op-ed written by the chairman of the Swedish committee against Anti-Semitism- Willy Silberstein. The piece discussed how the recent “Ship to Gaza” incident further has shed light on the rapid growth of anti-Semitism in Sweden.
In order to share Silberstein’s message about anti-Semitism in Sweden with a wider audience, I have below summarized some of the key points in English:
Silberstein argues that during recent days the reactions to “Ship to Gaza” have shown that Jews in Sweden are dealing with serious prejudice. Anti-Semitism exists amongst parliamentarians, academics and is wide-spread on the internet.
According to the author, when Israel’s government is internationally criticized this leads to an increased level of anti-Semitism—it simply blooms. Anti-Semitism is most probably there all the time, but in less dramatic times there are less people that dare to say anything.
Recently, this has not been the case.
Silberstein quotes the blog of a Social Democrat and member of Parliament, Veronica Palm:
“Do you also wonder who the Chosen Ones will burn the next time?”.
The quote is from a song by a Swedish artist Björn Afzelius. The “Chosen Ones” refers not to a country but to Jews as a group. Furthermore, in this context it is a term completely in line with traditional anti-Semitic argumentation which shows the Jews as group that defines itself as superior and is inherently evil. Palm was later criticized and released this statement:”I have now understood that the song lyrics, when taken out of context, by some debaters on the internet, seem nearly anti-Semitic”.
What she fails to acknowledge is that it is not “nearly anti-Semitic” but actually anti-Semitic. Indicating that the Jews will “burn” their next victims clearly amounts to collective blame directed at a certain group. Demonizing all Jews in this way is nothing short of classic anti-Semitism. It is frightening to see these messages spread by someone who is Vice President of the Swedish government’s Social Security Committee and Chairman of the Social Democrats in Stockholm.
In Newsmill, an online Swedish news debate forum, Torbjörn Tännsjö (a professor at Stockholm University) writes that Jews should take a stance against Israel’s actions against Ship to Gaza. He claims that this will eliminate anti-Semitism. By this logic, Tännsjö does two things: firstly, he is claiming that there is a real and justifiable basis to existing anti-Semitism, and secondly, he opens the door to justifying anti-Semitic reactions if Jews don’t take a stance. This harks back to Mayor Reepalu’s (Social Democrat) statement that the Jews in Malmö should condemn the war in Gaza in order to avoid harassment and physical violence directed against them.
Silberstein also shares that he got a message on Facebook from someone with a typical Jewish name which read: “During the last 48 hours my children (who are adults) and I have received some 45 phone calls on how we will be treated when they catch us Jews and finish the job that Hitler did not, as well as how my children and my grandchildren (they knew their names) will be killed in the square”.
Prejudiced statements such as the following have also sprung up on Swedish internet sites. “I hope this will be in the history books next to the page on Jews and the Holocaust—that Jews fought for democracy and freedom through acts of piracy and murder”.
The Swedish committee against anti-Semitism arranges yearly trips to concentration camps—these too have failed to avoid criticism. ”It is sad that school children travelled yearly to historical concentration camps paid by Israeli interest and then abuse takes place at the present time which is not talked about in school”. It should be noted that it is the schools and not Israel which pays for the trips.
Silberstein concludes his op-ed by writing “I think most Swedes believe that we live in a country where Jews as a minority have small prejudices to struggle with. The reactions the last couple of days show that prejudice [in Sweden] against Jews is spreading under a very thin veneer [of liberal attitudes]. This prejudice has spread widely through the internet and amongst parliamentarians and academics.” As Silberstein shows, the deceiving humanitarian mask is fast slipping from Sweden’s public face.