Judy Mandelbaum

Judy Mandelbaum
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June 01
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FEBRUARY 1, 2010 12:56PM

Sweden versus the Jews

Rate: 19 Flag

  Malmoe stortorget
The epicenter of European Jew-hatred?
Malmö, Sweden

The recent annual report by the Jewish Agency of Israel on global anti-Semitism contains few surprises. However, one country stands out as being particularly wicked: Sweden. What?, you might ask. How has neutral Sweden, the land of Abba and Ikea, and whose chief international selling points are tolerance and generosity, become the latest incarnation of the Third Reich? As it turns out, Edmund Burke already knew the answer when he said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” It triumphs even faster when mediocre men abandon the rule of law and the principle of justice for the sake of a few votes.

Sweden has had a small Jewish population since the seventeenth century. The Jewish minority suffered the usual indignities and finally achieved full civil rights in 1910. Despite lingering anti-Semitism, the country gained a remarkable reputation as a refuge for Jews when it accepted 900 refugees from continental Europe along with almost the whole of Danish Jewry (some 8,000 persons) during World War II. Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg was instrumental in rescuing thousands of European Jews, particularly in Hungary, by providing them with Swedish diplomatic papers and thus protecting them from deportation to Nazi extermination camps. Sweden has around 18,000 Jews today, most of them concentrated in the country’s major cities.

Malmoe synagogue 
Malmö's synagogue, built in 1903

So when it comes to protecting oppressed minorities, Sweden has quite a reputation to lose – and it is losing it fast. One man bears major responsibility for this global public relations meltdown: Ilmar Reepalu, mayor of Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city. In this southern town of 250,000, where Muslims make up 15 percent of the population, relations between the 1,500-member Jewish community and its neighbors have deteriorated rapidly in recent years. In 2009, the police counted seventy-nine hate crimes (mostly graffiti, but also arson) targeted at Jews – twice as many as the previous year, with many left unreported. More and more Jews told the press that they now try to hide their Jewishness in public out of fear of being attacked. Matters reached such a state that last March the city council barred all spectators from a Davis Cup tennis tournament out of fear of violent attacks on the Israeli team and fans. (Although the Israelis won, the World Tennis Federation promptly banned Malmö from hosting any more Davis Cup events for the next five years.) Despite the ban, around 6,000 anti-Israeli demonstrators collided with around a thousand heavily armed policeman outside the stadium. Moreover, Muslim fundamentalists and Swedish neo-Nazis have carried out joint anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish demonstrations in Malmö, and it’s not entirely clear which group is carrying out the lion’s share of the hate crimes. Local Muslim leaders are even talking about founding an "anti-Zionist " political party. But in Malmö these days, where "anti-Zionist" leaves off and "anti-Semitic" begins is anyone's guess.

Malmoe demonstration 
Anti-Israeli demonstrators battle police last March in Malmö

Time for the mayor to speak up, right? And speak up he did. Responding to recent tensions between Swedish Jews, Muslim immigrants, and domestic anti-Semites of the Left and the Right, Reepalu chose Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27) of all possible times to conduct an interview with the regional Skånska Dagbladet newspaper, in which he essentially blamed attacks on Swedish Jews living in Malmö on Israel’s policy in Gaza. “I wish the Jewish Community would distance itself from Israel's abuse of the civilian population in Gaza," he said. “Instead, they chose to hold a demonstration on the main square, which could send the wrong signals.” The pro-Israel solidarity demonstration last January to which he referred had to be halted due to violence by anti-Israeli demonstrators. When asked if, after doing little to curb racist attacks in recent years, he would expressly distance himself from local anti-Semitic agitation, he responded: “We accept neither Zionism nor anti-Semitism. Those are exaggerations that people use to place themselves above other groups and regard them as inferior.” And this interview came on the heels of a series of articles in the newspaper on anti-Semitic attacks in the city.

Estonian-born Reepalu, a Social Democrat, is clearly currying favor with Malmö’s Muslims, a policy which has brought him the nickname “Sweden’s most cowardly politician.” Malmö is a city seething with ethnic, religious, and class tensions, and it is likely that the Muslim population is much worse off than the town's Jews ever will be. Unemployment in the immigrant slum of Rosengård is currently at 62% while fundamentalist clerics preach ethnic hatred and sexual repression. But “Malmö's strong man” has consistently avoided taking Muslims to task for problems they could perhaps start solving themselves and he has done little to promote better integration. This policy includes releasing Muslim immigrants from all responsibility for the persecution of the centuries-old Jewish community.

