Swedish PM calls for “concrete measures” to fight anti-Semitism in Malmö

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Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven on Wednesday called for “concrete measures” to tackle anti-Semitism and advance Holocaust memory at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism .

Speaking at the conference, Löfven noted that anti-Semitism is present in all parts of society, observing in particular that it has been stimulated in Europe by the arrival of immigrants where anti-Semitism is widespread, an implicit reference to Muslim immigrants from the Middle East.

The mayor of Malmö, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, whose city has been a hotbed of anti-Semitic incidents and attacks notably from its large Muslim population, also spoke, while Israeli President Isaac Herzog, French President Emmanuel Macron and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke. the event through video messages.

Speaking first at the plenary session of the conference, Löfven mentioned the Stockholm International Holocaust Forum of January 2000, which resulted in the creation of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration as important milestones in efforts to counter anti-Semitism and preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

“We are not looking for another statement: we are looking to translate these principles of these documents into reality,” Löfven said at Wednesday’s conference.

The Swedish flag is seen in Gamla Stan, the old town of Stockholm, Sweden on May 7, 2017 (Credit: INTS KALNINS / REUTERS)

“I therefore encouraged the delegations which are represented here in Malmö today to present concrete measures to promote the memory of the Holocaust and to combat anti-Semitism, anti-Gypsyism and other forms of racism”, he continued.

The Swedish Prime Minister admitted that anti-Semitism is present today in “extreme right groups, parts of the left, in Islamist circles and among ordinary citizens”.

He specifically observed that anti-Semitism is present “among adults and children who fled to Europe from countries where hatred of Jews is encouraged in schools and by state propaganda,” an indirect reference. to Muslim immigrants in Europe among whom anti-Semitism is a serious problem.

Löfven also acknowledged Malmö’s problems with anti-Semitism, but insisted that the city and its mayor were working hard to combat the phenomenon and noted that the mayor had specifically requested that the conference be held in his city.

Herzog in his speech lamented the “demonization and anti-Semitism” inherent in attacks on Israel’s right to exist, and expressed concern at the increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and the world at large. .

“We have witnessed thousands of anti-Semitic attacks, vandalism and threats from extremists everywhere, including in Malmö,” he said.

This increase in anti-Semitic attacks on the streets, physical assaults and verbal assaults and assaults, offensive articles and increasing bullying on the web have been fueled, in large part, by the explosion in incitement to anti-Semitism online, ”Herzog said.

Tackling anti-Semitism today requires “working aggressively on social media, including with and confronting social media companies to ensure that incitement to hatred is swiftly removed,” he said. President, and that legislation, litigation, arbitration and law enforcement were necessary tools in the struggle against the Jews. hatred.

Aron Versandig, president of the Stockholm Jewish Community and the Official Council of Swedish Communities, who was present at the conference, welcomed the organization of the event, but said the situation of Jews in Sweden was still problematic, including the security situation for the Jewish community in particular in Malmö.

He added, however, that in recent years there has been a growing recognition that anti-Semitism is not only confined to far-right and neo-Nazi groups as was once believed, but is present. on the far left and in the Muslim community.

Verstandig also said the Jewish community now has good ties and cooperation with the Malmö city council and the mayor, which are used to help educate the city’s wider population about Jewish life.

Rabbi Moshe David Hacohen, who served as rabbi of the Jewish community in Malmö for nearly five years, expressed disappointment that the conference did not specifically address the situation in Malmö in more depth and invited more representatives of Jewish society to discuss the issue.

Hacohen himself was not invited to Wednesday’s conference but met privately with the prime minister.

“It was great to have the conference in Malmö, but there was a missed opportunity because you could have set an example of the situation in Malmö,” the rabbi said.

Hacohen, who, along with local Muslim leader Imam Salahuddin Barakat, created Amanah: The Jewish-Muslim Faith and Trust Project in 2017, also said the conference should have been more focused on promoting life. Jewish in Sweden and not just on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.

In particular, he noted that religious identity is not part of public discourse and that cultural norms should keep religion private.

“If a young teenager thinks he can’t be proudly Jewish, then that’s a problem,” Hacohen said.

The rabbi said the situation for Jews in Malmö, of which there are 530 official members of the Jewish community, and around 1,000 other Jews in the surrounding areas, was “difficult”, particularly with regard to “related tensions. to the situation in the Middle East ”.

At the same time, he said a change was happening, with Muslim leaders condemning anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions.

And he said cooperation between the Jewish and Muslim communities, in which he played a central role, has helped forge new ties between the two groups.


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