Sverker Oredsson and Mikael Tossavainen
Translation by Mårten Barck
Swedish original: "Judehat bland muslimer tystas ned"
(Dagens Nyheter, 2003/10/20) Visit the Watch website
Teachers in the suburbs of the major Swedish towns report widespread and brazen hostility against Jews among groups of Arab and Muslim students. These students view the Holocaust as Zionistic propaganda, express admiration for Hitler and regret that he didn't succeed in killing more Jews. The problem is aggravated by the almost complete silence which is surrounding this form of Jew-hatred.
Most Swedes believe that anti-Semitism is an extinct problem in our country. They are aware that prejudices and hatred aimed at Jews have regrettably occurred in the past in Sweden but that is now seen as part of history. Most Swedes believe that our society has evolved and that we are more enlightened today. Most Swedes believe that Jews today don't meet more prejudices than Danes or smålänningar [people living in the Swedish province Småland].
Unfortunately they are wrong. During the last year the security police registered 131 anti-Semitic crimes. Nobody knows how many incidents go unreported but the security police expect the number to be large. Jews in Sweden today are living in the shadow of a very concrete anti-Semitism. Jews in Sweden today often feel compelled to hide their religious identity in
public: necklaces with stars of David are carefully hidden under sweaters and orthodox Jewish men change their kippot to more discrete caps or hats when they are outdoors. Jews in Sweden nowadays get secret telephone numbers to avoid harassment. In Sweden. Today.
Anti-Semitism has been more or less absent from the political mainstream since the end of the Second World War. Jew-hatred was in principle only found among marginalized groups at the extreme right and left. That is not the case anymore.
During the last decade another form of anti-Semitism has started to spread in the suburbs of large Swedish towns: a Jew-hatred -- often imported from the Middle East and not seldom presented under an Islamic flag -- which also wins adherents among groups of Arabs and Muslims in Sweden.
In the Middle East anti-Semitism is alive and flourishing in a way which reminds one of Europe during the 1930s. Most regimes in the Arab world and in many other Muslim countries have supported the spread of Jew-hatred in state controlled media a long time.
In schools and mosques from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf the message that Jews are descendants from monkeys and pigs, a treacherous and greedy people striving for global dominion, is preached. The Jews are blamed for practically everything. For example it is alleged that the 9/11 terror attacks were carried out by Jews in one form or another, most often the Mossad, with the aim of getting America to attack Islam. The explosive spread of AIDS in Africa and Asia in general, but in the Muslim world in particular, is blamed on the state of Israel, which is alleged to send out HIV-positive Jewish prostitutes to weaken the enemies of the Jews.
In addition the Holocaust is regularly described as a Jewish lie aimed at grabbing money from Germany or Swiss banks and give rise to sympathy for Israel and the Jewish people. Even ancient Christian blood libels about Jews using the blood of Christian children for the baking of "Purim" pastries are used in anti-Semitic propaganda. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the blood libel is spread in a modified version, where the blood is alleged to be from young Muslim boys.
This Jew-hatred is nourished partly by specific interpretations of Islam. Throughout history, Jews have traditionally been better treated in Muslim countries than in Christian ones and pious Muslims around the world have lived for centuries without letting their attitude towards Jews be charged
with anti-Semitism. In spite of this there always has been some degree of discrimination and animosity. The Koran is not without passages which can be used for rationalizing Jew hatred. In connection with the colonisation of the Middle East, European Christian and racist anti-Semitism was also spread in the area. The serious attraction and exploitation of Jew-hatred was however connected to the antagonism between Jewish and Arab nationalism and later on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The existence of a Jewish state in the middle of a perceived Muslim land and not least the current political situation in the Middle East heighten the anti-Jewish atmosphere in the Arab world and in other Muslim countries such as Iran and Pakistan. The Israeli state is the primary target for Arab and Muslim Jew-hatred, but the distinctions between Israelis, Zionists and Jews are not upheld. The propaganda which is spread from Damascus, Tehran and Islamabad often goes beyond criticism of Israeli politics and turns into pure demonization of the Jewish people.
This anti-Semitism is a part of the ideas and traditions brought to the segregated suburbs of Europe. The isolation from the new homeland and the retention of the culture of the country of origin via satellite TV, Internet etc., contribute to the survival and even strengthening of Jew-hatred among
groups of Arabs and Muslims in London, Marseille and Paris.
But similar tendencies exist also in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmoe. This is shown in a study authored by one of the authors of this article, historian Mikael Tossavainen, which is published today by the Swedish committee against anti-Semitism.
