Swedish FM Wallström calls in sick, the Swedish people calls for her resignation

“We must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence”. Those are the now infamous words by the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström on Swedish television. Last Saturday, she was interviewed live on her reactions on ISIL’s terror attacks in Paris. When asked about her concern about radicalization among Swedish youths, the Swedish minister spontaneously started to talk about the “Palestinian situation.” Her statement appears as a justification for Palestinian terrorism and it has angered the Swedish people and damaged the image of Sweden.

The Swedish online newspaper Nyheter Idag this week also wrote about a recent conversation Wallström had with a woman confronting her about her statement on Palestinian terrorism. Wallström was told during the conversation that many people were upset by her words. The Swedish Foreign Minister replied ”the Jews are campaigning against me.”

She is wrong. The truth is that her Swedish citizens of various backgrounds are very upset with her statements regarding Islamist terrorism and terrorism targeting Israeli civilians.

Wallström has received a lot of criticism from the Swedish people in social media and from the majority of representatives from most Swedish parties in the parliament because of her problematic statements. However these recent statements by our Foreign Minister are just a few of a string of very worrisome statements. Here are some more:

”Does recognizing the state of Palestine indicate Islamophobia? Or does the continuous governmental support to Islamic communities in Sweden? Or the state’s contribution in financing Islamic non-governmental schools? Isn’t this proof of consideration and solidarity”

That is how Wallström begins her statement on solidarity and Islamophobia posted in Arabic on March 20th on the Swedish Foreign Ministry’s website. It reveals a new apparent reason why Sweden last year recognized the Palestinian Authority as the state of Palestine: to show solidarity with Islam.

In her statement, Wallström goes on giving examples of how Sweden shows solidarity with the Muslim and Arab world by receiving refugees from Syria and Iraq as well as funding the building of a Palestinian state.

That Wallström begins her statement in solidarity with the Islamic world by mentioning the Swedish government’s recognition of Palestinian statehood indicates how much importance  she thinks that the recognition has in the Islamic world. There is however nothing Islamic about the concept of Palestine, as it is not even mentioned in the Quran. Wallström has even herself stated that it is important not to turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious conflict. Wallström is in fact doing exactly that by her statement.

If Wallström had wanted to show how good Sweden is for Muslims, she could have mentioned Sweden’s anti-discrimination laws and the freedom of religion in the Swedish democracy. But she didn’t. She chose to highlight the recognition of Palestinian statehood. If that recognition is in solidarity with Islam, is there also room for solidarity with Israelis and Jews?

Later in the spring during an interview in front of a live audience Wallström told the crowd that Sweden has the same conditions for Hamas as the EU does, in order to remove it from its list of designated terror organizations.

Hamas wants to destroy the State of Israel and according to its charter the terror organization is against all peace negotiations and has declared war on all Jews. In the light of this Wallström’s statement is out of touch with reality. Hamas, like ISIL can not be removed from lists of designated terror organizations. It can only be ostracized and fought.

According to the Arab news website Arabnyheter (Arab News) Wallström has answered a Palestinian journalist on his question regarding the Palestinians right to ”self-defence,” that every nation has the right to self-defence by all means. Wallström said that if the diplomatic ways to solve the conflict would fail, then armed efforts are legitimized, Arabnyheter reports. I contacted Wallström’s press secretary regarding this statement. He forwarded my questions to the Foreign Ministry, which has failed to properly refute the statement.

In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such a statement is problematic as the concept of self-defence in the anti-Israeli Hamas and PA propaganda includes deliberately attacking Israeli civilians. Legitimizing armed efforts in this context means legitimizing terrorism.

Wallstrom has also linked all terrorism in the Middle East to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In a speech on June 8th at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs Wallström stated:

“An end to the occupation and the implementation of a just solution could also influence developments throughout the Middle East region. The lack of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is currently used as a recruitment tool by ISIL.”

This statement is not based on facts. It is just based on a will to make the world easier to understand and handle. It is a statement without any concern to Israel’s security. The recruitment to ISIL has nothing to do with Israel. The only recruitment tools used by ISIL are ideological conviction and religious motivation.

All these statements by Wallström are proofs of the Swedish Foreign Minister’s lack of understanding the Middle East and the forces and actions the Swedish government is motivating by its statements. The Swedish government claims it is pro peace and a two state solution. But it acts against Israel with the same rhetorical language as those powers in the Middle East that do not want peace nor a Jewish state to exist.

Today she was supposed to have answered two important interpellations by the opposition in the Swedish parliament. The first interpellation demands an answer from Wallström on why Sweden has not yet condemned the recent and ongoing Palestinian terror attacks. The second interpellation asks her which moderate Palestinian forces she intends to support, as Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah keeps praising terror and spilled blood. But she decided to call in sick and cancel all the debates for today.

We are many Swedish citizens who want the relations between Sweden and Israel to improve. Sweden and Israel have so much in common when it comes to our democratic core values and common challenges. We now even share the same existential threats from Islamist terrorists. We need strengthened ties between our two countries in order to fight this terrorism. Sweden needs to learn from Israel in so many aspects. But I very much fear that as long as Wallström is in charge of the Foreign Ministry the relations between our countries will worsen. I want to encourage Swedish MPs to call for Wallström to resign from her office and for a new reformed foreign policy based on knowledge and common sense. That is what the Swedish people wants, needs and deserves.

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.