Swedish audacity in the Valley of Ghosts

The Swedish self-proclaimed ‘first feminist government in the world’ is struggling on many fronts. Double standards is one of its ailments — liaising itself increasingly with brutal dictatorships that oppress women. This Swedish-Israeli citizen argues that if Sweden was to cease applying some of its double standards it should move its top diplomat in Jerusalem to Ramallah.

Are you going to ask Mrs. Thatcher for her support of the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital?” a reporter asked Prime Minister Menachem Begin as he arrived at 10 Downing Street on 25 May 1979. “No, sir — under no circumstances,” Begin replied. “Because, sir, Jerusalem was a Jewish capital long before London was a British capital. ..the civilized world had never heard of London. In fact, they had never heard of Great Britain.

The list of examples of the Swedish governments obsession with Israel is long. To name but a few absurdities from just the past few weeks alone, we have witnessed Marita Ulvskog (Member of the European Parliament; former Secretary of the Social Democratic Party and Deputy Prime Minister) posing with a poster in support of terrorist mastermind and convicted mass murderer Marwan Barghouti.

Two days earlier, Swedish deputy PM Isabella Lövin equated Israeli and Palestinian incitement, implying that schoolbooks from both sides demonize the other in equal measure. Seriously. For Lövin to imply in an open Swedish Parliament debate that Israeli textbooks promote hate or incite to violence is ludicrous. The most recent review of Israeli textbooks by IMPACT-se (the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education) fully debunks the unsubstantiated claim made by Swedens Deputy Prime Minister. Specifically, IMPACT’s findings conclude that “Israeli textbooks do not contain any call for violence against Palestinians, demonization of Palestinians, glorification of war or justification of violence as a means for Arab-Israeli conflict resolution”.

Furthermore Lövin went on the say “that UNWRA has functioning routines to quickly and reliably deal with alleged cases of violent extremism, antisemitism or similar” and that she therefore “sees no reason to question UNWRA’s impartiality”. She says this without blinking an eye, dismissing her own governments role as a $45 million donor to UNWRA which runs schools in which Palestinian children pretended to execute IDF soldiers – no more than a month earlier.

The end of April also allowed us to behold FM Wallström giving a 45-minute-long interview on Al Jazeera, where she was introduced as “well-known for her statements against Israel”. During the course of the interview, Margot Wallström was asked by Egyptian journalist Ahmed Mansour about the “extreme right-wing led lobby” of the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism and how they influence her government. She neither refuted nor objected to this claim (which would be like branding Amnesty International a right wing extremist lobby). Moreover, the Swedish FM didn’t even remotely oppose the journalist’s description of “Israeli death operations in Jerusalem”, which can either be interpreted as grave incompetence, or silent backing.

It goes on. At the UN Security Council session on the situation in the Middle East, sitting UNSC President – US Ambassador Nikki Haley – urged the Council to shift its focus to Iran and its state sponsorship of terrorism as the main obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East. In spite of this, Sweden devoted 80% of its statement to Israel, with not a single word on Iran.

But the Swedish Government’s most controversial anti-Israel act as of late was undoubtedly in UNESCO, where Sweden, as the only European country, joined ranks with the greatest human-rights-abusing regimes in the world to vote ‘yes’ on a resolution calling Israel “the occupying power” in Jerusalem and disputing its ties to the capital.

For this the Swedish ambassador to Israel was summoned to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and given an official reprimand.

The senior officials expressed their bitter disappointment over Sweden’s vote at UNESCO. This is a vote against Israel, part of a systematic voting pattern,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said.

Going through 3,000 years of history, covering the vast number of events and facts that existed and persist till our own day, establishing the undeniable Jewish and Israeli heritage in Jerusalem would amount to a book, or two. Suggesting otherwise belongs in the realm of the nonsensical and straight out wacky. The fact that Sweden hand-in-hand with a group of antisemitic dictatorships devoted to waging war against the Jewish people manage to pass a resolution in UNESCO claiming Jerusalem isn’t Israeli does·not·make·it·true. All such a resolution does is expose the dysfunctional structures of the United Nations which enable biased political agendas to kill off sense and sensibility, and in this case likely traded for Arab support of a Swedish seat at the Security Council.

