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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Sweden’

Swedish County Eyeing Ban on Circumcision

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

A county in Sweden is moving ahead with plans to ban the non-medical circumcision of boys, its leading elected official said.

Per-Ola Mattsson, the commissioner of Blekinge County, said he will up bring up a ban on the practice with the county’s health board in February, according to a Swedish publication.

Mattsson, who is also chairman of the Public Health Board of Blekinge, told the Dagens Medicin medical news site he opposes the practice because minors “have no possibility to say ‘no’ to the surgery and therefore the county should not perform these procedures.”

In Sweden, non-medical and medical circumcision may be performed only by licensed professionals, as per legislation from 2001. Under the legislation, Jewish ritual circumcisers, or mohelim, receive their licenses from the country’s health board, but a nurse or doctor must still be present when they perform the procedure. Representatives of the country’s Jewish community told JTA they are pleased with the arrangement, as it does not prevent them from performing the ritual.

However, the rightist Sweden Democrats Party submitted a motion in parliament in September in favor of banning ritual circumcision, and the children’s ombudsmen of all Nordic countries — Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway — last week released a joint declaration proposing a ban on circumcision.

Two Israel-Americans Receive Nobel Prize Awards in Stockholm

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Sweden took a break from anti-Semitism Tuesday with the awarding of the Nobel Prize in chemistry to Israel-Americans Aryeh Warshel and Michael Levitt, who were named last month as prize winners “for the development of multi-scale models for complex chemical systems.”

The two men and co-winner Martin Karplus each received $1 million from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Warshel was born on a kibbutz in Israel, served in the IDF as an officer and has been a professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles for more than 40 years.

Levitt was born in South Africa and moved to Israel in 1979 before leaving for the United States. He studied and worked in Israel, where his sons live.

Council of Europe Says Ritual Circumcision Won’t Be Banned

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

The Council of Europe has assured President Shimon Peres that Europe will not ban religious circumcision despite last week’s non-binding resolution of the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly that cited circumcision of males as a violation of human rights and equated it with female genital mutilation.

President Peres wrote on Monday to Thorbjorn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, to protest the resolution. Although it has no legal significance, the Council is very influential on decisions by the European Union.

Jangland said male circumcision did not violate human rights, and Daniel Holtgen, the Director of Communications at the Council of Europe, sent a tweet quoting Jagland as saying, “Female genital mutilation violates human rights. Male circumcision does not.”

The resolution angered Muslims as well as Jews. It called for European states to “promote further awareness in their societies of the potential risks of some of these procedures,” which the assembly lists as the circumcision of boys, early childhood interventions in the case of intersexual children and the coercion of children into piercings, tattoos or plastic surgery.

Marlene Rupprecht, the rapporteur behind the resolution, claimed the text did not aim to “stigmatize any religious community or its practices” but simply called for public debate “aimed at reaching a wide consensus on the rights of children to protection against violations of their physical integrity.”

While Jagland’s statements were good news for Jews and also for Muslims, it is scary that we are so susceptible to the threat of a ban on circumcision that we have to be grateful to someone deciding to suspend what would be a death sentence to Judaism.

Jews have died rather than accept decrees against circumcision, but today’s trend to use “human rights”  and “animal rights” to disguise campaigns that deprive Jewish rights is more subtle and devious than the open anti-Semitism of the past.

A judge in a German province earlier this year banned circumcision, leading to an uproar that prompted the national parliament to make it clear that ritual circumcision is legal.

The anti-circumcision movement is increasingly popular in Scandinavia, where the influx of Muslims also is a factor behind the campaign to prohibit the religious rite.

Jews and Muslims are constantly threatened with a ban on local slaughtering of animals according to Jewish and Muslim laws, which prohibit the method of stunning before using the knife. There are some leniencies in Muslim law.

The most recent controversy is in Poland, which banned ritual slaughter this year but where Jews now have to be thankful to the Catholic Church for supporting the rights of Jews and Muslims to slaughter animals according to religious laws.

The Polish parliament in July rejected a bill, sponsored by the government, to legalize kosher slaughter, but Pope Francis recently has voiced concern over the ban.

“Animal rights” supporters have successfully campaigned in Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland to outlaw kosher slaughter.

The European Union’s official policy states, “European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter” generally requires stunning before slaughter, but allows member states to allow exemptions for religious slaughter.”

Holland two years nearly outlawed kosher slaughter after the Animal Rights Party managed to convince the Lower House of parliament to pass a bill, which was rejected by the Upper House, to ban the practice.

Israel is the only country that comes to mind where Jewish rights still are unquestionably more important than “animals’ rights.”

As for circumcision, the only argument might be over “Metzitzah b’peh.”

