* Shots also fired at Oslo synagogue
* Election results in Sweden herald fall of one of Europes most anti-Israel governments
1. Four arrested in plot to kill Israeli ambassador to Norway
2. Two synagogues attacked in Russia hours before Jewish holiday
3. Nazi flag and salute in Lithuanian bar
4. Poland has its first native rabbi in 40 years
5. “Barely hidden joy in Jerusalem over Swedish election” (Jerusalem Post, Sept. 21, 2006)
This dispatch includes news on attacks and would-be attacks on Israelis and Jews in northern Europe in recent days, and a possible change in policies in Sweden, arguably the country which has had the most anti-Israeli government in Europe.
FOUR ARRESTED IN PLOT TO KILL ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO NORWAY
Norwegian authorities have arrested four men over a plot to decapitate the Israeli ambassador to Norway, Miriam Shomrat, and blow up the Israeli and American embassies in Oslo. The four could face jail terms of up to 12 years if convicted.
The suspects, two of Pakistani background, one of Turkish origin and a native Norwegian, are also charged with firing at least 10 shots from an automatic weapon at Oslo’s only synagogue last week, causing damage but no injuries. The youngest suspect, who is 26, is not an immigrant. Norwegian media report he is the son of a royal residence employee, and until May lived in the area of the royal residence.
Norway’s Jewish population, which numbers 7,000, has been the object of several attacks in recent months. Among other incidents, a person wearing a skull cap was attacked and a Jewish cemetery desecrated. The police have now greatly increased security around Jewish sites.
According to a Norwegian Jewish journalist, such acts were legitimized by the anti-Israel atmosphere following the Lebanon war and by a letter sent by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder*, prophesying a flood of biblical proportions engulfing Israel, and saying that “the first Zionist terrorists started operating in the days of Jesus.”
Norway was the target of Islamic rage earlier this year after a Norwegian publication became the first to reprint the cartoons of Mohammed from a Danish newspaper, cartoons which many Muslims found highly offensive. About 75,000 Muslims live in the country, less than 2 percent of the population.
(* For more on “Sophie’s World” author Gaarder, please see the dispatch Firm with Nazi past buys 25% of Ha’aretz (& animals recover from Hizbullah), Aug. 21, 2006.)
TWO SYNAGOGUES ATTACKED IN RUSSIA HOURS BEFORE JEWISH HOLIDAY
Just hours before Jewish communities gathered to celebrate the Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year’s) holiday on Friday evening, two synagogues in Russia were attacked.
The windows of a synagogue in Khabarovsk, a city of 580,000 on the border with China, were shattered. And a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the second synagogue, in the Volga River city of Astrakhan in southern Russia, setting a door on fire.
Russia’s chief rabbi Berel Lazar (who is a subscriber to this email list) said that although the Jewish community was shocked by the attacks, “if those who attacked the synagogues expected to scare Jews on those holy days, they have been mistaken.”
According to Russian anti-racism groups, recent years have witnessed a rise in xenophobia and hate crimes, partly as a consequence of the authorities’ reluctance in prosecuting the perpetrators. Possibly in response to such criticism, Russian courts sentenced to 16 years in prison the man who stabbed nine people in a Moscow synagogue last January.
NAZI FLAG AND SALUTE IN LITHUANIA BAR
Last week, a bar in Kaunas, Lithuania, decided to celebrate its 10th anniversary by flying a Nazi flag and dressing one of its waiters as Adolph Hitler, who was then instructed to give the Nazi salute to its customers. According to a Lithuanian daily, the bar also celebrates Hitler’s birthday.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, of the Wiesenthal Center (who is a subscriber to this list), expressed his outrage and called for the prosecution of those responsible. The display of the Nazi flag did not come as a surprise, he said, since Lithuania has failed to prosecute and punish local Nazi war criminals and is a country in which those who facilitated the annihilation of its Jewish population are treated with undue sympathy and mercy.
In 2001, Dr. Zuroff handed the Lithuanian government a list of 97 names of suspected Nazi collaborators. So far only three have stood trial for Holocaust-related crimes and none has received a sentence.
More than 220,000 Jews lived in Lithuania before WWII and the first mass murder of Jews during the war took place in Kaunas. Today, there are about 4,000 Jews remaining in the country.
POLAND HAS ITS FIRST NATIVE RABBI IN 40 YEARS
Poland’s Jewish community now has its first native Pole to serve as a rabbi since the fall of communism in 1989. Rabbi Mati Pawlak, 29, who had no idea he was Jewish for the first half of his life, is the first Pole to become a rabbi in 40 years and is being seen as an important symbol of hope for Poland’s Jewish community. Pawlak, from the town of Szczecin in northwestern Poland, didn’t learn until he was 14 that his family was Jewish. His mother only told him after communism fell and it became safer for Poles to admit that they were Jewish, even to their own families.