Lets follow Swedish ‘logic’ on Jerusalem for a moment though. Sweden doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and therefore has chosen to place its embassy in Tel Aviv. This in itself is very provocative – as if any country has the right to suggest to another what their capital city should be – and is an injustice uniquely reserved for Israel amongst the nations of the world.

Sweden is one of only six countries to have a Consulate General in eastern Jerusalem, located in the predominantly Arab populated neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. “The Consulate General is responsible for the management of Swedish development cooperation in Palestine, with the objective to promote democratic Palestinian state building and the peace process”, as per their website.

It is fascinating therefore that the official residence of the Swedish Consul General is situated in western Jerusalem, right in the middle of the mainly Jewish populated German Colony neighborhood. Sweden purchased the building in 1991, and the Consul General has resided there ever since. From a Swedish perspective, wouldn’t living in Ramallah side by side with the people that are the subjects of Sweden’s proclaimed diplomatic mission to Palestine make more sense? In UNESCO, Sweden made it blatantly clear that they perceive Israel as an occupying force of all of Jerusalem. Why then reside among the Jewish Israeli ‘occupiers’ the Swedish government opposes so forcefully? It couldn’t be that the Swedish diplomat lives there to enjoy the quiet and picturesque streets around Emek Refaim (lit. ‘Valley of Ghosts’), or to delight in the charming cafes, boutique shops or buzzing nightlife – could it? One might get the impression that there is a classic Swedish double standard in place here – manning the barricades with Palestinians by day, but socializing among Israelis by night.

The residence of the Swedish Consul General in Jerusalem is managed by the National Property Board (Statens Fastighetsverk), which they define as “part of our Swedish cultural heritage abroad”. Stop. Read that again and let the hubris of this wording sink in: property in Jerusalem as part of Swedish cultural heritage. Imagine Israel placing a plaque on a building in Stockholm claiming Israeli cultural heritage in Sweden. Inconceivable!

Swedish Consul General Residence in Jerusalem
Swedish Consul General Residence in Jerusalem

By what right does this Swedish government proclaim to Israel that it is the occupier of its own capital? And if Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel, then where is it according to Sweden? Of course, Israel doesn’t need the permission of Sweden, the UN or anyone to choose its capital. Did Sweden ask anyone for permission to make Stockholm its capital, or did they do it unilaterally? To paraphrase Begin; Jerusalem was a Jewish capital long before the civilized world had ever heard of Stockholm, or even Sweden for that matter.

We know that from the point of view of religious faith, Jerusalem is holy to Christians and Muslims, but to the Jewish people Jerusalem is their history for three millennia, their heart, their dream, the visible symbol of their national redemption.

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a letter to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, 1980

Since Sweden is so forcefully adamant about all of Jerusalem being under ‘Israeli occupation’ the country should stay true to its stance and move the residence of the Consul General out of the Emek Refaim area and move to Ramallah to be with the Palestinians they have come here to serve. The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs to realize and acknowledge that they have rendered their own 1991 policy for the location of the Residence of the Consul General, to serve as a “Swedish bridge between the people in both parts of Jerusalem”, as null and void.

The days of Israel-bashing are over

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, March 2017

The day Sweden will be led by a government that choses to cease its blind harassment of Israel, and the day they will finally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (feel free to lead by example), they will be welcomed back to our 3,000 year old city with open arms as we will celebrate the move of the Swedish Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and a location of an Ambassadors residence wherever they see fit.

Until then, it should be in Sweden’s own interest to lower their flag in the Valley of Ghosts which currently only serves as a reminder of the flagrant audacity of the Swedish government.

Swedish Consul General Residence in Jerusalem
Swedish Consul General Residence in Jerusalem
About the Author
David Metzler is the manager of AppleBay Media, which he founded in 2012, and has a burning passion for the nonprofit sector. He previously held senior positions for major Israeli and Jewish Diaspora institutions before embarking on his current entrepreneurial endeavors. David has lived in California, Sweden and Australia, and has called Israel 'home' since 2001.
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