Last December, the synagogue in my Swedish hometown of Gothenburg was firebombed. One of the apprehended perpetrators is a Palestinian. He participated in the torching, he said, as a response to the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Why Jewish worshippers in Gothenburg should be held responsible for President Trump’s decision defies logic, unless you assume that he consulted them beforehand or you remember that our enemies will always find reasons for hating us.
The apprehended Palestinian had been denied asylum in Sweden before the incident. He has now been sentenced and his action was identified as a hate crime. However, as a result, his expulsion order has been rescinded. He will not be expelled after having served time in Sweden on the highly improbable grounds that, if he returned to the area under the control of the Palestinian Authority, Israeli security personnel may avenge his Swedish crime.
In other words, his participation in the firebombing the synagogue was rewarded with permission to stay in Sweden, even though he had already been expelled before committing his crime. Thus the logic of the Swedish court, even though there’s no precedent in the Swedish legal system for a person being granted asylum on the grounds that s/he will be at risk when returning to the area under Palestinian control.
The joint statement by the chairs of the Central Council of the Jews of Sweden and the Jewish Community of Gothenburg, issued after the verdict, draws attention to the sad fact that the court statement has made the existence of Jews in Sweden much more precarious. They write that, as horrendous as the firebombing was, the verdict is much more damaging.
They also remind us that many Jews are leaving for Israel because of the growth of anti-Semitism in France. Judging by the latest poll, British Jews may soon join them. Hence their question: “Are the Jews of Sweden next?”
My wife and her mother were rescued by the Swedish Red Cross before the end of World War II from a German concentration camp. Her father joined them a year later having survived in another camp. My mother’s two surviving sisters were also brought by the Red Cross. Three years later, in 1948, they brought us from Poland to Gothenburg.
We experienced many hardships in Sweden, but anti-Semitism wasn’t one of them. More than seven decades later the survivors who stayed and their offspring live in economic comfort. Some have become prominent in Swedish society. But today, they may all be facing new dangers, ominously resembling the scourge that brought about the Holocaust in the 1930s.
I’m writing this shortly after returning from a visit to Britain. Though family and friends told us that they didn’t feel any anti-Semitism, its existence cannot be denied, especially as the country’s possible next prime minister is described by many as an anti-Semite. The situation doesn’t seem to be better in many other European countries.
Some like to blame it on Israel by saying that had there been no Jewish state there wouldn’t be any anti-Semitism, forgetting that there was no Jewish state in the 1930s. So thank God for Israel!
Jerusalem 28.9.18 Dow Marmur