What do Malmö’s Jews make of such insensitivity in the midst of an increasingly tense situation? Relations between Sweden and the Jewish world have already been strained enough since last August, when the Swedish daily Dagbladet accused the Israeli military of illegally harvesting the organs of killed Palestinians in Gaza. One local blogger, Björn Goldman, had this to say in an open letter to Mayor Reepalu last Friday: “I had hoped that my little son Jacob, who is two and a half years old, could grow up in my hometown. He loves the Malmö soccer team. My question to you, Ilmar: Is he deserving of protection and municipal support against the provocations in Malmö, or is he also responsible for Israeli policy?”

Ilmar Reepalu 
"Sweden's most cowardly politician"?
Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu (born in 1943)

Many Swedes have noticed the double standard at play here. As journalist Dilsa Demirbag-Sten asked over the weekend, “What does this say about Reepalu’s view of Muslims? That they are genetically predisposed to be anti-Semites? Or is his choice of words a friendly nod to the aggressive Islamists who terrorize their surroundings? How else shall we understand his statement that Jews in Malmö must distance themselves from Israeli policy? Will Turks in Sweden have to publicly and collectively distance themselves from the murder of Kurds, Christians, or political opponents? Must all Arabs distance themselves from Hamas so as not to be stamped as Islamists?”

In the meantime, several Jewish families have already left Malmö for safety elsewhere. In an interview with Skånskan.se, Marcus Eilenberg (32), who is married with two small children,  told reporters: “We are deeply concerned about the negative developments. That is one of the main reasons motivating us to move [to Israel]. … While I think Sweden is fantastic, it cannot provide my family with security. That is actually pretty scary.” When asked about Mayor Reepalu’s responsibility for this state of affairs, he responded: “Many lines have been crossed in Malmö but nothing has happened.” Another Malmö Jew, who gives his name only as David, has decided to pack up his wife and two children and move to Stockholm. “[Reepalu’s] attitude is frightening,” David said. “He’s a populist who can’t control his own city.”

Reepalu has since softened his tone. The deluge of outrage he has absorbed from people across Sweden may have helped. “I am deeply concerned that young people of Jewish background are being provoked,” he said over the weekend, “that people are hurling insults at them, and that it’s gone so far that Jewish families in Malmö feel compelled to flee to Israel.” He is now calling for public meetings where persons of different backgrounds can discuss their experiences and figure out ways to promote tolerance and cooperation in the city.

Actually, Reepalu is right: the increase in hate crimes last year was partially motivated by Muslim anger over the Gaza incursion, and the different communities in Malmö do need to communicate better (although not just the Jews) if they ever hope to live together in peace. This is a pretty ambitious agenda, though. Is a man like Reepalu the one to make it happen? Not if he doesn’t get his act together. He could give himself a head start by reading some Edmund Burke.


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Rated for excellent reporting. You may be interested in other posts on this general subject--one by Gary Baumgarten and one by me.
First-rate reporting. Why isn't this an EP?

Watch out. When Gary Baumgarten blogged about this, several people apparently joined just to sneer at the problem, and a holocaust denier showed up too. Sad.
Great piece!! Thanks for this. It's a double-standard indeed. Jews are always supposed to "distance" themselves from Israeli policy while Muslims are automatically forgiven their terrorist brethren. Anti-semitic indeed.
I'm ready and waiting...
Deborah Young spoke for me. Great reporting job. No matter what the circumstance or reality, Jews must always back down, Muslims treated with kid gloves. There are no such absolutes either way, yet insidious, passive-aggressive anti-Semitism always seems to win.
one can understand why moslem refugees from zionist oppression might well be strident anti-zionists, and since very few jews try to distinguish themselves from the crimes of israel, this can easily become anti-semitism.

it is unfortunate that the jews of sweden are suffering for the sins of israelis, but they can take some comfort in not being palestinians under zionist occupation. if things become too uncomfortable in sweden, they have the option of becoming israelis by putting their foot on the land of israel. they will be welcome there.

sweden's palestinians, on the other hand, have no other country to go to, nor land of their own. they had one, but it was taken from them by zionist terrorists with the complicity of the west.
Judy: excellent, thought provoking piece ... and i love you attitude with the "i'm ready and waiting" in the comments.
Judy, this is an excellent report. I shouldn't be surprised but I always am. _r
I notice that Deborah relishes in being anti-Muslim. That is almost one-fifth of humanity that you hate Deborah. Judy quotes Edmund Burke but I wonder if the irony is probably lost on Judy.
It is all the good men in the world, Christians, Muslims and Jews who are doing nothing to prevent the evil being perpetrated by Israel for the last sixty years. Remember the Irgun and the Stern gangs, the pioneers of terrorism in the middle east. Remember too there were no suicide bombers in Palestine pre-1973; no suicide bombers in Iraq from the time of Abraham till 2003. Where were all the terrorists before 1948?

