to police intervention.

The Swedish secret services are the only organization in the country that conducts separate registration of incidents described as actions committed with an anti-Semitic background. In 2002, 131 incidents were recorded, but the vast majority was not directed against life and limb, but rather were expressed as threats, hate mail or minor property damage. The secret services do not divulge details about the identity of the suspects.

"I would not be surprised if it turned out that most of the attackers, maybe even 80 percent of them, were Muslims," says the president of the Stockholm Jewish community, Lena Posner-Koeroesi. Officials in the Swedish Jewish community emphasize that they consider only a small percentage of Sweden's 400,000 Muslim immigrants to be a threat.

Tossavainen says that the "risk groups" mainly comprise persons whose background includes one or more of the following traits: religious fanaticism, young age or country of origin in North Africa or elsewhere in the Arab world.

All of the appeals to government leaders in Sweden to take action against the phenomenon or at least to recognize its existence have as yet failed to produce any results. Politicians in the country are accustomed to treating anti-Semitism as part of a larger problem.

"Whenever officials here agree to do something about anti-Semitism, they always group it together with Islamophobia and homophobia," says Lena Posner-Koeroesi. "Personally, I'm not even clear on what Islamophobia is, and why it is different from ordinary xenophobia. But aside from that, I cannot understand this stubbornness to link the three phenomena together. In my opinion, each of these phenomena is unique and calls for a separate discussion."

"I'm not surprised that the Swedes are skeptical of the Jews' accusations," says Tossavainen. "They are simply disconnected from what is going on in the large Muslim communities in the suburbs." Last October, the Council Against Anti-Semitism in Sweden, a voluntary body set up in the `80s by former deputy prime minister Per Ahlmark, issued a report drafted by Tossavainen that surveyed anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrants, from a variety of angles.

Opposition to lessons on Holocaust

The report sparked numerous responses in the Swedish media, mainly about interviews that Tossavainen conducted with about 20 school teachers in Stockholm, Malmo and Goteborg. Most interviewees complained that they met opposition from some of their Muslim students when they tried to give lessons about Jewish or the Holocaust. "The teachers said that they had the impression that the children had absorbed their negative opinions of Jews at home, from other family members, or from watching Muslim media," says Tossavainen. He says he was surprised by the objections to the report voiced by Muslim public figures, most of whom admitted that there was a problem.

Some public figures, he says, justified the hatred of Jews. They were native Swedes. On October 20, the well thought of Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter ran an article by an Islamic studies scholar named Jan Samuelsson, who wrote that there was no reason to expect the Arabs to stop hating the Jews so long as the latter are occupying their lands. "Muslims who seek to take out their frustrations on Israel are met with understanding in Swedish society," says Carlberg. "The message they get here is that Israel is not an ordinary democratic or Western state; but that it is a problem."

Last year, Carlberg, Posner-Koeroesi and the heads of organizations engaged in Sweden-Israel relations and the struggle against anti-Semitism published a joint article in one of the major newspapers in Sweden, in which they claimed that "as a result of the one-sided reports in the Swedish media about what is happening in the Middle East, there has been a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic expressions in Swedish society."

Dr. Henrik Bachner of Lund University, who has researched anti-Semitism in Sweden for the past 20 years, says that the reports on Israel's actions in the territories do not create anti-Semitism, but do arouse and intensify latent anti-Semitism. "This is not a new type of anti-Semitism," says Bachner, "but an anti-Semitism in which the innovation is that it is coming from groups that are not considered here to be anti-Semitic. Regarding these groups, the framework of public discussion of what is happening in the Middle East is the only forum in which you can freely express anti-Jewish opinions, under the cover of criticism of Israel."

Bachner says that in most cases, criticism of Israel remains within the bounds of legitimate debate. Still, he feels that in some cases it is possible to spot signs of anti-Semitism intertwined in the criticism. The two primary criteria that he uses to locate these signs are the analogizing between Israel and the Nazis, and use of terminology drawn from Christian tradition. One prominent example of this second type is the headline "The Crucifixion of Arafat" given to an editorial that appeared in Aftonbladet, the most widely circulated newspaper in Sweden, on the eve of Easter 2003, while Operation Defensive Shield was underway.

The same attitude was expressed in regard to last month's incident in which Israeli ambassador Zvi Mazel damaged the "Snow White and the Madness of Truth" installation at the historical museum of Stockholm. Among the wave of reactions to the incident in the Swedish media, Bachner found a few examples that met his criteria. In one, a reaction by the retired Swedish diplomat Sverker Astrom, in an interview that appeared in the newspaper Svenska Dagenbladet, Astrom compared Israel's demand to remove the installation to the pressure exerted on Sweden by the Third Reich to censor expressions of anti-Nazism. Another reaction was an op-ed piece that appeared in another important newspaper, Dagens, in which commentator Peppe Engberg wrote that the ambassador's actions were inspired by the "God of Vengeance of the Old Testament."

