Just hours following the Islamic State (IS) sponsored terror attack in Paris last Friday, the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, in a Saturday interview with the Swedish public SVT-TV, was asked if she was worried about the radicalized young Swedes who are fighting for the IS. Wallstrom’s response was “It is clear that we have reasons to be worried, not just in Sweden but across the world, because there are so many that are being radicalized.” Wallstrom then added, “Once again, we return to situations like the one in the Middle East, especially concerning Palestinians who think: there is no future for us, we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence.” Wallstrom maliciously linked the Arab-Islamist killers who murdered 132 innocent men and women in Paris with Israel’s policies in the West Bank.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry issued a sharp rebuke in response to the Swedish Foreign Minister. “The words of the Swedish Foreign Minister are shocking in their chutzpah. The Swedish Foreign Minister is systematically and unilaterally biased against Israel and is exhibiting genuine hostility when she points to any connection between the attacks in Paris and the problems between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely reacted to the Swedish Foreign Minister’s remarks saying, “The statements by the Foreign Minister are borderline anti-Semitism. The vile manner in which she links the attacks in France and Israel is no less than a blood libel.” Dr. Dore Gold, Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned Carl Magnus Nesser, the Swedish ambassador to Israel for a clarification of Wallsrom’s statements. Gold said that Wallstrom’s comments could be interpreted as a justification for Palestinian terrorism.
Responding to Israel’s criticism, Wallstrom’s office claimed that the quotation “was taken from a long interview” about the root causes of extremism, and the Minister “neither directly nor indirectly linked the terrorist attacks in Paris to the situation in Israel and Palestine.”
Wallstrom’s statements notwithstanding, the current Swedish government hostility toward Israel has manifested itself on several occasions. It has made Sweden the most unfriendly country in Europe toward the Jewish state. One recent issue is the European Union’s decision to implement its resolution of placing consumer labels on Israeli products manufactured in Judea, Samaria and the Golan (outside the Green Line). Sweden is one of the leading states in this effort which blatantly discriminates against Israel (China is not asked to label its products made in Tibet, which it has occupied illegally. Israel administers Judea and Samaria legally in the absence of peace negotiations with the Palestinians). In his meeting with the Swedish ambassador to Israel, Dore Gold stressed the point that labeling Israeli products from the West Bank won’t advance the peace process with the Palestinians, and in fact will hurt Palestinian-Arabs employed in Israeli companies operating beyond the Green Line.
According to the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada, the Swedish company Assa Abloy heeded the appeal from the Church of Sweden and other prominent Swedish organizations and decided to move its Mul-T-Lock door factory from the industrial zone of Barkan (part of the Israeli city of Ariel) to a yet unannounced location inside Israel.
In a Jerusalem Post poll conducted on October 26, 2015, “39% of the 506 Israelis who were polled pointed to Sweden when asked which European country least supports Israel, followed by France at 22%.” Ironically, Germany came up on top as the most favorable country in Europe toward Israel.
The latest brouhaha over the comments of Foreign Minister Wallstrom is just another episode in the deteriorating relations between Sweden and Israel. It comes in the wake of Sweden’s Social Democratic government (in coalition with the leftist Green Party) led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s rush to recognize Palestine in October, 2014. Sweden was in fact the first such European state to do so. The same Swedish government has a number of Muslim ministers including Mehmet Guner Kaplan, Minister of Housing and Urban Development of the Green Party, a Muslim of Turkish decent, who participated in the Turkish Islamist flotilla to Gaza in 2010, which was intercepted by Israeli naval commandos.
The souring of relations between Israel and Sweden began with Olof Palme, the Social Democrat Prime Minister of Sweden, in 1969. He was highly critical of the U.S. and its allies, including Israel, and adopted a neutral position in the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This was at a time when Egypt waged the War of Attrition against Israel, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) launched terrorist attacks against Israel from Jordan. Following Israel’s retaliatory action in Lebanon (July, 1982), Olof Palme compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children to Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jewish children. In Israel his remark was seen as blatantly anti-Semitic in nature.
During the Yom Kippur War (October 1973), Sweden’s Foreign Minister Hans Krister Wickman criticized Israel, stating that Middle East problems won’t be solved by military superiority. This was in spite of the fact that Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Israel’s destruction of the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor, in June, 1981, generated a Swedish government condemnation of Israel. The Swedish government accused Israel of a “clear violation of International law.”
In December, 1988, the Swedish government invited PLO chairman Yasser Arafat to visit Stockholm. It came after Arafat’s initial failure to meet the US conditions for a “substantive dialogue.” At the Geneva based UN (where this reporter held a press conference denouncing Arafat as an unrepentant terrorist) session, he failed to explicitly state that he would end terrorism and recognize the Jewish state.
Moderate Party Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson set moral equivalency in the 2006 Second Lebanon War when he condemned Hezbollah’s attack on Israel (as well as the kidnapping and murder of two IDF soldiers), and the Israeli response. His fellow Moderate Party former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (2006-2014) Carl Bildt, criticized Israel for responding to Hamas terror attacks against Israeli civilians, and called for an immediate ceasefire.
One of the ugliest episodes in the relationship between Jerusalem and Stockholm occurred in August, 2009 (while this reporter was in Stockholm and attempted to discuss the matter with the Aftonbladet editors) when the Swedish daily Aftonbladet claimed that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) engaged in organ harvesting from dead Palestinians. Israel’s National Security Advisor Uzi Arad described the article in Aftonbladet as “abominable” and protested the fact that the Swedish government did not support the condemnation issued by its (Swedish) ambassador to Israel. Arad told Swedish Foreign Minister Bildt that the “article is a blood libel of the worst sort. The absence of your response reflects a lack of sensitivity toward every Israeli, irrespective of political views. I expect you to forcefully condemn these claims.”
Swedish Foreign Minister Wallstrom’s statement on Swedish TV that linked the atrocity in Paris committed by Islamists with Palestinian-Muslim “hopelessness” as an excuse for terror is false, just as the Aftonbledet article was, but showed deep malice on the part of the Swedish government toward the Jewish state. Given the fact that Sweden has been flooded by Arab and Muslim immigrants, and that these Muslim immigrants are now a political factor in electoral politics, may be one reason for the Swedish attitude toward Israel. Latent anti-Semitism cannot however, be ruled out. The shrinking Jewish community in Sweden attests to the growing anti-Israel and anti-Jewish atmosphere in Sweden. Swedish worship of political correctness and multiculturalism is no substitute for truth and honesty.