Published in Sweden’s second largest newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet May 8th 2015.
“Antisemitism has to be fought”
By Isaac Bachman, Ambassador of Israel to Sweden
[Translated from Swedish]
In the same week that Europe celebrates the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the 5th Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism (GFCA) will convene in Jerusalem (12-14 May) where about 1,000 experts will gather to try and understand how the seven-decades-old vow of “Never Again” has been forgotten by so many.
Delegates including public figures, political leaders, clergy and journalists from over 51 countries will travel to Jerusalem not to enjoy the sunny Israeli weather but rather to discuss the renewed threat to Jewish communities and individuals around the globe, a threat we had all hoped belonged solely to the past.
In recent years there has been a measurable rise in antisemitic violence in Europe as Jews have been subjected to ugly hate speech and physical attacks while their synagogues and cemeteries have been desecrated. The summer of 2014 saw an eruption of protests permeated with antisemitism in major European capitals in magnitudes not seen in decades. Today, in many communities, Jews can no longer publicly identify themselves without legitimately fearing for their safety while in parts of Europe, Jewish religious practices are under legislative attack. Most horrific of all, recent jihadi terrorist attacks have effectively targeted Jews for death in Paris, Brussels, and Copenhagen. The return of these jihadi terrorists with EU citizenship presents a major security threat for all of Europe, but first and foremost for Jewish communities.
In many European countries, systematic examinations of antisemitic incidents conducted by official security bodies show a rise of over a 100% in comparison to previous years. In many nations, the percentage of hate crimes committed against Jews (out of the total number of hate crimes against all minorities) is far higher than the proportion of Jews amongst the general population of those countries. For example in France where Jews represent less than 1% of the population, 40% of violent hate crimes targeted Jews in 2013.
Surveys conducted during 2013 and 2014 by respected international NGOs and intergovernmental bodies, including the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and America’s Anti-Defamation League, confirm that Jewish communities in many parts of Europe are being menaced. According to these surveys one-third of European Jewry are considering emigrating due to antisemitism and in Sweden 49% of Jews hide their Jewish symbols in public.
According to police figures there were 137 complaints of antisemitic incidents in Malmö 2013-14. Not only did none of these complaints lead to a conviction, none of them even led to a legal procedure. The Rabbi in Malmö estimates that he has been the target of roughly 150 antisemitic attacks during his 10 years in the city, including bottles being thrown at him. The Rabbi in Gothenburg has received death threats via email. Individuals have been targeted at home with swastikas drawn on their doors or cars, the synagogues in Malmö and Norrköping have had rocks thrown at their windows, and antisemitic graffiti was discovered at the entrance to the school Vasa Real in Stockholm, a school which includes some Jewish classes.
We also see the rise of a modern type of antisemitism throughout Europe. In the aftermath of the Holocaust it became widely accepted that hating Jews is wrong; however, in recent decades the hatred of Israel, the Jewish state, has become politically correct. While it is important to point out that not all criticism of Israel is antisemitic, many anti-Israel events feature blatant antisemitism.
This modern antisemitism was clearly displayed this summer when Stefan Löfven commented on Facebook that Israel has the right to defend itself, a comment which was then flooded with hate and insults. Many of the comments were clearly antisemitic, calling for the killing of Jews, for a new Hitler, praising Hitler and accusing Löfven of being Jewish, or being bought by “the Jews.”
Also this summer, demonstrations against Israel took place all across Europe. The demonstrations were officially against Israel and the operation in Gaza, but in many places marchers chanted “Jews to the Gas” and “death to the Jews.” It is noteworthy that the demonstrations in Europe were almost exclusively against Israel and hardly a word was spoken about the mass killings in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, or anywhere else in the world. A clear antisemitic double standard. In Sweden, four members of mainstream parties (from S, MP and C) were forced to resign during the summer’s operation due to antisemitic statements.
Now, more than ever, the growing manifestations of antisemitism necessitate the meeting of a forum dedicated to finding ways of contending with this threat to individuals, communities and human rights in general.
One of the primary messages that the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism hopes to convey is that this form of hatred should not be regarded as the enemy of the Jewish people alone, but as the common enemy of humanity. Wherever antisemitism is allowed to raise its ugly head, the infringement of the basic rights of other minorities is sure to follow, whether they be the rights of cartoonists to free expression or the rights of women, Roma, ethnic minorities and of the LGBT community. For this reason antisemitism has to be fought against tenaciously and urgently.