Sweden likes to think of itself as a bastion of liberal values, where all views and people are accepted, but in recent months its mask of impartiality has been slipping.
Its foreign minister, Margot Wallström, has a habit of making outrageously anti-Israel remarks and then claiming she was misunderstood. It happened after the massacres in Paris, when she drew a connection between Islamist terrorism and the “desperate situation” of the Palestinians, and then, just last week, when she accused Israel of “extrajudicial executions” of Palestinian terrorists at the scene of stabbing attacks.
To be fair, Wallström condemned Palestinian stabbing attacks against Israeli civilians. But what apparently disturbs her is when the victims, or security forces, strike back and prevent even more casualties. While many would be grateful that innocent lives were spared, Wallström bemoans the “disproportionate… numbers of dead on the other side.”
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven tried to come to her defense, but only made things worse. He said that her comments were misunderstood and went on to make the preposterous claim that stabbing attacks are not terrorism. So after “clarifying” what his foreign minister meant, he was forced to “clarify” what he meant.
“I was referring to the fact it is not clear whether these knife attacks have been organized by some classified terrorist organization,” he said, in a classic example of doublespeak. “But organized attacks are precisely acts of terrorism.”
Does that mean that knife-attacks by individual Palestinians who have been brainwashed to believe that Israel plans to take over Har HaBayis are not terrorists? Stay tuned for the next clarification.
The problem is that the statements and misstatements of the leaders reflect a shift on the Swedish street which is being felt by the country’s 18,000 Jews. According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 60 percent of Sweden’s Jews fear to publicly identify as Jewish.
“Sweden has awoken from its fairy-tale dream” of being a racism-free society,” says Willy Silberstein, president of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism. “I was born in Sweden, but there are places I can’t access wearing a magen Dovid or kippah.”
This past February, shortly after a security guard was killed outside Copenhagen’s Krystalgade shul, Swedish Public Radio interviewed Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Yitzchak Bachman, and repeatedly asked him: “Are Jews responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism?”
This, too, was followed by an apology (Swedish Public Radio said the host was stressed out).
To be sure, Sweden recognizes that it has a problem. Following a shocking documentary showing a (non-Jewish) reporter wearing a kippah walking around Muslim neighborhoods in Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city, and being insulted and threatened, the government allocated $25 million to an educational effort against anti-Semitism.
But that’s not enough. With its growing population of refugees from Somalia, Iraq and, of late, Syria, the government must speak unambiguously about the right of Jews in Sweden and in Israel to live in peace. It must understand that condemnations of terror that are followed with “buts,” that talk of “disproportionate” deaths among Palestinian murderers and picayune definitions of terrorism send the wrong message to the younger generation of Swedes, who are largely ignorant of the Holocaust, and the immigrants who have come with an anti-Semitic indoctrination.
It is in this context that Germany’s decision to back the EU policy of labeling products from over the Green Line on Monday is so disturbing. The decision amounts to a boycott of products made by Jews living in Yehudah, Shomron, the Golan and eastern Yerushalayim.
As MK Tali Ploskov (Kulanu) put it, labeling products from these places is “racist and serves anti-Semitic interests.”
The decision makes no sense. In the first place, it will lead to the unemployment of thousands of Palestinians who work in these factories — undermining the limited stability that exists. Secondly, it will discourage the Palestinian leadership from returning to the negotiating table and making the concessions that are necessary for peace. Why should it concede anything if the world will punish Israel for failing to sign any peace agreement just to end the “occupation”?
But the decision is worse than irrational, it’s scandalous. Germany, of all countries, should recoil at the thought of subjecting Jewish businesses anywhere to boycotts.
Germany has maintained a “special relationship” with Israel for the past 60 years or so that has been expressed in economic and diplomatic support. But that relationship is in danger of changing with the next generation of Germans, who are distant from the Holocaust and under the influence of the spirit of radical Islam that is sweeping Europe.
In agreeing to an EU motion to boycott Israel and in making dubious statements that are in constant need of “clarification,” the leaders in Germany and Sweden are shirking their obligation to imbue in the next generation an understanding of Europe’s historic crime against the Jews and the imperative to ensure that it never happens again.