Recent statements by the Swedish Minister of Foreign affairs begs the question — are these clumsy misunderstandings or is there really a problem with the government in Stockholm’s politics with Israel?
Attempts to equate the deaths of the victims of terror to those carrying out the vicious attacks can only be summarized in one word: deplorable. Yet after more than 80 days of daily Palestinian terrorism, Sweden acts as if this is a matter of counting bodies in order to determine who is more in the wrong; and in adding insult to injury, issuing an accusatory insinuation that Israel is conducting extrajudicial executions.
It is important to analyze the situation with Sweden because it has direct implications on the current violence.
In parliament on 4 December 2015, the Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, made reference to Israel conducting extrajudicial executions. This only weeks after Wallström managed to link the acts of terror in Paris to the plight of the Palestinians, as reported by Times of Israel diplomatic correspondent Raphael Ahren.
I reject knife attacks. I think it is terrible and it is not allowed to occur. Israel has a right to defend itself, to assure its own safety. And in the same way the response mustn’t be such — and I say this in other situations — that there will be extrajudicial executions. Or that it will be disproportionate.
— Margot Wallström, Riksdagen, 4 December 2015
Winter is coming. And you know nothing Margot Wallström. This is however not an episode of ‘Game of Thrones,’ though I wish it were, because it would be easier to watch than the current Swedish government at work.
Speaking with Mathias Sundin, MP for the Swedish Liberals, on what took place during the debate he initiated with Wallström in parliament on Friday he said, “It seems that every time Foreign Minister Wallström opens her mouth about Israel, there is a new diplomatic crisis. Now she said that the response from Israel towards the Palestinian terror attacks should not be extrajudicial killings. That’s an absurd statement from the foreign minister.”
One of Wallströms press secretaries, Erik Wirkensjö, engaged me in a Twitter conversation as the story first hit the news with an article by Niklas Svensson in Expressen. Wirkensjö refuted my tweet on the shocking statement by the FM, and later started tweeting denials to Israeli press, including @timesofisrael, frantically repeating his message as if it would help make it more true. For heavens sake, it was a specific parliamentary debate on the attacks in Israel (statement in question at 41m27s). You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
— David Metzler (@davidjmetzler) December 4, 2015
Frankly, it is getting quite boring to listen to the press secretaries of the Swedish MFA repeatedly defending their boss by claiming misquotations and out-of-context remarks. Even leading journalists in Sweden are reacting harshly towards their FM. Ivar Arpi, lead columnist at Svenska Dagbladet, tweeted, “This is a question of self-defense against terrorists. How hostile toward Israel can Wallström become?”
Instead of doing the right thing and owning up to the situation, Wallström claims she didn’t say what everyone heard her say. The respectable thing to do would be for her to personally hurry in front of the cameras and issue a clear apology, preferably followed by her resignation, because we’re at the point where she has lost all credibility. Enough already.
Rather it seems that Wallström repeatedly finds opportunity to come up with new insults whilst continuing to patronize the government in Jerusalem. Her surprisingly amateurish response to Israel summoning the Swedish ambassador a few weeks ago with, “Israel gets upset at everything we do,” is yet another example.
Perhaps this can all be attributed to one singular Foreign Minister who is simply unlucky when she tries to speak her mind? Perhaps she is not representative of the views of the Swedish government as a whole or the Social Democrat party of Sweden to which she belongs?
First, a look at the staff Wallström has surrounded herself with. Her other press secretary, Pezhman Fivrin, likely working from a desk right next to Wirkensjö, tweeted the following statements in 2011: “Have seen so many disgusting things the Israelis do in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Apartheid politics of Israel continues”; and “It’s about showing the world that Gaza is occupied and closed. It is the worlds largest outdoor prison”. These are similar rantings made by fellow Swedish Social Democrat Amne Ali last year.
Moving slightly further up the ladder we find Hillevi Larsson, MP for the Social Democrat Party. Larsson attended a demonstration in Malmö on 18 October 2015 with crowds shouting “stab the soldiers” and “slaughter the Jews”. There has been no accountability in the aftermath of this event. These rants were made in Arabic and Larsson claimed she didn’t understand, yet she has not been reprimanded by her party for being associated with this anti-Israel protest, nor has she apologized to the Jewish community in Sweden or to the State of Israel. This was hardly surprising as it wasn’t her first row with Israel. Shortly after Sweden recognized the Palestinian state last year, Larsson received an award for her dedication to Palestine. “Feels very honoring” she wrote as she posted this photo on Instagram of herself posing with her new plaque of a gilded map of Palestine and an eradicated Israel. Perhaps she didn’t understand the implication of a map of Palestine which has replaced the current State of Israel?
On a government level matters get even worse. Swedish Minister of Education, Gustav Fridolin, as well as the Minister of Housing, Mehmet Kaplan, have both broken Israeli law, been arrested and consequently deported. Fridolin for illegally protesting the construction of Israels security fence (one of the most effective means Israel has to protect itself against the very terror Sweden specifically refuses to condemn), and Kaplan for participating in the Mavi Marmara flotilla in 2010.
Furthermore, Mehmet Kaplan, was interviewed in the Turkish newspaper Star Gazete on 12 October 2014, which led Swedish journalist (and authorized translator from Turkish to Swedish) Thomas Gür to beg the question; who in the Löfven government actually sets Sweden’s foreign policy? In addition, Gür also points out the notable content of Kaplans quote in itself, “The occupied territories will, Allah willing, be freed…”
Finally there is the Prime Minister himself, Stefan Löfven. “Sweden has been naive,” is what he said in a national press conference on 19 November 2015 in regards to Islamic extremism; a statement which was critically received as quite a bombshell. I dare suggest that Sweden (read the Löfven government) is also very much naive in regards to Israel and the Palestinians, and that their recognition of the Palestinian state was both premature and ill-conceived. Löfven and his cohorts simply don’t get it.
The irony is that the Palestinians, who obviously deserve to be better off, will continue to be infused with the same Islamic extremist ideology Löfven now admits he’s been naive about, as long as Sweden keeps mum on the way the Palestinian leadership currently goes about their business. Although the Swedish government wants to pin the responsibility of the misfortunes of the Palestinians solely on Israel by making accusations of illegal executions, and an obsessive focus with the occupation, I claim that the onus is on Sweden for its naive approach, which fails the Palestinians as much as it fails Israel. How numbingly painful it will be the day they will internalize that that their goodwill and billions in Swedish tax-payer funds has gone to sponsor a Palestine fixated with hatred, incitement and terrorism.
So, yes Mrs. Wallström, Israel is currently upset with just about everything you do, though it is totally unbefitting of you as a Foreign Minister of a country like Sweden to make such a statement. Worse than that, when you suggested that Israel is conducting illegal executions you crossed a line that I can’t see how you can turn back from. Sooner rather than later you will hopefully realize that you have been naive in this matter as well. My hopes are that you will lose the next Swedish elections and that your rational peers, intelligent (non-naive) individuals currently in opposition, take over and restore some of Sweden’s respect on the world stage as a serious and honorable peace broker.
Until such time, morally equating the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships is actually delaying peace as it gives the non-democratic Palestinian forces a legitimacy, and hundreds of millions of dollars in unconditioned Swedish financial aid, they do not deserve.