Swedish society has had a major problem which hardly ever makes the news abroad, in the shape of the rising antisemitism increasingly evident from all sections of society. In September this year, in an article reminiscent of Campaign Against Antisemitism’s recent UK study which found that 1 in 3 of the Jews polled had considered leaving Britain because of antisemitism, Arutz Sheva reported that in Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city with a population of 300,000 barely 500 Jews remain today of more than 2,000 who lived there in the 1970s. The rest had left either for Stockholm or for Israel. The European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights reveals that a third of the Jews of the Old Continent have stopped wearing religious symbols because of fear of attacks. From Denmark to Germany Jews are warned not to wear the Jewish kippah. Elsewhere we read of chants in Arabic of “Death to the Jews!” Malmo, however, seems to believe that it can deal with the problem by talking about it and argues that this is becoming successful. However, while the number of reported antisemitic hate crimes has decreased recently, Frederick Sieradzki, chair of Malmo’s Jewish community thinks that that does not tell the whole story.
“If you look at the raw statistics it can look like things are improving, but it can also be just that registered crimes are down,” he said. And then, perhaps unwittingly, Sieradzki names the fundamental problem which faces Jews everywhere in the west, that antisemitism is becoming so normalised and embedded into the discourse that far too often it is not recognised for what it is:
“If you don’t feel like something has happened, why would you report it? That’s a problem.”
In Sweden as elsewhere in Europe, left wing antisemitism is also emerging and strengthening. In 2015 events in Umea, where a 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht was commemorated to which no Jews were invited, evidenced not only that the organisers were totally insensitive to the impact of such a decision but also a growing trend of at least minimising the importance to Swedish Jews of commemoration of the Holocaust. Jews were not invited, according to one Jan Hägglund, a local lawmaker and member of the local (left-leaning) Workers’ Party [better known as the Social Democratic Workers’ Party (SAP), Sweden’s largest party], because the rally could “be perceived as unwelcoming or unsafe situation for them.” According to [the centrist Swedish newspaper] Norrköping Tidningar, previous rallies have included Palestinian flags and banners where the Star of David was equated with the Nazi swastika. (The reader may be forgiven for wondering at least why such displays were permitted in the first place at these events if it was believed that they would lead to Jews feeling unsafe at them).
Perhaps as a result of similar thoughtlessness and failure to apprehend or assess their impact, there are also much more recent signs of the emergence in Sweden of far right antisemitism, see here and here . The last is particularly egregious. For all its laid-back attitude to such insult to others, it should beggar belief that Swedish officialdom should permit a Nazi rally to march past Gothenburg’s synagogue on the holiest day of the Jewish year. Following the outrage from Jewish community leaders, a court in Gothenberg rerouted the planned neo-Nazi march on Yom Kippur farther away from its synagogue.
The Gothenburg administrative court ruling concerning the 30th September march by the far-right Nordic Resistance Movement overrode the suggested route by police. The court also shortened the route, so that the Yom Kippur worshippers will not now have to encounter the neo-Nazis.
When the march went ahead, it was marked by violence between neo-Nazis and the police. Clashes between neo-Nazis and counter-protesters led to 50 arrests, with what reports portray as quite serious clashes between the two and police, with projectiles being thrown and fireworks being ignited. Around 600 neo-Nazis marched in black body armour in a pseudo-military display of intimidation.
On our initial report on the NRM, we uncovered several explicitly neo-Nazi beliefs which are clearly directly inspired by Hitler. Similarly, the tactic of large public marches with militaristic iconography is reminiscent of early Fascism.