Swedish politicians acknowledge anti-Semitism in the PA but will it change anything?

In Sweden we have two elections ahead of us this year.The election to the EU-parliament and the national election. Often Swedes, I guess even Israelis, vote mainly for their party based on the domestic policy.I don’t. I vote mostly based on moral values and the foreign policy – more exactly the policy towards the Middle East and Israel.

The policy of our Swedish politicians when it comes to Israel is the indicator for how suitable the politicians who want to be elected are for the job to govern Sweden. Most of them are not in the right place.

Those who has watched and followed the debates on Swedish foreign policy regarding Israel and the rest of the region know what I am referring to. If our politicians lack knowledge and experience about the world outside Sweden then we will also see negative results on domestic issues – as today Sweden is more and more becoming a multicultural society with influences from around the world including the Middle East.

As I wrote about in another article, Sweden not only aids the Palestinian Authority(PA) with funds, it also is the biggest donor to Palestinian Media Development Center (MDC) at the Bir Zeit University near Ramallah. The MDC has educated the vast majority of journalists who work in the Palestinian Territories including Gaza, according to a Swedish report.

PA TV runed by the PA is the most influential media company today in the Palestinian Territories and its anti-Semitic broadcasts are well monitored by the institute Palestinian Media Watch and should be something European politicians should be fully aware of. The majority of Swedish politicians sets no real conditions for the PA that the PA should counter anti-Semitism in order to be handed over millions of Dollars from the Swedish tax payers’ money. I e the aid from Sweden enables the broadcasting of anti-Semitism to go on.

To not vote for politicians who think we unconditionally should fund the PA I consider a moral responsibility. However it becomes harder and harder to vote these days as so few politicians exists today who understand the importance of supporting Israel the only liberal and real democracy in the Middle East.

My pro-Israel organisation, Perspective on Israel (PPI), recently decided to ask all our politicians in the parliament about their views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including their view on anti-Semitism in the PA . It turned out to be a surprising result in one way. Yes most of the politicians did not respond to our questions.That was not a big surprise. Perhaps most of them do not really care. The interesting part is who  responded to the survey we sent out and what the answers were they provided us with. Only seven out of 349 MPs did actually respond and replies only came from three out of eight parties: the Christian Democrats, the Liberal People’s party and the Left party. One of the respondents, Fredrik Malm from the Liberal People’s party, is member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Another respondent, Torbjörn Björlund from the Left party has been a very active pro-Palestinian voice in the Swedish parliament. MP Malm’s party, the Liberal People’s party has among pro-Israelis in Sweden been considered as the all time pro-Israel party for some reason.

What is interesting to observe is how MP Björlund spoke to MP Malm in our parliament recently in the annual foreign policy debate.”It is actually a small change now when Fredrik Malm agrees on most of what I say. That is not how it uses to be” MP Björlund stated. That is how a leftist describes the man who is the Foreign affairs spokes person for the Liberal People’s party in Sweden, the party once considered by many and still is considered by some as a pro-Israel party.

But you have to be either blind or ignorant to not see the clear and sad signs: Sweden’s Liberal People’s pro-Israel party has become  pro-Palestinian in its rhetoric. I will now explain how. This party has as well as most of the Swedish parties said that it wants the two state solution i e  a divided Jerusalem and historical and cultural Jewish heartland, Judea and Samaria, as a Palestinian state. The fact that Israel builds homes for Israelis in Judea and Samaria seems, judged from the action and rhetoric of Swedish politicians, worse than the fact that the PA spreads anti-semitism and glorifies and financially rewards released Palestinian terrorists.

The position that the so called “continuing building of settlements” in Judea and Samaria is “the biggest obstacle to peace” has  since long time been the leftist position and obviously this position has affected the Swedish Liberal People’s party. It has become more and more obvious in the political debates.

There is so little understanding left for Israel’s policies that recently in a debate MP Malm started to divert the debate to stories about king Solomon and how to get to the city of king David instead of rationally explaining why it is justified for Israel to build homes in Jerusalem for Israeli citizens. The position of  the Liberal People’s party on settlements has gradually changed in the past years. It has  changed from the position that ”the Jewish settlements”, i e  all Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria must be evacuated and that both parties (PA and Israel) must be put under pressure in order to establish the two state solution, into a position which more and more emphasises the role of the settlements and puts more and more responsibility on Israel in the open debate.

