After the latest Molotov cocktail attack on a kids’ Hanukkah party in Sweden, the NY Times finally wakes up

December 15, 2017

While hardly a day goes by without more anti-Semitism coming to light among Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters in the British Labour party, the Conservative prime minister Theresa May lit the 10 Downing Street Chanukiah (Menorah) to celebrate the first night of Chanukah on Tuesday, in solidarity with Britain’s Jewish community. (Photo from the Downing street’s Facebook page here.

She was one of a number of presidents and prime ministers throughout Europe who made similar gestures this week at a time of rising anti-Semitism on the continent.

Photo below: part of a trail of anti-Semitic graffiti stretching 400 meters along a canal towpath popular with joggers in London, England, between Paddington and Scrubs Lane.



Despite the impression that some western media have sought to give that there have been widespread protests against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the protests have for the most part been smaller than demonstrations that usually take place every week on all kinds of issues in the Arab world. (Indeed some journalists have privately admitted that there have been more western journalists and photographers present at some of the demonstrations about Jerusalem than there were actual demonstrators.)

Meanwhile, international media have hardly covered the thawing relations between some Arab countries and Israel since Trump’s announcement.

Photo above: a Bahraini delegation sent by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to visit Israel this week. “We the members of the ‘This is Bahrain’ group were sent by the king with a message of peace to the whole world,” a Shiite cleric on the trip told an Israeli TV station.

Officially Bahrain has no diplomatic relations with Israel but ties, which have existed for some years, have begun to be made more public recently.

As I have previously reported, WikiLeaks revealed, among other things, that the then foreign ministers of Israel and Bahrain held talks in New York arranged by the Bush administration in 2007.


(My most recent interview on the current prospects for Arab-Israeli peace is here.)



[Note by Tom Gross]

For years, this dispatch list has highlighted anti-Semitic attacks in Sweden, and also criticized international media, including the New York Times, for providing a false impression that Sweden was a tolerant place and attacks there were merely part of a critique of Israel.

Several Swedish journalist friends of mine who subscribe to this list, including Paulina Neuding, a columnist for the dailies Svenska Dagbladet and Goteborgs-Posten, have helped supply me with information for those dispatches.

Today, the New York Times has finally run a powerful piece on contemporary Swedish anti-Semitism by Neuding, which I attach below.

After that I attach another article, from the London Daily Telegraph last year, about the actor who plays Danish detective Martin Rohde, who in real life is Jewish, leaving fans devastated after he quit the third season of the cult Danish-Swedish drama “The Bridge”. He cited anti-Semitism in the Swedish city of Malmo, where the series is filmed, telling Israeli media he feared for his safety and couldn’t take it anymore.


Among many previous dispatches on Sweden on this list:

* In one of three dispatches on Sweden in January 2004, I noted Sweden’s Museum of National Antiquities had put up posters in 26 Stockholm subway stations glorifying Islamic Jihad suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat who murdered 21 people (including children and Israeli Arabs as well as Jews) in a 2003 bombing at a restaurant in Haifa.

* In the 2009 dispatch “Riots as Israel plays tennis match in Sweden” I pointed out at that these attacks were being stoked by politicians and media. Sweden’s Left Party leader Lars Ohly told the rioting crowd that “Europe and the whole world should boycott the racist regime in Israel.”

* A few weeks ago this dispatch highlighted the march in the Swedish city of Gothenburg by over 600 black-clad neo-Nazis, who aimed to attack the city’s main synagogue, as the city’s tiny Jewish community prayed inside during Yom Kippur.



The official body of Dutch Jewish groups has issued a statement that for the first time explicitly called former prime minister Dries van Agt, anti-Semitic.

The statement was made after “The Rights Forum,” the pro-Palestinian group founded by Van Agt, who served as prime minister from 1977 to 1982, made blatantly anti-Semitic statements at a recent meeting of the Dutch Young Socialists.

They also highlight examples made last month on its Facebook page, including that Jews are “Khazar criminals” and “I’m slowly getting sick of the whole Jewish people”.

Van Agt has long been accused of anti-Semitism, but never before by the entire spectrum of Dutch Jewish organizations.

Van Agt has compared Israel to Nazi Germany and in 2008 spoke at a rally in Rotterdam that featured a televised address by a leader of Hamas.

When he served as justice minister in the 1970s, he cited his “Aryan” roots in explaining his decision to pardon four Nazi war criminals due to health reasons.

(Contrary to the beliefs of some, the Netherlands had one of the worst records against Jews during the Holocaust. The Germans enjoyed widespread help from Dutch Nazi sympathizers in their murder of Dutch Jews.)



