ABRAHAM COOPER and HAROLD BRACKMAN , THE JERUSALEM POST
Neutral Sweden’s mixed World War II legacy is still debated by historians. On the one hand it supplied Nazi Germany with iron ore and ball bearings and allowed the Wehrmacht to use the Swedish railway system to transport soldiers. On the other hand, spurred on by the Danes, it accepted Danish Jews marked for mass murder by the Nazis. Ultimately, the good name of Sweden was redeemed by the unparalleled heroics of one of its own – Raoul Wallenberg, who, using the cover of a Swedish diplomat, helped save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews destined for Auschwitz, only to disappear into the Soviet Gulag. For decades, no Swedish government had the courage to demand his return from the jaws of the neighboring Russian bear.
While this Swede will forever be revered by the Jewish nation, it is brutally clear in 2009 that Jews and especially those uppity ones from Israel are of little concern to Swedish authorities, as their policies become more reminiscent of apartheid South Africa or Berlin in the 1930s than a 21st-century Scandinavian democracy.
INTERNATIONAL SPORTS strive to be free of politics and prejudice. But here they provide real-time proof of the poisoning of Swedish public life by biases that have echoes in Nazi Europe’s anti-Semitism. In Sweden’s third largest city, Malmo, where a virulently anti-Israel Muslim community makes up a significant percentage of the 250,000 population, the City Council voted five to four to hold the scheduled Davis Cup match between Israel and Sweden in an empty stadium, behind closed doors.
The losers are tennis players and fans of every nationality. The winners are the “Stop the Match” campaign which prevailed on the council’s Socialist-Left majority to quarantine Israelis and Jews behind an apartheid police cordon to protest Israel’s actions in the recent Gaza war.
The Malmo travesty comes on the heels of a huge international outcry after Dubai barred Shahar Pe’er from the Barclay Dubai Tennis Tournament in the UAE. Dubbed the apartheid tennis tournament, and threatened with having the games withdrawn from it, Dubai was forced to issue a visa for Andy Ram.
That controversy has had zero impact in Sweden however, as authorities announced that an Israeli tae kwondo delegation, consisting of 45 athletes and five coaches, en route to Trelleborg for the Swedish championship, was told to stay home due to Muslim threats. Not even tae kwondo – Korean for “the art of kicking and punching” – can provide protection from Sweden’s supine complicity in leading today’s anti-Israel bullies.
Spare us the alleged “public safety” nonsense. The same 7,000 anti-Israel demonstrators in downtown Malmo would have chanted the same slogans and the few dozen who attacked the police vans for the benefit of media coverage would have tossed the same projectiles had the stadium been packed with tennis fans on Saturday.
No the security card was invoked not to protect but to stigmatize Israeli athletes as pariahs.
None of this is about sports. It’s about Jews.
FOR DECADES, Sweden has allowed demagogues like Ahmed Rami , whose Radio Islam is a 22-language flagship of Holocaust denial, Jew-hatred and demonization of the State of Israel, to poison the well among the nation’s Muslim minority.
Over-the-top vilification anti-Israel rhetoric is a hallmark of a large swathe of the Swedish political establishment.
“Israel is an apartheid state. I think Gaza is comparable to the Warsaw Ghetto… I’m surprised that Israel… can do the exact same things the Nazis did,” charged Ingalill Bjartén, the vice-chair for the Social Democratic Women in southern Sweden. “I don’t think Israel is a democracy worthy of the name. It’s a racist apartheid state,” said the Left Party’s Hans Linde, calling for a boycott of Israel. A leading Social-Democrat, Urban Ahlin, deputy chair of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, implored Stockholm to encourage the EU to suspend its cooperation agreement with Israel.
On the right, Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister, after visiting Gaza charged Israel with intentionally targeting economic infrastructure and called its policies “neither morally nor politically defensible.” In 2004, when a Europewide poll revealed that 59 percent of respondents identified Israel as “the greatest threat to world peace,” a Swedish government conference on preventing genocide was coordinated with a Stockholm museum exhibit, entitled “Snow White and the Madness of Truth,” that glorified an Islamic Jihad homicide bomber who mass murdered 22 Israeli Jews and Arabs at a Haifa café.
IN 2005, a US State Department report documented that anti-Semitic incidents against Sweden’s tiny Jewish community spiked to over 100 a year after 2000, with attacks on Jewish shopkeepers and members of the Jewish Burial Society in Malmo, arson and vandalism of a Jewish cemetery, a swastika painted near the Jewish community building in Gothenburg, three Arab men disrupted the Rosh Hashana service shouting “I’ll kill you, Zionists!” at the Great Synagogue in Stockholm where a pro-Israel street demonstration was violently disrupted by counterdemonstrators and members of Hizb ut-Tahrir handed out leaflets near a mosque that urged the liquidation of Jews in Palestine.
A 2006 poll showed 30 percent of all Swedes harbored moderate to strong anti-Semitic attitudes.
In 2008-2009 since the Gaza war broke out, slogans including “murderers… You broke the cease-fire” and “don’t subject Palestine to ethnic cleansing” have defaced the Israeli embassy in Stockholm, while in Helsingborg synagogue windows were broken while an arson fire blazed outside.
Sweden is among the European countries with laws against Holocaust denial and defamation of minorities. Yet to judge from recent events, such laws are a dead letter regarding offenses against Jews. Though Swedish schools teach Holocaust education, according to polls one-third of Swedish young people doubt that the Holocaust occurred. One can only imagine what Swedish Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews, would think. It’s time for Sweden to change sides and come out against, not for, the new war against Israel and the Jews.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance. He has been involved in efforts on behalf of Raoul Wallenberg from the 1980s. Dr. Harold Brackman, a historian, is a consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.