The new development, in Bachner's opinion, is the reengagement in the myth of Jewish power, to a much greater extent than in the past. Specifically, there are claims made about the power of the "Jewish lobby," voiced, for example, in the context of the U.S. decision to go to war against Iraq.

"The most worrisome aspect of the phenomenon," says Bachner, "has to do with the engagement in anti-Semitism or in the Holocaust. There is now a large group of academics in Sweden who argue that the mere discussion of anti-Semitism is solely intended to serve the political interests of Israel." Bachner claims that the contentions of this group have in recent weeks been reinforced by Ambassador Mazel, who was quoted in interviews with the Swedish media held after the incident, as claiming that anti-Semitism is rampant in Sweden. "Many people who argue that the discussion of anti-Semitism is part of the Israeli strategy were very happy about Mazel's claims," says Bachner.

 

PROMINENT JEWS TARGETED BY MUSLIMS AND THE FAR RIGHT

Prominent Jews targeted by Muslims and the far Right
By Rajeev Syal
Sunday Telegraph
February 15, 2004

Prominent Jews in Britain are being targeted in a wave of anti-Semitic harassment by far-Right and Islamic fundamentalist organisations.

The home of Lord Triesman, the former general secretary of the Labour party, has been attacked by Combat 18, the neo-Nazi group. Uri Geller, the Israeli television personality, and Barbara Roche, the former Labour minister, have been the victims of graffiti and hate mail.

The incidents have emerged as police prepare to release figures this week showing that Britain saw a significant rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2003.

Mike Whine, the security spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said that the problem of prejudice directed towards Jews on the European mainland was spreading to Britain. "Tensions in the Middle East and the rise of far-Right activity have come together to produce a depressing increase in anti-Semitic activity," he said.

Mr Whine, who works closely with the police to monitor anti-Semitic attacks on synagogues and Jewish graves, said that extremist Islamic groups are behind many anti-Semitic incidents. "There is reliable evidence from the police to prove that an increasing number of incidents are committed by sympathisers of the Palestinians and Islamists.

"The promotion of anti-Semitism by the Arab media and by Islamist organisations worldwide is having a significant effect on the attitudes of Muslim communities around the world towards the Jews."

Combat 18, the banned neo-Nazi terror group, has orchestrated a 14-month campaign of terror against Lord Triesman of Tottenham. His windows have been broken and his walls daubed with swastikas in 12 separate attacks.

The problem became so bad that he was advised by Special Branch to erect a 10ft fence around his home in Dartmouth Park, north London. The fence was dismantled in December, however, because it fell foul of the planning rules of the Labour-run Camden borough council. Lord Triesman, 61, said that he was disturbed by the attacks, which he blamed on anti-Semitic sentiment.

"When a group like Combat 18 spray swastikas and slogans on your walls and brick your windows, it's evident what it's all about," he said. "My family was at home through a number of attacks and it was pretty grizzly. It has been a really bad time, horrendous, and no one should have to go through that."

He criticised Camden council for forcing him to take down the protective fence. "The fence has come down now. I am not happy about it at all. It was there because Special Branch advised it."

Lord Triesman was brought up in the north London Jewish community. Although he is not a practising Jew, police fear that his race was the reason for being targeted by Combat 18.

Mr Geller, 57, the Israeli-born exponent of mind over matter, was shocked to discover the word "Jew" painted on a fence at his home in Sonning, Berkshire, last Thursday. He said that his family had been subjected to a three-year campaign of intimidation including hate mail, silent telephone calls and stalkers, but this was the first time that graffiti had been painted on his property.

"It is a real shock to be confronted with the word 'Jew' being used as an insult. It is a sickening feeling," he said.

In November, Mrs Roche's office in Crouch End, north London, was daubed with swastikas for the third time in a year. The Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green said: "The use of Nazi symbols is abhorrent." Earlier this year, the far-Right British National Party tried to march in her constituency but was stopped after residents objected. In 2002, there were 350 recorded anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, according to the Board of Deputies - a rise of 13 per cent on the previous year. This year's rise, to be announced this week by the Board of Deputies, will show a small but significant increase in incidents that include name-calling, physical assaults and hate mail.

Gerry Gable, the publisher of Searchlight, the anti-fascist magazine, said that far-Right organisations such as Combat 18 were orchestrating campaigns on the internet against prominent Jews by circulating their names and addresses. "They believe they are participating in a race war," he said.

An ICM poll last month in Britain found that one in five Britons would oppose a Jewish prime minister, while one in seven believed that the Holocaust was exaggerated.

Abu Hamza, the hook-handed former cleric of Finsbury Park mosque, north London, was reported to the police yesterday for preaching alleged anti-Semitic comments about the Holocaust.

He is one of a number of extremist Islamic clerics who have been accused of encouraging anti-Semitic views among young Muslims.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.