U.S. Sends Anti-Israel Advisor to Anti-Semitic Sweden
by Soeren Kern
U.S. President Barack Obama's controversial anti-Semitism advisor, Hannah Rosenthal, will be visiting Sweden on April 24 to meet with Ilmar Reepalu, the famously anti-Israel mayor of the city of Malmö.
According to the American embassy in Stockholm, Rosenthal has been following the rise of anti-Semitism in Malmö for some time and wants to make sure that there are no politicians in the area that encourage discrimination, racism or hatred for Jews.
Rosenthal's visit to Sweden is likely to amount to little more than an empty photo opportunity. This is because Rosenthal and Reepalu are both self-styled "progressives" who hold the insidious belief that Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism because of their support for Israel.
Like other European countries, Sweden has experienced a significant uptick in anti-Semitic hate-crimes in recent years. Jews in Sweden are frequently subject to harassment and some have been physically assaulted; Jewish cemeteries in the country have repeatedly been desecrated; Jewish worshippers have been abused on their way home from prayer; and Jews have been taunted in the streets by masked men chanting phrases such as "Hitler, Hitler" and "Dirty Jew." Some Jews in Sweden have stopped attending prayer services out of fear for their safety.
The problem of anti-Semitism in Sweden is so widespread that the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has advised Jews to avoid traveling to the country altogether. "We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment. There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes," the center said in a statement.
Malmö, the third-largest city in Sweden, has become an especially hostile place for Jews, who are increasingly subjected to threats, intimidation and physical violence.
The only synagogue serving Malmö's 700-strong Jewish community has been a frequent target of attack. The synagogue, which is often the target of bomb threats, has also been set on fire, and now has security guards stationed around the building. The windows of the synagogue have been replaced with bullet-proof glass, while the Jewish kindergarten can only be reached through reinforced steel security doors.
The situation for Jews in Malmö is so bleak that some 30 Jewish families have already left the city for Stockholm, England or Israel -- and more are preparing to go.
The upswing in anti-Semitic violence in Malmö is being attributed to two key factors: the exponential increase in the number of Muslim immigrants in the city, as well as to Malmö's bigoted leftwing mayor, who rarely misses an opportunity to publicly demonize Israel.
Muslims now comprise between 20% and 25% of Malmö's total population of around 300,000, and local observers say most of the increase in anti-Jewish violence in recent years has been perpetrated by shiftless Muslim immigrant youth.
Anti-Semitism is also being stirred up by Ilmar Reepalu, the leftwing mayor of Malmö, who has a pathological obsession with Israel.
Reepalu, who has been mayor for more than 15 years, says Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism because of their support for Israel.
In January 2010, for example, Reepalu marked Holocaust Memorial Day by declaring that Zionism is racism because it is an "extreme ideology that puts one group of people over another."
In an interview with the daily newspaper Skånska Dagbladet, he also said: "I would wish for the Jewish community to denounce Israeli violations against the civilian population in Gaza. Instead it decides to hold a [pro-Israel] demonstration in the Grand Square [of Malmö], which could send the wrong signals."
Reepalu was referring to an incident in January 2009, during Israel's brief war in Gaza, when a small demonstration in favor of Israel was attacked by a screaming mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists, who threw bottles, eggs and firecrackers as the police looked on.
In July 2011, after a Hollywood film production company cancelled plans to shoot a movie in the southern Swedish province of Skåne due to concerns over anti-Semitism in Malmö, Reepalu cast his rage on the Simon Wiesenthal Center for issuing the travel warning.
Reepalu, in an interview with the newspaper Sydsvenskan, said: "I have a feeling that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not really looking for what is happening in Malmö but they want to hang the people who dare to criticize the state of Israel. Are they once again saying I should be silenced? I will never compromise my morals."
More recently, Reepalu has accused Jews in Sweden of teaming up with an anti-immigrant party to "spread hate" toward Muslims.
In a March 22 interview with the magazine NEO about the rise of anti-Semitism in Sweden, Reepalu said the Jewish community has been "infiltrated" by the conservative Sweden Democrats party to promote their mutual disdain for Muslims.
Enter into the mix Hannah Rosenthal, who has been President Obama's Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism since November 2009.
Rosenthal's first official act in office was to rebuke Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for describing the self-described "pro-Israel" activist group J Street as "dangerous" to Israeli security. J Street -- which says it aims to "redefine" what it means to be pro-Israel, and has repeatedly worked to undermine Israel's fight against terrorism -- is funded by George Soros, an anti-Israel secular Jewish billionaire who blames Jews for anti-Semitism.
Rosenthal, a former director of J Street who has also served on the board of the left-wing activist group Americans for Peace Now (which is part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] movement against Israel aimed at delegitimizing the Jewish state), has also implied that Jews around the world who are vocal supporters of the Israeli government are fair game for anti-Semitic attacks.
Commenting on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, Rosenthal said: "It's a scary time, with people losing the ability to differentiate between a Jew, any Jew, and what's going on in Israel." According to Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard: "Parse that quote and it's pretty clear what Rosenthal is saying -- the Israelis have it coming, but the rest of the world needs to distinguish between the good progressive Jews who are not living on Palestinian land and the Israeli Jews who are committing daily atrocities in the name of colonialism and occupation."
Rosenthal has also criticized non-leftwing supporters of Israel as having "narrow, ultra-conservative views of what it means to be pro-Israel."
Although her job description is to combat anti-Semitism, Rosenthal focuses much of her time and effort on fighting "Islamophobia." Speaking to the London-based Community Security Trust, an organization that is dedicated to protecting the Jewish community in Britain, Rosenthal called for a crackdown on bigotry against… Muslims.
A few months later, at the so-called High-Level Conference on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Rosenthal again attacked Islamophobia and also criticized the "severe constraints" to the "free practice of Islam" in Europe, as well as the "great difficulty" Muslims face in building mosques on the continent. She made no mention of the fact that many, if not most, of the attacks on Jews in Europe are perpetrated by Muslims.
During a visit to Vilnius in April 2010, Rosenthal refused to confront the Lithuanian government's efforts to hide the country's complicity in the Jewish Holocaust. Instead, she declared that Lithuania had "taken very proactive steps in dealing with anti-Semitism," and also promised the Lithuanians a €64,000 ($85,000) grant "to develop Holocaust education."
Rosenthal made no mention of the fact that Lithuania is spending millions of euros on a pernicious campaign to obtain official recognition by the European Union that the crimes of communism are equivalent to those of the Nazis.
On a return visit to Vilnius in November 2011 to participate in a conference called "Tolerance and Totalitarianism: Challenges to Freedom," which was sponsored by the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rosenthal again refused to address the issue of anti-Semitism. Never mind that the Lithuanian government is currently sponsoring a series of events to honor as heroes Lithuanians who murdered their Jewish neighbors even before the Germans arrived in 1941.
Rosenthal now wants to travel to Sweden to find out what Reepalu is doing to combat intolerance in Malmö. Since both share similar perspectives on the root cause of anti-Jewish hate crime in Europe, namely Jewish support for Israel, Rosenthal and Reepalu can be expected to downplay the severity of anti-Semitism in Sweden and focus their attention on Islamophobia instead.