‘It Can Be Done’: the Rosh Hashana 1943 Escape of Danish Jews

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

As the final minutes of Rosh Hashanah ticked away, 13-year-old Leo Goldberger was hiding, along with his parents and three brothers, in the thick brush along the shore of Dragor, a small fishing village south of Copenhagen. The year was 1943, and the Goldbergers, like thousands of other Danish Jews, were desperately trying to escape an imminent Nazi roundup.

“Finally, after what seemed like an excruciatingly long wait, we saw our signal offshore,” Goldberger later recalled. His family “strode straight into the ocean and waded through three or four feet of icy water until we were hauled aboard a fishing boat” and covered themselves “with smelly canvases.” Shivering and frightened, but grateful, the Goldberger family soon found itself in the safety and freedom of neighboring Sweden.

For years, Allied leaders had insisted that nothing could be done to rescue Jews from the Nazis except to win the war. But in one extraordinary night, seventy years ago next month, the Danish people exploded that myth and changed history.

When the Nazis occupied Denmark during the Holocaust in 1940, the Danes put up little resistance. As a result, the German authorities agreed to let the Danish government continue functioning with greater autonomy than other occupied countries. They also postponed taking steps against Denmark’s 8,000 Jewish citizens.

In the late summer of 1943, amid rising tensions between the occupation regime and the Danish government, the Nazis declared martial law and decided the time had come to deport Danish Jews to the death camps. But Georg Duckwitz, a German diplomat in Denmark, leaked the information to Danish friends. Duckwitz was later honored by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. As word of the Germans’ plans spread, the Danish public responded with a spontaneous nationwide grassroots effort to help the Jews.

The Danes’ remarkable response gave rise to the legend that King Christian X himself rode through the streets of Copenhagen on horseback, wearing a yellow Star of David, and that the citizens of the city likewise donned the star in solidarity with the Jews.

The story may have had its origins in a political cartoon that appeared in a Swedish newspaper in 1942. It showed King Christian pointing to a Star of David and declaring that if the Nazis imposed it upon the Jews of Demark, “then we must all wear the star.” Leon Uris’s novel Exodus, and the movie based on that book, helped spread the legend. But subsequent investigations by historians have concluded that the story is a myth.

On Rosh Hashanah – which fell on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 in 1943 – and the days that followed, numerous Danish Christian families hid Jews in their homes or farms, and then smuggled them to the seashore late at night. From there, fishermen took them across the Kattegat Straits to neighboring Sweden.

The three-week operation had the strong support of Danish church leaders, who used their pulpits to urge aid to the Jews, as well as Danish universities, which shut down so that students could assist the smugglers. More than 7,000 Danish Jews reached Sweden and were sheltered there until the end of the war.

Esther Finkler, a young newlywed, was hidden, together with her husband and their mothers, in a greenhouse.

“At night, we saw the [German] searchlights sweeping back and forth throughout the neighborhood” as the Nazis hunted for Jews, Esther later recalled. One evening, a member of the Danish Underground arrived and drove the four “through streets saturated with Nazi stormtroopers” to a point near the shore.

There they hid in an underground shelter, and then in the attic of a bakery, until finally they were brought to a beach, where they boarded a small fishing vessel together with other Jewish refugees.

“There were nine of us, lying down on the deck or the floor,” Esther said. “The captain covered us with fishing nets. When everyone had been properly concealed, the fishermen started the boat, and as the motor started to run, so did my pent-up tears.”

Then, suddenly, trouble. “The captain began to sing and whistle nonchalantly, which puzzled us. Soon we heard him shouting in German toward a passing Nazi patrol boat: ‘Wollen sie einen beer haben?’ (Would you like a beer?) – a clever gimmick designed to avoid the Germans’ suspicions. After three tense hours at sea, we heard shouting: ‘Get up! Get up! And welcome to Sweden!’ It was hard to believe, but we were now safe. We cried and the Swedes cried with us as they escorted as ashore. The nightmare was over,” Esther recalled.

Denmark, Finland Upgrade Palestinian Diplomatic Missions

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Denmark and Finland have jumped on the bandwagon of pro-Palestinian Authority countries to update their Palestinian diplomatic missions to embassy status.

The countries made a joint announcement Saturday on the sidelines of a meeting of Nordic foreign ministers in Stockholm.

“We hope that the intention to give, for all practical purposes, the Palestinian Missions in our capitals conditions for work identical to those of an embassy will encourage [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas to engage with determination in the necessary negotiations with the Israeli government on a two-state solution,” the Danish and Finnish foreign ministers, Villy Sovndal and Erkki Tuomioja, said in a statement.

The updated status will take effect by the end of this year.

Sweden’s parliament upgraded the status of the Palestinian mission in Stockholm to an embassy in March.

IKEA Pulls Ad from Swedish Anti-Semitic blog

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

IKEA is investigating how its online advertisement banner came to be placed on a Swedish anti-Semitic blog, a spokesperson for the furniture giant said. IKEA has two stores in Israel.

