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U.S. Sends Anti-Israel Advisor to Anti-Semitic Sweden

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt
Photo Credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash 90

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U.S. President Barack Obama’s controversial anti-Semitism advisor, Hannah Rosenthal, will be visiting Sweden on April 24 to meet with Ilmar Reepalu, the famously anti-Israel mayor of the city of Malmö.

According to the American embassy in Stockholm, Rosenthal has been following the rise of anti-Semitism in Malmö for some time and wants to make sure that there are no politicians in the area that encourage discrimination, racism, or hatred against Jews.

Rosenthal’s visit to Sweden is likely to amount to little more than an empty photo opportunity. This is because Rosenthal and Reepalu are both self-styled “progressives” who hold the insidious belief that Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism because of their support for Israel.

Like other European countries, Sweden has experienced a significant uptick in anti-Semitic hate-crimes in recent years. Jews in Sweden are frequently subject to harassment and some have been physically assaulted; Jewish cemeteries in the country have repeatedly been desecrated; Jewish worshippers have been abused on their way home from prayer; and Jews have been taunted in the streets by masked men chanting phrases such as “Hitler, Hitler” and “Dirty Jew.” Some Jews in Sweden have stopped attending prayer services out of fear for their safety.

The problem of anti-Semitism in Sweden is so widespread that the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has advised Jews to avoid traveling to the country altogether. “We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment. There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes,” the center said in a statement.

Malmö, the third-largest city in Sweden, has become an especially hostile place for Jews, who are increasingly subjected to threats, intimidation, and physical violence.

The only synagogue serving Malmö’s 700-strong Jewish community has been a frequent target of attack. The synagogue, which is often the target of bomb threats, has also been set on fire, and now has security guards stationed around the building. The windows of the synagogue have been replaced with bullet-proof glass, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through reinforced steel security doors.

The situation for Jews in Malmö is so bleak that some 30 Jewish families have already left the city for Stockholm, England, or Israel — and more are preparing to go.

The upswing in anti-Semitic violence in Malmö is being attributed to two key factors: the exponential increase in the number of Muslim immigrants in the city, and Malmö’s bigoted left-wing mayor, who rarely misses an opportunity to publicly demonize Israel.

Muslims now comprise between 20% and 25% of Malmö’s total population of around 300,000, and local observers say most of the increase in anti-Jewish violence in recent years has been perpetrated by shiftless Muslim immigrant youth.

Anti-Semitism is also being stirred up by Ilmar Reepalu, the left-wing mayor of Malmö, who has a pathological obsession with Israel.

Reepalu, who has been mayor for more than 15 years, says Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism because of their support for Israel.

In January 2010, for example, Reepalu marked Holocaust Memorial Day by declaring that Zionism is racism because it is an “extreme ideology that puts one group of people over another.”

In an interview with the daily newspaper Skånska Dagbladet, he also said: “I would wish for the Jewish community to denounce Israeli violations against the civilian population in Gaza. Instead it decides to hold a [pro-Israel] demonstration in the Grand Square [of Malmö], which could send the wrong signals.”

Reepalu was referring to an incident in January 2009, during Israel’s brief war in Gaza, when a small demonstration in favor of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles, eggs, and firecrackers as the police looked on.

In July 2011, after a Hollywood film production company cancelled plans to shoot a movie in the southern Swedish province of Skåne due to concerns over anti-Semitism in Malmö, Reepalu cast his rage on the Simon Wiesenthal Center for issuing the travel warning.

Reepalu, in an interview with the newspaper Sydsvenskan, said: “I have a feeling that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not really looking for what is happening in Malmö but they want to hang the people who dare to criticize the state of Israel. Are they once again saying I should be silenced? I will never compromise my morals.”

More recently, Reepalu accused Jews in Sweden of teaming up with an anti-immigrant party to “spread hate” against Muslims.

In a March 22 interview with the magazine NEO about the rise of anti-Semitism in Sweden, Reepalu said the Jewish community has been “infiltrated” by the conservative Sweden Democrats party to promote their mutual disdain for Muslims.

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About the Author: The writer is the Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, one of the oldest and most influential foreign policy think tanks in Spain.


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