Since the end of communism, many other Poles have been told by their parents or grandparents that they are Jewish, and today there are estimated to be around 30,000 people identifying themselves as Jews in Poland. 90 percent of the 3.5 million Jews who lived there before WWII were murdered by the Nazis.
Three other rabbis an American, an Israeli and a Swede of Polish origin have also recently begun working in Poland, pushing up the number nationwide from three to seven the highest in 50 years.
Last week, Germany’s Jewish community also had its first three rabbis ordained since the Holocaust.
ISRAEL WARMLY WELCOMES SWEDISH ELECTION RESULT
Israeli government officials welcomed the defeat of Sweden’s Social Democratic government at last week’s elections, saying they hope it will end an “unabashedly pro-Arab, anti-Israeli” position. Sweden's center-right opposition alliance claimed victory in the elections, ending 12 years of Social Democrat rule. Israeli officials say that Sweden has been more critical of Israel than any other European country and that the election of a center-right government will change things.
For more on Swedish hostility to Jews and Israel, see the article below, as well as the following dispatches. In the first of these dispatches, we are reminded of how the Swedish government defended an exhibit glorifying the suicide bomber of a Haifa restaurant. That bomber killed 23 people.
* Sweden 1: The killer as Snow White (Jan. 19, 2004).
* Sweden 2: The ambassador and the artist debate live on radio (Jan. 19, 2004).
* Sweden 3: Suicide posters removed from subway stations (Jan. 22, 2004).
-- Tom Gross
“THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS WENT THAT EXTRA MILE IN THEIR CRITICISM OF ISRAEL”
Barely hidden joy in Jerusalem over Swedish election
By Herb Keinon
The Jerusalem Post
September 21, 2006
Nobody will admit it formally, but a few government officials in Jerusalem are dancing a jig over the defeat Sunday of Sweden’s Social Democratic government.
For years, said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Stockholm, the Swedish Social Democratic government has promoted an unabashedly “pro-Arab, anti-Israeli” position.
Mazel said that the center-right parties, headed by 41-year-old prime minister designate Fredrik Reinfeld, who ousted Prime Minister Goran Persson, made supportive comments about Israel while in the opposition.
“We had good relations with them in the past, and hope it will continue,” Mazel said.
Mazel who in 2004 wrecked a display at the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm that glorified a suicide bomber said that Sweden has for years been among the most critical countries in the EU towards Israel, along with Ireland and France.
He said that the new government was likely to bring Sweden’s Middle East policy from the far left into the center in the EU, and that he believed the new government’s public declarations about Israel and the Middle East would be far less critical.
Mazel’s optimism was shared by Gunnar Hokmark, a Swedish member of the European parliament from one of the central-right Swedish parties. Hokmark, chairman of the Israel-Swedish Friendship League, said from Brussels that he thought the new government would “chart a more balanced policy,” toward Israel.
According to Hokmark, the new government was likely to “be more focused on the support for democracy development in the Middle East.”
Although foreign policy played almost no role in the elections, Hokmark said Reinfeld had made some comments in the campaign for the need for stable regimes in Syria and Lebanon.
One senior official in Jerusalem said that although it was hard to say whether there would be a dramatic change in Stockholm’s policies, “there is definitely an opportunity now to turn a new page. The social democrats went that extra mile in their criticism of Israel,” the official said. Over the last few years, he added, Sweden has distinguished itself in being more critical of Israel than about any other European country.
Among the major Israeli-Swedish diplomatic brickbats over the last four years were the following:
In May, Sweden broke ranks with the European Union and issued a visa to a Hamas minister, enraging Jerusalem and causing discomfort in some other European capitals.
In April, Israel protested Sweden’s decision to drop out of an international air force exercise because Israel was involved. Persson told reporters at the time that Sweden withdrew from the exercise in Italy because “we are careful about joining exercises with countries that we won’t cooperate with in international missions under UN or EU mandates,” he said.
“That’s our principle... that’s our history. The Israelis have another, more warlike, history, which I find regrettable for that matter.”
In June 2004, visiting Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds took Israel to task for alleged violations of international law, saying Sweden’s younger generation gets very upset when it sees these violations on television.
In 2003, Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was later assassinated, said at an award ceremony in Sweden for Hanan Ashrawi that “I fear that the Palestinian people soon will lose all hope of an independent state, and that Israel will lose its moral values. Israel is a democracy balancing on a thin line,” she said.
In August 2002, after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a report on the IDF’s operations in the Jenin refugee camp that cleared Israel of Palestinian charges of a massacre in the camp, Lindh released a press statement taking issue with the conclusions. “Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the UN has meant that a full and comprehensive report has not been possible to produce,” she said. “The report shows that serious crimes against humanitarian law have occurred.”
In May 2002, Lindh a frequent critic of former prime minister Ariel Sharon said in a Swedish media interview that her goal was that “Israeli citizens will turn against the military polices of Sharon.” She said “Israel’s government has chosen a course of action that risks placing the country outside of the rest of the world community.”