Sweden fixes its solution to its growing anti-Semitism

In January 2020, around fifty royals, prime ministers, presidents and parliamentary leaders came to Jerusalem for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, where they joined and stood in solidarity with the Jewish people, paying tribute to the memory of the victims. of the Shoah and made a solemn and concrete promise to actively fight anti-Semitism.

National leaders and decision-makers around the world instinctively understood that the growing trends in Jewish hatred must be reversed through firm action.

During the nearly two years since that historic occasion, European governments have generally acted on this commitment. Earlier this month, we witnessed the launch of the first European Union Strategy to Combat Anti-Semitism and Promote Jewish Life, designed to prevent and combat all forms of anti-Semitism, protect and promote Jewish life, educate, research and commemorate the Holocaust.

This is a vital and unprecedented document that will act as a roadmap to significantly reduce anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond. Furthermore, it is a commitment to the Jews of Europe to which we belong and are a vital part of the European future. The European Council, a few days ago, reinforced this message, urging all its institutions, member states, international organizations, civil society actors and citizens to commit to a future free of anti-Semitism in the EU and beyond.

Clearly there is a new understanding and commitment to change. Arguably nowhere is this felt more intensely than in Sweden. In the Jewish world it has been widely felt that since the turn of the millennium there have been few countries that have experienced such a rapid rise in anti-Semitism as Sweden.

Lauder visits Malmö Synagogue on the eve of the International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and the Fight against Amthisemitism along with Minister for Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai (left) and Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on October 12 (credit : JONAS EKSTROMER / TT / REUTERS)

This was perhaps best expressed by a woman in her seventies, who testified in the 2019 EU Fundamental Rights Agency report on experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism. “I think Sweden was not anti-Semitic before, that has changed, that is what feels so difficult,” he said. “Today, I am more reluctant to talk about my background. I’m worried about the future. “

Furthermore, Sweden’s third-largest city, Malmö, had earned a reputation for being a microcosm of the worst excesses of anti-Semitism in Europe. Persistent and violent anti-Semitic attacks have caused much of the Jewish community to leave the city. However, recent events have shown that the Swedish government is concentrating and is willing to devote considerable political energy to promoting Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism.

The main force behind this renewed commitment is Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who for the past seven years has listened to the concerns of the Jewish community, has shown vision and leadership on the issue, and has made it clear that the fight against anti-Semitism is above all a fight for the values ​​of Europe. This commitment culminated two weeks ago at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Anti-Semitism.

As a guest speaker at the Malmö forum, I can personally attest to the depth of sincerity of Swedish officials in the fight against anti-Semitism. The terminology used was largely unprecedented, recognizing that anti-Israel rhetoric could be a manifestation of anti-Semitism and that hatred of Jews can come from both extremes, the left and the right, as well as radical Islamists.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Löfven left delegates in no doubt that the fight against anti-Semitism is at the forefront of the international agenda. “We are not looking for another statement, we are looking to translate these principles of these documents into reality,” Löfven told the forum. “I have therefore encouraged the delegations that are represented here in Malmö today to come up with concrete measures to promote Holocaust remembrance and combat anti-Semitism.”

And indeed, concrete measures were proposed. Participating countries, technology companies and civil society organizations presented a series of commitments as a concrete result of the Malmö forum, which will be followed during the Swedish presidency of the IHRA in 2022.

As someone who has criticized the state of anti-Semitism in Sweden in the past, I can only welcome this new atmosphere and practical action emanating from Swedish officials. I think there is great symbolism in holding an international event to create new initiatives in Malmö to fight anti-Semitism, a city that has seen Jews expelled en masse. However, now is the time to act.

We need new tools for a new generation. Young people especially, who have spent much of the last two years indoors and in front of screens, have become more susceptible to extremism and conspiracy theories. There must be a commitment to tackling the problem, allocating significant resources, using new media platforms, developing effective counter-messages, and strengthening education.

We know the problem and have suggested solutions, now we need to see these plans in place so that the next generation of Jews will not feel the need to leave their homes and communities to feel safe and secure. Sweden has become a paradigm for this change of direction and the acceptance that concrete action must be sought and the atmosphere has changed if Europe is to be a safe place for Jews. I look forward to working with them once again to end hatred of Jews in all its manifestations at home and abroad.

The writer is president of the European Jewish Congress, the European Council for Tolerance and Reconciliation and the World Holocaust Forum Foundation.


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