Malmo mayor under Israeli fire for equating Zionism and Anti-Semitism

January 30, 2010


The mayor of a Swedish city has come under Israeli fire for equating Zionism and anti-Semitism and calling both “unacceptable extremism.” “Malmö does not accept anti-Semitism and does not accept Zionism. They are extremists who put themselves above other groups, seeing others as something lesser,” Ilmar Reepalu said in an interview with Skanska Dagbladet newspaper. Reepalu was asked whether he considered a public condemnation of anti-Semitism in Malmö. Charlotte Wiberg, of the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism told Yediot Aharonot that “Reepalu chose not to show solidarity with Jews facing danger in Malmö, but rather, with the people who wish to marginalize a religious group because of Israel’s policy.” George Braun, the president of the Jewish community in Gothenburg, about 250 kilometers from Malmo, told Israeli daily Haaretz that Reepalu’s statements and “other events in Malmö are making the Jewish community feel very uncomfortable.” “Some people, especially the young, are leaving the city,” he said. However, Reepalu rejected the charges against him, saying that it was “terrible” that Jews felt “so insecure in Malmö that they felt compelled to leave.” The mayor said that local Jews assumed some responsibility for the attitude towards them, noting that “they have the possibility to affect the way they are seen by society.” Reepalu had urged Malmo’s Jewish community to “distance itself” from Israeli attacks on Gaza’s civilian population. “Instead, the community chose to hold a pro-Israel demonstration,” he said, adding that such a move “may convey the wrong message to others,” Israeli daily Ynet News reports “A city-center demonstration in solidarity with Israel by local Jews stirred up feelings against them. I wish the Jewish Community would distance itself from Israel’s violations of the rights of the civilian population in Gaza,” he said. The mayor also urged Muslims to be cautious in their attitudes. “I wish that representatives of Muslims in Malmo would clearly say that the Jews in Malmö shouldn’t get mixed up in the Israel-Palestine conflict,” he said. Malmö ‘s Jewish community has complained about harassment by extreme left-wing and right-wing activists, but mostly by radical elements from the city’s Muslims, who make up about 15 percent of the population, Haaretz said. Malmö city council last March barred spectators from a Davis Cup tennis match in which Israelis were playing, citing public order concerns because of planned anti-Israel protests. The International Tennis Federation banned Malmö from hosting Davis Cup events for five years. Readers were mixed about Reepalu’s statements. “What’s wrong with the Europeans? Why do they elect such radicals to lead? If the mayor cares so much about the people of Gaza why doesn’t he criticize Hamas and its Arab supporters for using the people of Gaza as human shields?,” asked Nymous. However, a reader under the name of Anonymous wrote: “Feel the love, friends of Israel the racist state. There will be more of it unless Israel becomes civilised and treat humans equally. Wake up before it is too late and Israel becomes the new South Africa or worse.”



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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