Occupying someone's land is terrorism; bulldozing someone's home is terrorism; cutting off someone's food, water and medicines is terrorism. And on last count 1400 Gazans were killed as against 13 Israelis, of whom only 3 were civilians.

The rest of the world sees it as it is. Unfortunately because the media in the U.S is totally muzzled and controlled, Americans never get to see the truth in their mainstream media.

Syed Salam
@al and syed
I'm not going to debate you on these issues here. The whole point of my article is that such matters are hardly the concern of Ilmar Reepalu, a Swedish mayor who is sworn to uphold the rights of all citizens and resident aliens under his authority, both Muslim and Jewish. Aren't the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict just a tiny bit above his pay grade...?
The problem is nothing a Jew does can ever sufficiently distance themselves from Israel in the minds of modern anti-Semites. Nazis and Muslims alike have this fundamental notion of Jews as a people guilty of [insert grandiose crime again all things good and decent] to their very core.

The Qur'an itself reenforces this view in a few passages (remember 'inerrant word of god' *cough*) and Mohammed's own conduct includes overseeing a brutal massacre and enslavement of a Jewish tribe, the Banu Qurayza. Hatred of Jews was alive and well in Palestine and the Arab World before the international intervention to create a Jewish state.

The 'anti-Zionist' crowd wants all reference and analysis to begin in 1948, or even better after 1973 when overt conventional war against Israel subsided, so it can package a simplistic tale of Muslim victimhood at the hands of the big bad Jews. They also like you ignore the abysmal track-record of Muslim living in pluralistic societies, an issue that helped bolster support for the creation of a specifically Jewish state in the minds of the post-WWII power brokers but the violent partition of India as well.

On the other hand, Sweden also got tarred unfairly as anti-Semitic by certain Jewish groups a few years back when it placed some minor restrictions on who could perform circumcisions (meaning mohels without medical training were no longer allowed to do it as I recall). Of course that affected Muslims too. (And for the record I find circumcision a gross abuse of human rights and a barbaric means of encouraging group cohesiveness).
(salmandar) wrote:
"Remember too there were no suicide bombers in Palestine pre-1973"

Well your fellow Muslims were still dreaming they could destroy Israel through conventional force of arms and had already started to pursue such 'lofty' actions as murdering Olympic athletes.

"Where were all the terrorists before 1948?"

Just off the top of my head:

Who were the Arabs rioting and murdering Jews in the pogroms of 1929? Certainly not "terrorists" right?

What were the mass rapes carried out by "Goumiers" (Muslim Soldiers in the French Army) while serving in Europe if not terrorism of sorts? Or was that like a clarivoyant, preemptive strike against European support for Israel?

What about Arafat's uncle the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem actively involving himself with the Third Reich, including infamously reviewing Nazi Muslim troops from Yugoslavia (they even wore little Nazi Fez hats). Or was active involvement in the Holocaust not terrorism?
Ms Anthropia: So now the Muslims were responsible for the Inquisition and the holocaust, and it was the Muslims who were turning away ships carrying Jews from entering the USA and it was the Muslims who were not allowing Jews into clubs in Canada; all the persecution of the Jews and their mass murder through the centuries was all the fault of Koran and the Muslims.

You see all of history only through a lens which justifies your hate of Muslims.
Ms Anthropia: You pick out snippets from history to distort history. How does the Olympic murders or the 1929 stuff that you mention compare with the centuries of butchery of Jews at the hands of your European compatriots, all of whom willingly participated in it. How about Mosley in Britain, even Bush's grandad was supposedly necking with the Nazis in business deals.

You can malign people as much as you want but that doesn't change history.

I am surprised you haven't called the biggest crook/financial terrorist in all of history, Bernie Madoff, a Muslim.
Ms Anthropia: How about answering a straight question. Where were the suicide bombers in Palestine from the year of our Lord one million BC to 1973? and where were the suicide bombers in Iraq from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the year of our Lord 2003?

Please let me know if you find some. If you don't, don't bother to reply.

Ever heard of the pioneers of terrorism in the middle east, the Stern and the Irgun gangs?

You find a picture of the Mufti meeting Hitler very disturbing, how about the fact that almost every single European nation was happily giving vent to their own anti-Jewish hate by colluding and sending trian loads to the death camps; even in Britain and the U.S. there were people sympathetic to Germany.
The atrocities were committed in Europe and the punishment is being meted out to the Palestinians.

Does that make any sense?
To Anthropia: A quote from your founder/leader:
David Ben Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister): "If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti - Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?" Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in Le Paraddoxe Juif (The Jewish Paradox), pp121.

I don't see any mention of the Jerusalem Mufti.

