Sweden has failed to condemn and act against all anti-Semitism

I live in one of the most liberal countries in the world. I live in a country that pride itself on being an open society that is against racism, homophobia, hatred against Muslims and hatred against Jews. Though when it comes to hatred against Jews, anti-Semitism, there seem to be difficulties nowadays among our elected politicians to condemn it if it comes from ”the other one” or “other groups of people” as some politicians seem to prefer to call some of those who commit anti-Semitic acts. This expression ”other groups of people” can mean certain segments of the Swedish population that many of the Swedish politicians in a kind of odd and sad way do not really count as fully Swedes. They therefor expect less from them and can not openly confront the racism, the anti-Semitism that their “other groups of people” carry.

When it comes to the Middle East and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians ”the other one” seems to refer to the Palestinian Authority(PA). At least this is how a Swedish politician referred to the PA recently when the issue of anti-Semitism within that authority was brought up in a debate in the Swedish parliament.

On December 16 the Swedish politicians could have made history. On that day there was a debate taking place in the Swedish parliament due to a motion by the Sweden Democrat and MP Björn Söder, who suggested that the members of the Swedish parliament would say yes to stop funding the PA.

Sweden could have sent a clear message to the PA that Sweden is concerned about the anti-Semitism in the official Palestinian media and  in the Palestinian politics. Sweden could have sent a strong message that Sweden does not tolerate to aid a PA that is not interested in peace with Israel and a PA that is not interested in that the State of Israel continues to exist. Sweden could have sent an impressive message to the PA and to the world and showed how high our democratic values are here. However the Swedish democracy failed to send such messages.

It is so obvious in the way the Palestinian Authority deals with Israel in the communication with its own population, that it is not promoting peace and that it is not developing anti-racist policies. And it is very clear that the Swedish aid in the PA does not work the way the Swedish politicians really want. The Swedish politicians however seem to pretend otherwise and hope for that soon the moment of peaceful and democratic behavior will emerge in the PA. Eventually, they assume, the Palestinians will really adopt the two-state solution and the Swedish politicians can feel happy they were right and worked the right way to establish a Palestinian state, another Arab state to any price. Giving up on that now would mean all efforts and economical resources have been wasted for nothing. It would mean a discomfiture for them.

So why can not the Swedish politicians succeed in their building of a Palestinian state?

There is a lack of democracy and a lack of values of a democracy in the Palestinian leadership. The PA has disguised itself in democratic garments (and the EU and individual European countries have done their best to dress it up) but underneath it it has the same undemocratic nature as all the Arab dictatorial and Islamist states which all lack real freedom of speech, real human rights and real anti-racist policies.

In 2013 Sweden aided the Palestinian Authority with 6,1 million USD and the West Bank-Gaza area has so far in total this year received 52,7 million USD in aid from the Swedish tax-payers’ money.

In the same year the PA Minister of Agriculture has presented a gift to a delegation of journalists from Oman. The gift is a map carved in wood that includes the PA and all of Israel and with the word ”Palestine” carved on it.This was publicly broadcasted on PA TV.  Also in the same year Mahmoud Abbas and other people in the PA leadership attended at least one performance presenting Israel as ”Palestine”. A PA-associated youth magazine informed its readers that Lebanon borders ”the occupied Palestine” and on Fatah’s official Facebook page Israel was referred to as ”Palestinian soil” according to PMW that monitors the Palestinian media.These were just a few pieces of evidence of how the PA is not interested in peace and does not nurture peaceful thoughts among its citizens.

The number of anti-Semitic crimes in the PA media are many and I mention just a few of them here like holocaust denials and the repeating of anti-Semitic stories about blood libel.

When our Swedish politicians in the Swedish parliament were confronted with the information about similar incidents in the PA during the debate on whether Sweden should stop funding the PA or not I was deeply disappointed by how they responded to it. MP Söder confronted them with several incidents of anti-Semitism and the denial of the existence of the State of Israel  in PA textbooks for students. He also informed them about how terrorism was glorified by the PA.

Not one single Swedish MP from other parties could admit that the PA acted in an anti-Semitic way. Instead the MP Kerstin Lundgren from the Centre Party (in the government) tried to make it seem like the Sweden Democrats are the extreme and also that it is in Israel that people are extreme in their views. Are they extreme because people she met in Israel and the Sweden Democrats exposed the PA anti-Semitism and because they want to stop the funding? I do not get this.

Also MP Lundgren added that Sweden wants to ”build two states”. Sweden has high ambitions apparently as it also wants to ”build a state for the Israeli people”. Apparently that  also means to any price even to the price of closing its eyes to anti-Semitism in the PA. Believe me Kerstin I do think that Israelis are capable of building their own state which they already have and in that state they are even criticized by Swedish politicians when they do build.

I do not expect much from the left oriented parties in our parliament. Their political history is far too anti-Israel.That they would change very soon is unfortunately not very likely. But I do expect much much more from the liberal and rightwing parties that are in the government. I expect that they act against the PA that is not wanting peace, that is rewarding  terrorists, that has been criticized for its anti-Semitism by the Simon Wiesenthal center and that recently has been criticized for its lack of sustainability by the European Court of Auditors. But the ruling parties in the Swedish parliament preferred to remain silent or speak in favor of continued funding of the PA. The motion to stop funding the PA was after the debate rejected.

If we do not have politicians in Sweden who can admit the existence of obvious anti-Semitism and act against it where will it end? Are we now not able to act upon anti-Semitism and racism wherever it may be found and whatever the consequences are of doing so? Are we then still in Sweden? I do not believe so. I want the old Sweden back that firmly and consistently stands up against anti-Semitism and corrupt leaderships and I want a new Sweden that can really understand the situation Israel is in. I want a Sweden where our politicians can admit they have made a mistake funding the PA.That would be the Sweden I would be proud of. Now I can not be proud.

About the Author
Tobias Petersson is a Swedish freelance writer who has focused on Israel and the MENA region. He came to Israel first in 2007 for a summer vacation and learned much. Soon after his return to Sweden he was suddenly aware of the anti-Israeli sentiments in his country and decided he wanted to change that. He has published articles about Israel in various Swedish and Israeli media to make the distance between Israel and Sweden less. Today Tobias is active in the Swedish pro-Israel network Perspektiv på Israel/Perspective on Israel.
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