Aftonbladet found ads for several companies, including IKEA and Western Union, on a Swedish blog called the “Gothic team,” which features anti-Semitic and other racist texts. It recently featured an interview with a leader of a Swedish Nazi movement. In another article, Jewish-Swedish journalist Anita Goldman is described as “a super Jewess” who promotes “ideas that will benefit the Jewish elite clan’s own purposes and achievements” with “ethno-centric chauvinism that shines like the cold steel of a camp guard.”

“We have stopped all advertising for this package pending an investigation into what happened,” Sara Paulsson, a press officer for the Swedish home design and furniture giant told the local daily Aftonbladet on Saturday.

Paulsson said the company purchased “advertisement packages” from a third party, which provides placement. The ads for IKEA and the other companies have been removed from the blog.

What Happened to Sweden?

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Just as Raoul Wallenberg remains as an example of courage, Sweden’s Mayor of Malmo, Ilmar Reepalu, a Social Democrat who has held the office for 17 years, does not.

Last October, around 300 people assembled in Raoul Wallenberg Square in Malmo, to join in solidarity the few Jews of Malmo, now numbering about 600, whose community center had just suffered an explosion, and whose cemetery had just been desecrated by antisemitic graffiti. At the same time as this demonstration, on the other side of Malmo, a celebration was taking place to commemorate the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, who, in Hungary in1944, saved thousands of Jews, from being sent to their death in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. From July 9, 1944 until his arrest by the Soviet army on January 17, 1945 at the age of 32, Wallenberg issued “protective passports” to thousands of Jews and rented 32 buildings, which he declared diplomatic facilities. He used diplomacy, bribery and blackmail to provide Jews with immunity from arrest. He persuaded General Schmidthuber, the Commander of the German Army in Hungary, to cancel Adolf Eichmann’s plan to attack the Jewish ghetto and slaughter the 70,000 Jews there. About 120,000 Jews survived in Hungary alone as a result of Wallenberg’s efforts.

The courage of Wallenberg is disappointingly absent in Sweden today. Once a moral superpower, Sweden cannot now claim to be seen as even an open or tolerant place. Instead, it has become a haven for antisemitic behavior, as well as anti-Israel activity, by both Muslim activists and various political groups. Members of the Swedish parliament have attended supposedly “anti-Israel” rallies, which quickly descended into occasions for competitive antisemitic rhetoric.

Jews are being “harassed and physically attacked,” by “people from the Middle East,” according to Malmo resident, Fredrik Sieradzik, in an interview with the Austrian paper, Die Presse. “Malmo,” he said, “is a place to move away from.”

Sweden is now a country where orthodox Jews are afraid to wear a skullcap, and where the largest tabloid paper,Aftonbladet, libelously claimed, in an August 2009 article, that Israeli soldiers were taking the organs of dead Palestinians. When the city of Malmo in 2009 hosted a tennis match between Sweden and Israel, no spectators were allowed for “reasons of security.”

The individual most conspicuous in the denial of this reality is the mayor of Malmo, Ilmar Reepalu,. This reality consists of attacks on Jews in a city where the Jewish population has been reduced from 2,000 to about 600; where Molotov cocktails are thrown at Jewish funeral chapels, and antisemitic graffiti is scrawled throughout the town. The mayor nevertheless denies the increase in antisemitism there. When he does allude to the subject, he argues that the violence comes from right wing extremists, not from Muslims who now make up a considerable part of his Malmo population.

Reepalu asserts that “We accept neither Zionism nor antisemitism. They are extremes that put themselves above other groups, and believe they have a lower value.” Of the small Malmo Jewish community, he says: “I would wish for the Jewish community to denounce Israeli violations against the civilian population of Gaza. Instead, it decides to hold a demonstration [in reality a pro-peace rally] which could send the wrong signals.” Reepalu speaks of Israeli “genocide” in Gaza.

Reepalu, as is common with people in other countries in Europe in their fails to consider that government, laws and human rights partly exists to protect the minority from the majority. He blames the local Jews’ use of free speech and freedom of assembly for attacks on them: If only the Jews would stop speaking and gathering peacefully, the distorted logic goes, no one would be attacking them. Historically, the opposite is true: even when Jews remained quiet, and spent years in hiding, as many often did, the only acceptable form of behavior, apparently, was not to exist.

After years of unremitting antisemitic activity in Malmo, many Jews have either left or are thinking of leaving, largely for Stockholm, England or Israel. Reepalu’s comment was : “There have not been any attacks on Jewish people, and if Jews want to move to Israel that is not a matter for Malmo.” From time to time the mayor has claimed that his views were misrepresented, but the full recordings, published on the website of the paperSkanska Dagbladet, make clear that they were not.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/what-happened-to-sweden/2013/01/30/

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