How strong is anti-Semitism in Sweden

Sweden"We have a problem with anti-Semitism"

The Swedish police are still hesitant to officially speak of an anti-Semitic arson attack on a Gothenburg synagogue. But it was without a doubt an arson attack, luckily without injuries or damage to property. Three suspects have now been arrested, including a young Palestinian and an 18-year-old from Syria. Protesters had previously burned Israeli flags in Stockholm. Incendiary devices were also thrown in Malmö. During a demonstration against US President Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, anti-Semitic slogans and death threats were shouted. Freddy Gellberg is chairman of the Malmö Jewish community. He answered the phone on the Swedish radio: "It is outrageous and we have to react sharply. We cannot accept that we are attacked here in Malmö because of our origins or religion. Of course, this arouses a feeling of insecurity and fear in some."

The Middle East conflict is fueling a new form of anti-Semitism

This unexpected outburst of hatred took the Swedes by surprise. A shocked debate is underway, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has strongly condemned the attacks, the burning of flags and the slogans, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven publicly admitted:

"We have a problem with anti-Semitism in Swedish society, we have to see that. It is now up to us to counteract and prevent it. In Sweden it is completely unacceptable to express hatred of Jews."

But that's exactly what happened. For Freddy Gellberg the danger is even double: In Sweden, too, there is, as he put it, "classic" anti-Semitism with a long and terrible history, as well as the "new" anti-Semitism, which has its roots in the conflict between Israel and Palestine have. In both cases, this should be taken very seriously, says Henrik Bachner, a historian of ideas who specialize in anti-Semitism: "Anti-Semitism is a central point for the two most violent and politically extreme ideologies here in Sweden: on the one hand for the right-wing extremist, Nazi and on the other hand for them extremely Islamist jihadist. This means that there are concrete threats to Jews, even if the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes in Sweden is comparatively less than in other countries. "

Security measures for synagogues and other Jewish institutions increased

But that doesn't reassure anyone at the moment. The shock over the attacks on Jewish communities runs deep. Police and politics are under pressure. Security measures for synagogues and other Jewish institutions have been increased across the country. Many Jewish citizens now avoid wearing symbols of their faith such as stars of David as jewelry or wearing the kippah, especially in the metropolitan areas of Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö.

An exception was the beginning of the Chanukkah festival of lights in the capital. Under strong police protection, the members of the Jewish community met in a public square in Stockholm city center, at the lectern opposition politician Anni Lööf, head of the bourgeois-liberal Center Party: "What happened is tragic and an indictment of our work against extremism. We have to take a stronger stand against it. We have to take the side of light and decency. Stand up for the equality of all people, for religious freedom, and the opportunity to live the way you want. "

The evening passed calmly. There were no new anti-Semitic riots and yet: The mood was subdued, at best ...