Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Anti-semitism on the rise in Sweden from muslims and leftists

MALMÖ, Sweden • Finally, the shouts of "Heil Hitler" that frequently greeted Marcus Eilenberg as he walked to the synagogue were too much. Fearing for his family's safety, Eilenberg moved himself, his wife and two children to Israel.

"I didn't want my small children to grow up in this environment," Eilenberg said. "It wouldn't be fair to them to stay in Malmö."

Sweden, a country long regarded as a model of tolerance, had been a refuge for Eilenberg's family. His paternal grandparents made a home in Malmö in 1945 after surviving the Holocaust. His wife's parents came to this port city from Poland in 1968 after the Communist government there launched an anti-Semitic purge.

But the combination of a rapidly growing Muslim population living in segregated conditions and widespread anger at Israeli policies and actions has been toxic for local Jews. As in many other European cities, Jews in Malmö report being subjected increasingly to threats, intimidation and actual violence as stand-in targets for Israel.

Malmö, Sweden's third-largest city with a population of roughly 294,000, including fewer than 800 Jews, reached a turning point of sorts in January 2009 during Israel's military campaign in Gaza. A small, mostly Jewish group held a demonstration billed as a peace rally but seen as a sign of support for Israel.

The demonstrators were attacked by a much larger mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists. Police seemed unable to stop the violence.

"I was very scared," recalled Jehoshua Kaufman, a Jewish community leader. "Scared because there were a lot of angry people facing us, shouting insults and throwing bottles and firecrackers at the same time. The sound was very loud. And I was angry because we really wanted to go through with this demonstration, and we weren't allowed to finish it."

Alan Widman, a non-Jewish member of the Liberal Party who represents Malmö in Parliament, said simply: "I have never been so afraid in my life." The demonstrators were eventually evacuated by the police.

A bomb exploded on the steps of the Malmö synagogue shortly after 2 a.m. July 23. The police classified the explosion as an act of vandalism, crimes that receive low priority and are rarely solved, according to a Swedish police official. Anti-Semitism in Europe has historically been associated with the far right, but the Jews interviewed for this article say the threat in Sweden now comes from Muslims and from changing attitudes about Jews in the wider society. There are an estimated 45,000 Muslims in Malmö, about 15 percent of the city's population. Many of them are Palestinians, Iraqis and Somalis, while others came from the former Yugoslavia.

But the problem is not just Muslims, and not just Malmö's...

Full story HERE

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