Saturday, 7 April 2012

Anti-Semitism: it's a European thang

If it makes anyone feel any better, it's not just the British left which has trouble accepting the resurgence of anti-Semitism,  there are echoes of the same denial in other, neighbouring parts.

Read the following piece from a Swedish correspondent of mine, Niklas Smith, in response to last week's Centre Left, and you will see exactly the same traits as we see in Britain, namely (i) denial, (ii) Houdini-like contortions with logic, and (iii) blaming the far-right rather than, God forbid, anyone on the left. Anything but admit that there just might, might be some truth in it and that our tolerance is highly unhelpful.

So, ladies and gentlemen, following on from Labour's Stockholm Syndrome, we bring you...Malmö Syndrome!

It's depressing to hear the same echoing silence in Britain as we in Sweden have from the Swedish left. In Malmö (Sweden's third city) there has been a series of clearly anti-Semitic threats and attacks on Jews over the past few years. The response of the Social Democratic mayor Ilmar Reepalu has been, in chronological order:
1. Denying that there is a problem with anti-Semitism in Malmö.
2. Admitting that anti-Semitism is a problem but saying it's all Israel's or Zionism's fault (as in this Sunday Telegraph article), implicitly tarring Swedish Jews with the responsibility for Israel's indefensible attack on Gaza.
3. Just last week, saying in a magazine interview that the local Jewish community have made themselves a by allowing themselves to become "infiltrated" by the Sweden Democrats, the unpleasant nationalist and Islamophobic party that won seats in the Swedish parliament in the 2010 election. Mr Reepalu has since retracted this statement.
(To put the record straight, the magazine contacted the local leader of the Sweden Democrats. He said he had not had any contact with the local Jewish community for years, and called them "delusional" and "self-destructive and naive" for refusing to accept that "multiculturalism and mass immigration" are the cause of rising anti-Semitism.)
With very few exceptions none of the leadership of the Social Democrats have publicly criticised Mr Reepalu. Today the leader of the Social Democrats met the Jewish Council and refused to discipline Mr Reepalu, though he did make a homily about how social democratic values revolve around the equal value of all human beings. The harshest criticism he had of Mr Reepalu was to say that his controversial statements were "not good" [sic].
I know that Jenny Tonge is probably more out of order (though to my knowledge she has not yet accused British Jews of allowing themselves to be infiltrated by the BNP...), but I can't help comparing the repeated sharp denunciations of her comments by the Lib Dems and her eventual forced resignation from the Parliamentary Party with the Swedish Social Democrats' doormat approach to reining in Mr Reepalu.
It's particularly ironic, given how in the British left we often hold up the Swedish social democratic model as something of a beacon (although usually thinking wishfully, as my good colleague John Rentoul points out here).

As a footnote, unlike former Liberal Democrat Ms Tonge, her fellow-travellers in the Labour Party, who, like her, arranged to share a platform with racist preacher Raed Salah (Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Burden) are still in Parliament representing their party. Nice to see that, in that sense at least, we are still keeping up with our social democratic European colleagues.

Still think I'm just making this stuff up?

Thanks to Niklas for a great and informative piece. He also writes here.

UPDATE: to those (like my dad) who think I can't spell, the word "thang" was a deliberate nod to "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" by the superb Heaven 17, circa 1980. Enjoy.


  1. FYI the BNP are trying to attract British Jews to their ranks. Turkeys voting for Xmas? As to Sweden the real anti Jewish feeling is in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, with the Baltics close behind. gtf5
    #' cxg

  2. Well, you are right about Eastern Europe - in fact an earlier draft of this post linked to a Harry's Place piece about anti-Semitism having become mainstream in Hungarian politics. However, the worrying thing about this is that is on the left, rather than the right, that the problem arises. I mean, you expect it from the far right.

  3. Would you agree that it is pretty significant that a Socialist Unity contributer(can't remember his name)has said allieing with far right Islamists is hindering the Palestinian cause not helping it in an article in the Guardian!

  4. Jobbik, not fond of Gypsies, Jews, Slovaks. Remind you of anyone? I see that a "pan right" group is emerging. UKIP, BNP, right Tories all buy into Jobbik.

  5. Well, be fair: BNP yes. I don't see Tories or UKIP buying into Jobbik. Evidence? And by the way, the Tories' recent record on anti-Semitism and racism in general is at the moment looking better than Labour's, which is a sorry state of affairs.

  6. @Damien, appreciate your commenting, but could I ask you to make a comment which doesn't start with "would you agree that"? I feel like I'm being interviewed with leading questions.

  7. No problem about that and sorry if I give that impression it's just that I am curious as to your views on the news that a blogger for Socialist Unity has said that allying with far right Islamists is harming not helping the Palestinian cause!

  8. I meant Hitler actually. Right wing of Tories has some very dubious characters and erstwhile UKIP funders Barclay Bros of Brecqhou fond of being in bed with BNP (Evidence? Trying to get a paper trail..) Tories quite fond of British Jews - business minded, hard working, patriotic.


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