In 2016, Sweden distinguished itself among European states by confirming that the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) are a legitimate political movement that should be protected from oppression.
But now Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s government is going against the criminalization of criticism of Israel and its racist state ideology Zionism under the guise of fighting anti-Jewish bigotry.
This week is Sweden host Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism.
It is to be participated of Israeli lobbyists and EU officials have pledged to mumble criticism of Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.
High-profile speakers include UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Isaac Herzog, Israel’s new president who has long dehumanized Palestinians and Muslims and promoted violence against them.
Herzog was also involved in the ongoing defamation campaign to paint Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the British Labor Party anti-Jewish because of their support for Palestinian rights.
One of the Malmö collection’s main purposes is to further anchor the so-called IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, a document that is strongly promoted by Israel and its lobby.
This definition combines notorious criticism of Israel and Zionism, on the one hand, with anti-Jewish bigotry, on the other. (See The Electronic Intifada’s new mini-documentary on how the IHRA definition is used to tarnish and silence supporters of Palestinian rights).
Sweden is the host promised to introduce its own “action program” against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry.
This will include “the police’s increased efforts to combat racism and hate crimes” and to allocate a “research agency” working under the Swedish Ministry of Defense to “continuously monitor anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.”
“Organized racism and support for organized racism will be criminalized,” the Swedish government claims.
What should be of particular concern about these promises is that Sweden’s attitude towards anti – Semitism will be based on the IHRA definition – the open path for criminalizing support for Palestinian rights by incorrectly defining it as ‘hate’.
While it may sound extreme, dozens of international anti-Semitic scholars, many of them Jewish or Israeli, has issued what they call a “sharp warning against the political instrumentalization of the fight against anti-Semitism.”
They urge leaders participating in the Malmö meeting to “reject and counteract this instrumentalization.”
“We notice coordination with and dependence on lobby organizations that protect the Israeli government,” the researchers said.
The researchers say the IHRA definition “is used against human rights organizations and solidarity activists who condemn Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses” and is used to “legitimize false accusations of anti-Semitism.”
Among the signatories are Amos Goldberg, President of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Alon Confino, director of the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memorial Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Michael Rothberg, Professor of Comparative Literature and Holocaust Studies at UCLA; Lila Corwin Berman, Professor of American Jewish History at Temple University and Leora Auslander, Professor of History at the University of Chicago.
Researchers are particularly angry at recent European Union action, including the recently issued “handbook” on the application of the IHRA definition and its new “strategy” to combat anti-Semitism.
As The Electronic Intifada has reported, the handbook contains outright lies about the boycott movement, while the anti-Semitism strategy is a thinly disguised blueprint for ardent supporters of Palestinian rights.
Both initiatives have been led by Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU’s head of anti – Semitism, who will also be present in Malmö.
Von Schnurbein publicly endorsed Israeli attacks on Gaza and the Jerusalem al-Aqsa Mosque earlier this year.
The researchers say that the EU handbook promotes giving “legal effect” to the IHRA definition and uses it as a basis for denying funding to civil society groups. “We are afraid that this is a prelude to discriminatory and oppressive policies,” they said.
The warnings from these researchers are not new – Palestinian and Jewish organizations, among others, have criticized the IHRA definition for years.
However, the researchers note that the EU’s new strategy “ignores the growing concerns about the shortcomings and instrumentalisation of the IHRA definition.”
They also point to the “toxic and frightening atmosphere” created by such policies, especially in Germany, where almost anyone who criticizes Berlin’s support for Israel’s crimes against Palestinians is likely to be subjected to severe repression and slander.
As an alternative approach, researchers support the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism.
Palestinian campaigns have given the new definition a cautious welcome, saying it “may be involved in the fight against anti-Palestinian McCarthyism and repression that advocates of the IHRA definition” have deliberately promoted.
But the Palestinians also warn that the Jerusalem Declaration has shortcomings, especially that it excludes Palestinian perspectives.
Warming to Israel
Sweden is openly warming its ties with Tel Aviv – just as major human rights organizations are finally acknowledging that Israel is committing the apartheid crime against Palestinians.
Stockholm’s obvious capitulation to Israel’s lobbying pressure over alleged anti-Semitism also comes when the Swedish government quietly acknowledges that this form of bigotry – however it is defined – is diminishing.
In August the government announced the results of a survey conducted in June this year.
The government’s survey found that “population support for both traditional and Holocaust-related anti-Semitic sentiments, as well as those related to Israel, has declined” since 2005.
Nevertheless, the government claims that “there is a risk that hate crimes may increase even though public attitudes improve.”
Such claims will undoubtedly be the justification for increased criminalization and repression of those who oppose Israel’s occupation regime, apartheid and settler colonialism.