He was obviously a bigotted guy, we do believe in the same God.
Aborigine Al says: "it is unfortunate that the jews of sweden are suffering for the sins of israelis, but they can take some comfort in not being palestinians under zionist occupation. if things become too uncomfortable in sweden, they have the option of becoming israelis by putting their foot on the land of israel. they will be welcome there."

That's right, Al. That was kind of the whole point.

Rated, Judy -- solid work.
Judy: Are you fluent in Swedish? Do you live in Sweden? Did you consult any accredited non-Jewish, non-Muslim sources who are fluent in Sweden and live in Sweden?

Just curious.
((correction: fluent in "Swedish." Sorry.))
"You pick out snippets from history to distort history." --salmandar

You are the one who charged in here with the myth that Muslim terrorism is a product of the state of Israel and I confronted you with evidence to the contrary. You then proceed to make increasingly wild, unhinged accusations against me.

My personal favourite of yours is "So now the Muslims were responsible for the Inquisition and the holocaust". I never suggested in any way that Muslims were the primary or even greatly significant contributors to the Holocaust (how the Inquistion enetred your mind is a mystery I dare not contemplate), but Muslims did explicitly participate in the Nazi war machine and Holocuast, in Yugoslavia in particular. This stinging fact makes you so uncomfortable that you feel need to turn a simple statement of fact into an unbounded accusation in your mind.

"How about answering a straight question. Where were the suicide bombers in Palestine from the year of our Lord one million BC to 1973? and where were the suicide bombers in Iraq from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the year of our Lord 2003?" --salmandar

Since explosives in any form did not exist until the last thousand years and explosives that are small enough to be strapped to the body are a century or less old, your challenge is ridiculously disingenuous on its face and thus not a "straight question" by any measure. Suicide bombings are a shocking form of terrorism to be sure, but their advent in the later 20th century does not mean terrorism did not exist before then. Munich 1972 was no less horrific an attack on civilians because it didn't involve a suicide bombing.
So who Ms Anthropia were the " primary" contributors to the holocaust, if not the Muslims or Palestinians. And why may I ask is your wrath not directed at the "primary contributors" starting with the Germans, the Austrians, the Swiss, the Poles, the French, the Italians and then when you've finshed with most of continental Europe, move to the Nazi sympathisers in England and North America, including those who were making money in business deals with the Nazis and then keep going down the line till you finally exhaust your list of high-end contributors and get to the end of your vengeance list and target the insignificant contributors?

In fact when the French asked the Morrocans to send their Jews to the death camps, the King said, we have no Jews in Morroco and saved all his Jews. So much for your misguided fury.

So, you are saying the Muslims would have been using explosive vests for centuries, were they available. And who would they have used them against before say 1948?
Racist of course takes many forms. This I may add is "primary" racism.
Ms Anthropia: If these EVIL suicide bombers were given F-16's and Apache Gunships would they then be GOOD heroic bombers, or would they still be EVIL?
Yes, if you check my links, you'll see I used Swedish-language news reports, documents, and interviews.
Thanks, Judy. The linked comments are provided in your article in English. Are these your translations?
Thank you, Judy. Here's Haaretz's perspective:

and Mondoweiss on the Swedish tabloid's report on alleged organ harvesting prompting the diplomatic row between Israel and Sweden:

Just other pieces for balance.
@ciuciu: Perhaps you could elaborate on the the Ha'aretz article contradicts Judy's account. It seems to me that the two are largely congruent.
Hi David - I agree that the account of anti-Semitic sentiment is congruent; however, the Haaretz account differentiates:

The other link I provided in my previous comment are about the tabloid report, and Mondoweiss's attempt to get Haaretz to investigate, and then a subsequent AP report quoting Israeli sources that instances of organ harvesting from Palestinian victims may in fact have occurred in the nineties.

Anti-Semitic assaults are appalling, wherever they occur. I was unaware of this in Sweden, and am grateful for Judy for pointing it out, and for Haaretz and Mondoweiss for a broader perspective.
For some reason, this part got chopped off my most recent comment. Sorry!
Something (?) is cutting off my pasted text.
So I will have to type it out (source: Mondoweiss link indicated in my comment):

"But Flower recognizes that some community members and leaders have a less alarmist view of the scale of anti-Israeli sentiment in Sweden, and the degree to which it affects the lives of Jews. "The Jewish community is very diversified and just about every opinion about this issue can be found in its spectrum of views," he said.
Flower also noted that the recent scandalous publication of an article which accuses Israeli soldiers of killing Palestinians and harvesting their organs may push others to leave as well.

"People are not telling me that they decided to come to Israel from Sweden because of the riots in Malmo or anti-Israel sentiments," said Jacobson, the 28-year-old son of veteran immigrants from Sweden who are now living in Jerusalem. Speaking from his office in Gothenburg, he added: "They tell me they wanted to come to Israel all along, and are now more confident about their decision."