Jews Must Assimilate to Become Swedes, Far Right Leader Declares
After a difficult summer dominated by anti-Israel hostility from the political left and elements of the Muslim community arising from the war in Gaza, Sweden’s Jewish community, estimated at 20,000 strong, is now facing vilification from the far right.
Björn Söder, secretary of the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats and deputy speaker in parliament, said Jews could become Swedish citizens but could not be Swedish unless they were assimilated. Founded in the 1980s by neo-Nazi and racist groups, the party has become a growing political force in Sweden, winning 13 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections earlier this year. The party claimed a major victory last month when it forced the newly-formed center-left government to call fresh elections in March 2015.
Lena Posner Körösi, president of the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden, told The Guardian that Söder’s comments conveyed a message that Jews were untrustworthy and could not be considered real Swedes, “exactly like in 1930s Germany” from which her grandfather had fled.
“I am appalled that Sweden’s third largest party can express itself in this way about Jews and other minorities,” she said. “We have to take them really seriously. This not a small group of fanatics you can dismiss.”
Willy Silberstein, president of the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism, told TT news agency: “I am a Jew, born in Sweden. I am as Swedish as Björn Söder.”
Söder also singled out the indigenous Sami people and Kurds in his comments, not just Jews. “Those who know me when it comes to Jews know I have long had a very strong commitment to both the state of Israel and the Jewish people,” he told Swedish Radio.