Will Sweden learn about integration from Israel?

So what is Sweden like in 2014, as tiny Israel’s population starts approaching that of this vast, beautiful Scandinavian country?

Not an easy question to answer.

At least, not if one wishes to preserve some semblance of Political Correctness – the state religion of Sweden.

The easy answer to the question would be that Sweden is a thriving democracy that has managed its collective finances very well during a period that has seen many other Western countries struggling to survive, let alone grow their economies. One of the few Western economies – alongside the Jewish state of Israel – that has maintained relative fiscal stability while other regional actors have suffered immeasurable economic difficulties.

The easy answer would also point out that despite world instability – or perhaps because of it – Sweden has nevertheless ably succeeded in maintaining its renowned humanitarian outlook, offering financial aid and asylum to countless people in distress, taking in what is arguably the highest per capita proportion of asylum-seekers from the civil and increasingly sectarian strife in Syria, not least.

A more correct answer, however, would be that there are two Swedens. The first is the official Sweden, where the above and much else that is wonderful about this great country is rightfully underscored.

The second is the “grey” Sweden. And no – this is not a reference to skin colour or a cheap shot at the country’s generous immigration policies. It is a reference to the fact that there is a second-tier Swedish society, a sub-culture, an economy, that simply doesn’t recognise or interface with that first Swedish society.

It’s the Sweden that consists almost exclusively of immigrants allowed in en masse, granted considerate asylum terms, immeasurably generous financial benefits, schooling in the Swedish language, professional training or retraining as required – and then by and large left to their own devices.

Instead of taking a leaf out of Israel’s book, learning from the Jewish state’s decades of experience in how to immigrate, educate, absorb and integrate its new citizens, Sweden has provided everything that money can buy – and left it at that. It is no wonder that a separate sub-society of mostly Muslim-nation immigrants has formed, one that is unfortunately all too often (but by no means always) characterised by virulent, naked anti-Semitism, misogyny, a “grey” economy and an attitude of dependency on the state.

The often raw racism that is expressed by some of the immigrant Muslim groups is not countered by the Church of Sweden. On the contrary, the Church of Sweden panders to some of the most vicious crudities bandied about because the Church’s leadership is heavily politicised – it cares far more about making a name for itself on the ideological front than it does about the souls its congregants. Not for nothing is the Church of Sweden often rabidly opposed to and critical of the Jewish state while at the same time signally failing to make even a modest comment regarding the plight of Christians in Egypt (the Copts of Egypt predate Islam by several centuries and can rightly be termed the indigenous population of Egypt); or the plight and decimation of Christians in Palestinian Authority-controlled Bethlehem; or the systematic rapes, tortures and murders of Christians in Hamas-controlled Gaza; or the routine massacres of Christians by Muslim fanatics in countries such as Pakistan, Nigeria, Iraq. Nor has the Church of Sweden ever commented on the fact that Christianity is illegal – actually illegal – in the Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Church of Sweden is silent on all issues that may be perceived as commenting on – let alone critical of – Islam, whether at home in Sweden or overseas. As such the Church of Sweden is one of the prime movers behind the increasing segregation of Swedish society.

Sweden’s left-wing parties, headed by the Social Democrats, follow in the same vein. With Social Democrat newspapers such as Aftonbladet posing banner headlines that accuse Israel of “crucifying Yasser Arafat” and deliberately killing Palestinian Arabs to “harvest their organs”, the intention is to appeal to both the country’s nominally Christian electorate and its fast-growing Muslim sector. The former mayor of Malmö Ilmar Reepalu went on record as stating that he could not guarantee the safety of his city’s Jews unless they publicly went on record as vilifying the Jewish state. The deliberate drive to equate Sweden’s Jews with the State of Israel is part and parcel of this anti-Israel, borderline overt anti-Semitic mindset.

But 2013 has been something of a watershed year. Not because Swedes are beginning to change. Swedes are by and large not anti-Semitic nor racist in general, so there is nothing to change. Swedes are tolerant, almost to a fault – to the point of dangerous, self-destructive naïveté. What has happened in 2013 is that the big lie has finally been exposed for what it is – a big lie.

How? Because there is immense turbulence throughout the Middle East. In every country and in every corner of every country of the Middle East. With the exception of Israel. The big lie that Middle East turbulence is a result of instability between Israel and its neighbours has been proven to be just that – a big lie. Nothing that has grabbed the headlines in 2013 has had anything to do with Israel or its relationship with its Palestinian Arab and/or other Muslim neighbours. The spotlight has been on Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, the Lebanon, Iraq, the Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria, DRC. And now increasingly Turkey, which may be next in line for domestic troubles along sectarian/secular fault lines.

People in Sweden have finally realised that peace in the Middle East does not stand and fall with what happens in Israel – the one oasis of relative peace and security (when Palestinian Arab terrorists and their leaders Mahmud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh allow it). It stands and falls with what happens in the mind-sets of the Arab and wider Muslim worlds.

And the tensions and problems of the Arab and wider Muslim worlds have been imported into Sweden courtesy of that Scandinavian country’s generous, some might say totally uncontrolled, immigration policy – that is perfectly clear for all of Sweden to see.

There is a clear consensus among most Swedes that it is wrong to close the country’s borders to immigration from the world’s many troubled hotspots. There is equally clear consensus among most Swedes that while the country’s immigration policies have been highly laudable, its integration policies have been an absolute shambles. It isn’t immigration that is the problem, it is integration – or rather the abysmal lack of integration.

Most Swedes recognise that integration does not mean disregarding one’s cultural, lingual, religious or social heritage just to melt invisibly into the new host country. Rather, most Swedes understand perfectly clearly that it is enriching to have all these facets as part of the new Sweden – with the emphasis on the last six words: as part of the new Sweden. Not alongside Swedish society within Sweden, not outside Swedish society within Sweden. But as a welcome – and integrated – part of Sweden.

It is safe to say that in 2014, most Swedes are going to go to the country’s national elections this September wondering what direction the country will take, because there is a strong movement afoot to do something that has never ever been done in modern Swedish history: remove the nation’s blinkers and see the country and its society for what it actually is – not what know-it-all pundits claim it is from the comfort of the plush armchairs provided by their political parties and the Church of Sweden’s generous coffers.

Sweden’s 2014 elections are not going to revolve around immigration, despite what some people might think.

The elections are going to focus on integration. The integration of those who have already immigrated into Sweden.

The alternative – that integration is overlooked by the new post-September government – will be a recipe for national disaster.

In the very short term.

About the Author
Ilya Meyer is former deputy chair of the West Sweden branch of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association. He blogs about Israel and Sweden’s relationship with Israel at the Times of Israel and at ilyameyer.com. He made his debut as a writer of political thrillers with The Hart Trilogy: "Bridges Going Nowhere" (2014), "The Threat Beneath" (2015) and "From The Shadows" (2016), where the action switches seamlessly between Samaria, Gaza, Israel and Sweden. The books are available from Amazon.com as ebooks and also in paperback. Work has started on a fourth book, "Picture Imperfect".