The PA is often left completely without any criticism and responsibility for the situation in the conflict by Swedish politicians. All criticism is diverted to Israel and sometimes to Hamas that is not even a part in peace negotiations and has no official recognition as the legitimate authority of Gaza.

However the responses in PPI’s survey reveals that politicians in the Liberal People’s party is very much aware of that in fact the PA has a responsibility and harbours within the authority anti-Semitic views. We asked the politicians if they thought there is anti-Semitism in the PA.

First I should mention that both respondents of the Left party denied the existence of anti-Semitism in the PA which is chocking but hardly surprising. All the respondents from the Christian Democrats acknowledged the anti-Semitism and adressed the problem.Two out of three respondents from the Liberal People’s party also acknowledged anti-Semitism in the PA. One of them was MP Malm. However despite that the PA uses anti-Semitic propaganda, despite the fact that the PA refuses to stop funding terrorists and their families MP Malm stated that Sweden needs to continue funding the PA. He did state that the world must be tougher on the PA but he failed to give a clear yes to stop funding a PA that refuses to stop funding terrorists.Not even the member of the Left party, MP Björlund, was that extreme in the  way he responded in our survey.MP Malm also emphasised that he answered on behalf of all MPs from his party.

Despite that the Liberal People’s party’s official position has been that it is against the boycotting of Israel, the survey also revealed that two out of three responding MPs for the Liberal People’s party thought that BDS or some parts of BDS might be necessary against Israel.

So we now have a Liberal People’s party in Sweden with some members of the parliament who think that BDS or parts of the BDS might be necessary. That is to go very very far away from liberal policies. That is an extreme leftist position. It does not help that MP Malm answered that BDS should not be used against Israel. Members of a liberal party can never think of using BDS against a liberal democracy. That should be a golden rule. The MP Anita Brodén from the Liberal People’s party has also revealed in a meeting in 2012 with organisations very much associated with the Swedish left that the chairman of the Liberal People’s party, Jan Björklund, has been ”positively affected” by a trip to Israel. What ”positive” means in this  context is not a hundred per cent clear however she added ”It is not necessarily so that he choses to go public about it”. So something ”positive” has to be hidden from the voters? Hidden from the pro-Israel voters? How else can we interpret that statement?

Another mantra in the parliament coming from the Social Democrats and other leftist parties is the expression ”the damn wall” about Israel’s security fence which is mostly consisting of a multi-layered fence system, which at critical locations is a concrete wall.

But the position of the Centre party has also changed. The wall that has saved  so many Israeli as well as Arab Palestinian lives has recently been mentioned in a negative way by the MP Kerstin Lundgren.

In Sweden there is a big debate now also concerning the Swedish Church and its repeatedly anti-Israel stances. Some priests have criticised the Church, and rightfully so, for the position it has taken against Israel. On Good Friday the newly elected arch bishop who soon will begin her office used a part of the Easter and Pesach week to declare that the Swedish church has to have the right to condemn what it calls ”illegal occupation” i.e Israeli control over disputed land, which also involves a security aspect making it necessary at this moment to control it.

However the thing is that the Swedish politicians vote for the policies of the Swedish Church and they elect its officials, including the arch bishop.  The arch bishop is who the politicians want her to be. The decision by the Church to adopt the anti-Semitic Kairos Palestina document was a bipartisan decision in which the Centre party and independent liberals (FiSK) were actively pro.

The only Swedish parties in the Church that have condemned BDS against Israel are the Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats and to some degree some independent right wing politicians.

Now when it is clear that Swedish politicians are aware of anti-Semitism in the PA, an authority they support and when it is clear that traditionally leftist rhetoric has infected the centric and liberal rightwing parties in Sweden: What to do?

Pro-Israelis, friends of Israel and Israeli journalists in Sweden and abroad should challenge and expose the anti-Israel views of the political parties in Sweden. Our own media has failed to do so however we shall not be silent!

I welcome more Israeli journalists to come here to interview our politicians and follow the debate ahead of the elections. As I mentioned before: Sweden is the biggest donor to Palestinian Media Development Center and also one of the biggest donors to the UNRWA and Palestinian territories. The result has not been a democratic and peaceful development on the Palestinian side while Israel has proven to be democratic and peaceful without Swedish funding. Israeli journalists and friends of Israel has every reason to challenge our politicians by demanding answers on critical issues.

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.