We knew where all of this was heading…
Freedom House’s rankings have been highly suspect for a long while now. The rubric used in gauging what states have a free media/society has gaping holes as Dr.Gerstenfeld points out. To those of us who follow Sweden on a regular basis, we know that it’s a poster child of how close a Western state can be to totalitarianism. Swedish society has built-in mechanisms to control the flow of information, what kind of information is acceptable and what is not.
I think of the same when following present-day US social/political issues as well. The same kind of forced uniformity/conformity is present there even in spite of the once solid freedom of speech culture. So how much more likely is it in Sweden that has no 1st amendment, where holding ‘wrong opinions’ can cause the victim irreparable damage, both economically and socially. The media are for the most part caretakers of the state’s policies regarding migration, freedom of speech and other social and Israel related issues.
If not for the constant bombardment of anti-Israel indoctrination through the country’s academy which trickles down to the media and political circles, everyday life for Jews in Sweden wouldn’t be such a struggle. Couple that with Sweden’s open door policies that allowed (still are) hundreds of thousands of Muslims from Jew-hating Arab states, and you have a highly toxic environment for Jews who have to face not only traditional Swedish/Christian antisemitism but the newly imported Muslim/Middle Eastern variant that supercharges the former.
This article by Dr.Gerstenfeld was first published in BESA, and republished here with the author’s consent.
Sweden’s ugly Ultraliberalism and the Jews
Jews in Sweden account for less than 0.2% of the population. Issues concerning them which become known outside the country usually vary between negative and highly negative. The naive observer may wonder about that as Sweden’s image is that of a liberal democracy as perfect as these can get.
If one starts to list major events concerning Jews one gets a very different picture of Sweden. In this century only one Jewish community in Western Europe decided to dissolve itself because of ongoing neo-Nazi threats: the one in the town of Umea in North Eastern Sweden.1
Other major antisemitic threats come out of parts of the Muslim community. In 2017, a movie was shown on Bavarian television about the visit to Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, by the German Jewish author Henryk Broder and the Egyptian writer Hamad Abdel Samad. They met several local Jews among which the town’s American Rabbi. He told them that the shrinking community had inserted bullet proof windows at the synagogue. Even this didn’t help. A bomb went off in front of the synagogue and another bomb was thrown into the chapel of the Jewish cemetery which was totally destroyed. The rabbi is regularly harassed when walking on the street. Objects thrown at him included an apple, a lighter, a glass and a bottle.2 A record number of complaints about hate crimes in the city in 2010 and 2011 did not lead to any convictions.3
In December 2017, three Muslim perpetrators threw a Molotov cocktail at a synagogue in Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg. Some twenty youngsters, who met in the building took shelter in its cellar during the attack.4 A Swedish appeals court overturned a criminal tribunal ruling which had decided that one of the perpetrators, a Gaza-born Palestinian, would be deported at the end of his two-year prison term. The court said that he should not be deported because the antisemitic nature of this attack could put him in danger from Israel.5 The court apparently preferred the imagined interests of the perpetrator over those of his victims. It seemed to matter less to the judges that if he stayed in Sweden he might commit other crimes.
In recent years Sweden has taken in the highest number of refugees In Western Europe as a percentage of its population. Most immigrants come from Muslim countries where societies are permeated by extreme antisemitic opinions. The authorities there promote Jew-hatred as part of their policies. Sweden can be characterized as a major importer of antisemites out of humanitarian motives.
Antisemitism in Sweden is not limited to Muslims and neo-Nazis. A recent scandal concerns the highly reputable hospital of the Karolinska University near Stockholm. This institution awards annually the Nobel Prize in medicine. The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) has written a complaint to the hospital’s dean as it became known that the open antisemitism by a senior physician, was ignored by the hospital’s management for almost a year.6
Two Jewish employees had already quit for this reason. Management finally acted only after Sweden’s largest paper Aftonbladet reported on the hatemongering. Thereafter the physician in question left. He had also posted antisemitic comments on Facebook.7
Also in anti-Israelism Sweden has been for a long time in the forefront of Western Europe. The country’s best known postwar Prime Minister Olof Palme, a social democrat, was one of the very rare leaders of a democratic country who compared Israel’s acts to those of the Nazis.8 The current Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, also a social democrat, has asked for an investigation into the killing of terrorists by Israel. She hasn’t made such requests from other democratic countries where terrorists have been killed after attacks. According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition by singling out Israel, Wallström committed an anti-Semitic act.9
The above is a tiny selection to illustrate the falseness of Sweden’s image as a near perfect liberal democracy. For whoever wants to see rapidly how ugly ultraliberalism can get Sweden is the ideal place to study.
This party promotes the prohibition of circumcision introducing a new antisemitic element in Sweden even if it is main aim is against Muslims which outnumber Jews tens of times.
When Broder came to Malmö, he was told not to open his windows when driving through a Muslim neighborhood. Before travelling to Sweden, Sylvi Listhaug, at the time the Norwegian Integration and Immigration Minister had said that there were sixty ‘no-go’ areas due to immigrants in Sweden. Thereupon, Swedish migration minister cancelled her meeting with Listhaug.10 Listhaug’s claim however, was most probably true.
Freedom House, according to its website is an “independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world.”11 Sweden by now has become a model for how ugly ultra-liberalism can get. Yet Freedom House, a ranking organization for nations gives Sweden a hundred point ranking for freedom – the highest in the world. Based on political rights, civil liberties, pluralism, the functioning of the government, supposed freedom of the media and so on.
This leads to two conclusions; one is that if one is fully free according to Freedom House, it may cover up a range of major ugly phenomena.
Secondly, / Finally, the attitude toward Jews in the country may be a better indicator of its democratic character than full freedom according to Freedom House.
8 Per Ahlmark, “Palme’s Legacy 15 Years On,” Project Syndicate, February 2001