The Uncomfortable Truth About Swedish Anti-Semitism
By Paulina Neuding
New York Times
Dec. 15, 2017

STOCKHOLM — This past Saturday, a Hanukkah party at a synagogue in Goteborg, Sweden, was abruptly interrupted by Molotov cocktails. They were hurled by a gang of men in masks at the Jews, mostly teenagers, who had gathered to celebrate the holiday.

Two days later, two fire bombs were discovered outside the Jewish burial chapel in the southern Swedish city of Malmo.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

For Sweden’s 18,000 Jews, sadly, none of this comes as a surprise. They are by now used to anti-Semitic threats and attacks — especially during periods of unrest in the Middle East, which provide cover to those whose actual goal has little to do with Israel and much to do with harming Jews.

Both of these recent attacks followed days of incitement against Jews. Last Friday, 200 people protested in Malmo against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The protesters called for an intifada and promised “we will shoot the Jews.” A day later, during a demonstration in Stockholm, a speaker called Jews “apes and pigs.” There were promises of martyrdom.

Malmo’s sole Hasidic rabbi has reported being the victim of more than 100 incidents of hostility ranging from hate speech to physical assault. In response to such attacks, the Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a travel warning in 2010 advising “extreme caution when visiting southern Sweden” because of officials’ failure to act against the “serial harassment” of Jews in Malmo.

Today, entering a synagogue anywhere in Sweden usually requires going through security checks, including airport-like questioning. At times of high alert, police officers with machine guns guard Jewish schools. Children at the Jewish kindergarten in Malmo play behind bulletproof glass. Not even funerals are safe from harassment.

Jewish schoolteachers have reported hiding their identity. A teacher who wouldn’t even share the city where she teaches for fear of her safety told a Swedish news outlet: “I hear students shouting in the hallway about killing Jews.” Henryk Grynfeld, a teacher at a high school in a mostly immigrant neighborhood in Malmo, was told by a student: “We’re going to kill all Jews.” He said other students yell “yahoud,” the Arabic word for Jew, at him.

A spokesman for Malmo’s Jewish community put the situation starkly. You “don’t want to display the Star of David around your neck,” he said. Or as spokesman for the Goteborg synagogue put it, “It’s a constant battle to live a normal life, and not to give in to the threats, but still be able to feel safe.”

The question that has dogged Jews throughout the centuries is now an urgent one for Sweden’s Jewish community. Is it time to leave?

Some are answering yes. One reason is the nature of the current threat.

Historically, anti-Semitism in Sweden could mainly be attributed to right-wing extremists. While this problem persists, a study from 2013 showed that 51 percent of anti-Semitic incidents in Sweden were attributed to Muslim extremists. Only 5 percent were carried out by right-wing extremists; 25 percent were perpetrated by left-wing extremists.

Swedish politicians have no problem condemning anti-Semitism carried out by right-wingers. When neo-Nazis planned a march that would go past the Goteborg synagogue on Yom Kippur this September, for example, it stirred up outrage across the political spectrum. A court ruled that the demonstrators had to change their route.

There is, however, tremendous hesitation to speak out against hate crimes committed by members of another minority group in a country that prides itself on welcoming minorities and immigrants. In 2015, Sweden was second only to Germany in the number of Syrian refugees it welcomed. Yet the three men arrested in the Molotov cocktail attack were newly arrived immigrants, two Syrians and a Palestinian.

The fear of being accused of intolerance has paralyzed Sweden’s leaders from properly addressing deep-seated intolerance.

Some of the country’s leaders have even used Israel as a convenient boogeyman to explain violence. After the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, explained radicalism among European Muslims with reference to Israel: “Here, once again, we are brought back to situations like the one in the Middle East, where not least, the Palestinians see that there isn’t a future. We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.”

In an interview in June, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven was asked whether Sweden had been naïve about the link between immigration and anti-Semitism. His response was typical of the way in which leading politicians have avoided giving straight answers about the threat against the country’s Jews: “We have a problem in Sweden with anti-Semitism, and it doesn’t matter who expresses it, it’s still as darn wrong.”

But the problem has grown so dire that it finally forced Mr. Lofven to admit in an interview this month: “We will not ignore the fact that many people have come here from the Middle East, where anti-Semitism is a widespread idea, almost part of the ideology. We must become even clearer, dare to talk more about it.”

He’s right. Unfortunately, the country’s news media is often unable to speak plainly about the issue.

Two years ago, Sweden’s biggest newspaper, Aftonbladet, published a column that ridiculed the notion that Jews were talking of leaving the country because of anti-Semitism, dismissing it as “lying” and “hysteria,” and scoffing at the “especially cool” machine guns that police officers use when protecting Jewish schools. The same newspaper accused Israel of harvesting Palestinian organs in 2009 — the modern equivalent of the blood libel.