Teachers in Swedish suburbs report widespread and brazen hostility against Jews among groups of Arab and Muslim students. This hostility is expressed by the refusal to concern oneself with anything that even can be considered as Jewish. Students may sabotage or skip teaching of Religion when Judaism is the subject, skip homework, books or examinations on courses about Judaism.
During lessons in history there are confrontations between teachers and students, who may on one hand claim that the Holocaust never happened -- instead dismissing it as Zionistic propaganda -- or on the other hand express their admiration of Hitler and regret that he didn't succeed in killing more
There are quite a few websites in Swedish on the Internet that cover Arab and Muslim political, cultural or religious topics. Many of these are spreading gross anti-Semitic propaganda together with information about Islam.
Jews are described as greedy, mean, power hungry, thieving, revengeful, blood thirsty and sexually perverse. The Jewish religion is also attacked and is described as an inferior, morally reprehensible doctrine.
To support these allegations, false quotes from the Bible and the Talmud are used in many cases. It is alleged, for example, that Jewish men have the religious right to rape non-Jewish women and that it is permitted for Jews to lie to or deceive non-Jews. These allegations are sometimes explained
with the idea of the chosen people, which is distorted to some sort of Jewish superiority myth.
Another returning theme on these websites is the belief in the existence of a Jewish world-conspiracy. In connection with this delusion lists of well-known Swedes with Jewish origin who are alleged to be part of this conspiracy to obstruct Islam, enslave the Palestinian alternatively the Arab nation or simply take over the world, are sometimes published.
It is hardly surprising that people who are living in such a world of ideas and are constantly fed with this kind of portrayal of Jews become anti-Semites. Nor is it particularly surprising that these attitudes are channelled in the form of threats and violence against Jews.
Jewish congregations in Sweden have noted a sharp increase in harassment, threats and attacks by Arabs and Muslims against Jews in the Swedish society during the last few years, clearly connected to the escalation of the Middle East conflict.
In this connection it is important to emphasize that the Muslim minority in Sweden is a very heterogeneous group, religiously, culturally as well as ideologically and that far from all Arabs and Muslims in Sweden have anti-Semitic views. The report is not exhaustive, but its results are
unambiguous and they expose an alarming situation.
The problem is furthermore aggravated by the almost complete silence which is surrounding this form of Jew-hatred. If anti-Semitism among Arabs and Muslims in Sweden is discussed at all in Swedish media and debate, it tends to be in the form of trivializations or denials of the problem.
There are even examples of commentators who allege that anti-Semitism in Sweden today is a made-up problem, which is grotesquely exaggerated by the Jews to get the attention away from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
The reason for the silence is probably multi-faceted. Perhaps some journalists and commentators regard their knowledge of Islam as insufficient for an appraisal of Islamic anti-Semitism. Perhaps they think it's difficult to draw a clear line between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. Perhaps
they try to avoid criticizing a group which already is vulnerable and discriminated in the Swedish society out of a fear of adding to racism in general and Islamophobia in particular.
You don't need any more profound knowledge about Islam, however, to be against anti-Semitism spread under the guise of religion: condemnation of Jew-hatred is not about criticism of Islam. You don't need any deeper knowledge about the Middle East conflict to realize that talk about a Jewish
world-conspiracy or ritual murder of Muslim children cannot be considered legitimate criticism of the policies of Sharon's government. If this agitation against Jews had been spread by neo-Nazi groups it would in all probability be treated with great indignation and receive strong condemnations by the same journalists and politicians who turn a blind eye when it comes to Jew-hatred spread in the name of Islam.
Arab and Muslim immigrants are done a disservice by the silence surrounding anti-Semitic utterances: by not signalling that the Swedish society doesn't accept agitation against Jews, the integration of these groups is not speeded up nor made easier -- to the contrary.
Nobody gains from indulgence or apologetic silence when facing anti-Semitism. In this respect it is completely irrelevant whether it is spread by members of organisations on the extreme left, neo-Nazis or Arabs and Muslims. It should never be acceptable for frustration over the situation in the Middle East to strike Swedish Jews. To turn a blind eye to the fact that it does is a silent approval and this can only have negative effects -- not only for Jews in Sweden today, but in the long-term also for our open, tolerant society and for the Swedish democracy.
Intellectuals, politicians and leading representatives of Muslim organizations in Sweden must signal their repudiation of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism in our country -- for the benefit of all.