Tobias Petersson

The Swedish Foreign Minister’s problematic statements on Palestinian statehood

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 the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot 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 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.

Since Wallström begins her statement by mentioning the Swedish government’s recognition of Palestinian statehood followed by mentioning support for Islamic communities and Islamic schools, Wallström is on a dangerous path associating recognition of Palestinian statehood with solidarity with Islam. 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.

If Wallström had wanted to show how good Sweden is for Muslims she could have mentioned Swedens 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?

The statement was posted after Wallström received criticism from among others the League of Arab states, Saudia Arabia and PA for calling the Saudi Kingdom a dictatorship and the flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi ”medieval”.

But the list of problematic statements has continued. Some weeks ago I listened to an interview with Wallström which took place in front of a large audience. A woman in the audience argued that by recognizing Palestinian statehood the Swedish government also had recognized Hamas’ legitimacy. Wallström replied that Sweden has not changed position on Hamas and that Sweden has the same conditions for Hamas as the EU 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 ISIS 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) earlier this month, on May 8th Wallström answered a Palestinian journalist on his question regarding the Palestinian populations 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 is 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.

All these statements are proofs of the Swedish Foreign Minister’s lack of understanding the Middle East and what forces and what actions the Swedish government is motivating by its actions and statements. The Swedish government claims it is pro-peace and a two state solution. The Swedish Foreign Minister however should be informed by Swedish politicians as well as by Israeli politicians that her statements and actions so far have been very counterproductive to peace and a two state solution.

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.