On Dec. 6, Sweden’s state TV attributed President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem to the supposed extreme strength of the so-called Jewish lobby in the United States. The channel later apologized. TT, Sweden’s leading news agency, cited “influential Jewish donors” in its analysis of the move. “Attack against synagogue linked to Trump,” was the headline chosen by Swedish Metro to explain the fire bomb attack in Goteborg.

There are many areas in which Israel deserves criticism, but the Swedish press often crosses the line into vilification of the Jewish state and regularly insinuates that events in the Middle East are directed by powerful Jews in the West. This risks stoking already dangerously high anti-Jewish sentiment.

For starters, there are growing demands from Sweden’s Jewish organizations for the state to do more to protect them. These days, Jewish institutions rely heavily on member fees and their own security organizations for protection. But keeping citizens safe is a basic job of the government.

It is also vital for Sweden to adopt a coherent strategy to combat radical Islamism. The country has become one of Europe’s richest recruiting grounds for Islamic State fighters. Five people were killed in an Islamist attack in downtown Stockholm in April, and Swedish Islamists have been involved in other deadly attacks in Europe, including in Paris and Brussels.

One aspect of this strategy must be for the authorities to regain control over immigrant neighborhoods, where organized crime is rampant. In addition, Sweden has had a laissez-faire attitude toward religious schools, tax-funded through a voucher system. This has allowed extremists to exert influence over the minds of young people. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund radicalization.

The government should also do more to counter attempts by foreign clerics to radicalize its Muslim community with a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, including the insidious idea that the Holocaust is a lie. In Sweden, as in other European countries, radicalization of Muslims is often funded and organized by foreign entities.

None of these efforts can be successful, however, without openly acknowledging the nature of modern anti-Semitism in Sweden.

During his state visit to Sweden in 2013, President Barack Obama didn’t hesitate to call out the country’s anti-Semitism problem. Speaking at Stockholm’s main synagogue, he included a subtle but unmistakable criticism of the attitude among Swedish politicians: “We will stand against anti-Semitism and hatred, in all its forms.” Swedish leaders should heed his words.



‘Anti-semitism in Malmo made me quit’ says The Bridge actor
By Richard Orange, Malmo
Daily Telegraph
Feb 16, 2016

Anti-semitism has become so bad in Malmo, the Swedish city where the hit television drama The Bridge is set, that it contributed to actor Kim Bodnia’s decision to quit the show.

Bodnia, who plays Danish detective Martin Rohde, left fans of the Danish-Swedish drama devastated when he dropped out of the third series, leaving Saga Norén, his character’s eccentric, neurodivergent Swedish counterpart, to find a new Danish sidekick.

The easy-going, charismatic Rohde had been hugely popular with fans of the gritty Nordic Noir drama.

At the time Bodnia, who is Jewish, put the decision down to a difference of opinion with scriptwriters, but in an interview with Israel’s Walla! website last week, he cited worsening anti-Jewish sentiment across the Oresund Bridge in Sweden.

“It’s growing, and especially in Malmo, where we shot The Bridge in Sweden, it’s not very nice and comfortable to be there as a Jewish person,” he told the Walla! portal.

“When they didn’t have the script right I could say, ‘no, I don’t feel so safe there’. It’s not funny. It’s growing. We have to deal with it every day and we have to fight against it.”

Jewish people in Malmo have long complained of growing harassment in the city, where 43 per cent of the population have a non-Swedish background, with Iraqis, Lebanese and stateless Palestinians some of the largest groups.

The Jewish community centre in the city is heavily fortified, with security doors and bollards on the outside pavement to prevent car bombs.

But Jehoshua Kaufman, a prominent member of the community, said he was surprised that Bodnia felt more uncomfortable in Sweden than in Copenhagen, given the terror attack on the Danish capital’s synagogue a year ago.

“They killed two people in Copenhagen, not in Malmo,” he said. “I find it very peculiar. I find it funny.”

Bodnia made an appearance at Copenhagen’s synagogue in the days after the attack last year to pay his respects to Dan Uzan, the security guard who was killed.

He told Walla! that he was so worried by the issue of anti-semitism that he had lobbied the scriptwriters to bring the issue into the plot of the third series, pushing them to have his character Rhode encounter inmates with fanatical anti-Jewish beliefs while in prison.

“The situation is if people go to jail, they have this possibility to grow their hate of Jewish people,” he said. “It’s growing in the prison. So I suggested that when Martin is undercover in the prison, why didn’t we do something about that?”.


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