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April 21, 2016 1:59 pm

‘Jew Issue Merely Icing on Very Crappy Cake,’ Says Swedish Activist in Wake of Minister’s Resignation Over Antisemitic Remarks (INTERVIEW)

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A synagogue in Sweden. Photo: Annika Hernroth-Rothstein.

The Adat Jeschurun synagogue in Stockholm. Photo: Annika Hernroth-Rothstein.

Amid recent scandals involving the public expression of antisemitic and anti-Israel views in Sweden, most recently surrounding the forced resignation of the housing minister and subsequent comments of support from Deputy Prime Minister Åsa Romson, a Stockholm-based Jewish journalist and political analyst told The Algemeiner about the significance of the events.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein said that the ouster of Mehmet Kaplan – a member of the Green Party with revealed ties to Islamist groups – did not signify a shift in Swedish attitudes towards antisemitism. She was referring to statement Kaplan made in a 2009 interview, recently released by the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, that “Israelis treat Palestinians in a way that is very like that in which Jews were treated during Germany in the 1930s.”

On the contrary, Hernroth-Rothstein said, this particular issue “reached a critical point after a number of events that happened over the course of a five-year period: Kaplan got arrested by Israeli police during a ‘Free Gaza’ flotilla raid; worked with the Muslim Brotherhood; supported [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan; befriended the [Turkish neo-fascist organization] the Grey Wolves; and then topped it all off by comparing Israelis to Nazis. He eventually became a political liability, but I would say it was his friendship with the Grey Wolves and Erdogan that cost him his job; the Jew issue was merely the icing on a very crappy cake.”

Hernroth-Rothstein said the unwitting outcome of the “big shocker” – that Kaplan is from the environmentalist party, not the Social Democrats, who usually make antisemitic comments and promote anti-Zionist policies — is that it is causing the Swedish media to look more closely at the Green’s ties to Muslim extremism.” This, she said, “will no doubt bolster the Sweden Democrats’ numbers and create a re-shuffle in Swedish politics.”

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Hernroth-Rothstein’s remarks came on the heels of a Facebook post she uploaded this week, bemoaning the antisemtism suffered by one her two young boys. It reads:

So I’m feeling tired. Really tired and sad. When my son came home today to tell me that a classmate had said “someone should throw that f—–g Jew in an oven and burn him”, he wasn’t angry, bur rather resigned. It’s not the first time, right? Nor will it be the last.

I work really hard every day to give my children a strong Jewish identity here, in the Galut [Diaspora]. I am not here because I want to but because right now, I have to, and those who know me know that I have made many difficult decisions and personal sacrifices in order to assure that my family’s Jewish lineage lives on and that we stay observant despite the hostile surroundings.

I am a single mother raising Jewish boys and I am so very tired. I am tired because every time this happens, every time someone calls my child a “dirty Jew” or makes them feel like less than human because of who they are and what they are it takes something from them and from the strength and values I am working so hard to instill in them.

How do I do this? How do I live in a remote place and provide my children with Jewish education, Jewish pride and faith and most importantly – how do I counteract this society that keeps telling them to be less (and ultimately nothing) of what they are. Less Jewish, less annoying, less in the way of the “ordinary” world.

My son is resigned and he is sad and that makes me sad and tired, too. As a parent, we sacrifice so that our children may reap the rewards. We do so they won’t have to, we hurt so they may heal. But tonight as I hang up the phone with the principal, the parents, the teachers and the counselor I wonder if I may be losing the fight and getting lost on my way from mitzrayim [Egypt].

Tomorrow there will be meetings, a lot of nodding and assurances that “bullying” is unacceptable in a Swedish school. However, this is not bullying, this is a hate crime that has been trivialized so many times that it starts to sound like boyish banter. Nothing will come of these meetings, and I know this because I have been to so many of them before. They will say the right words and commit the wrong acts and then it is up to us to stay standing.

I pray we get angry soon. But for now, I’m just really really tired.

Hernroth-Rothstein is a political activist, well-known, among other things, for filing for refugee status and asylum in her own country in November of 2013, to make a statement about the treatment of Jews. But what of the others in her community whose voices are not heard? Are most of Sweden’s 15,000 Jews contemplating immigration to Israel?

“There is talk of aliyah among the younger congregants in my synagogue,” she told The Algemeiner. “And after the attacks in Denmark and Paris, there was a palpable push. I would say most, however, are attempting to make a life in Sweden and are happy to do so. Most have very old roots here, and the idea of leaving and uprooting is very difficult and far from many of their minds.”

The issue of remaining in Sweden or immigrating to the Jewish state is one Hernroth-Rothstein has both contemplated and been asked about, particularly during her many visits to Israel. Her position is one she articulated in an article in Mosaic magazine about her reasons for requesting asylum in her own country: “No matter how much I believe in and promote the idea of aliyah,” she wrote, “what is happening [to Jews in Sweden] is simply not right. People from all over the world seek refuge in my country in order to be who they are, and to live freely. I want this for them, and I want this for us. EU statutes provide that asylum be granted to persons with ‘well-founded reasons to fear persecution due to race; nationality; religious or political beliefs; gender; sexual orientation; or affiliation to a particular social group.’ Jews in Sweden meet these criteria, and should be eligible for the same protection and support extended to non-natives.”

Where the future of Jews in Sweden is concerned, Hernroth-Rothstein concluded: “I think the Jewish community here faces the same future as the rest of Jewish Europe, one of either assimilation or aliya, in the long term, and the combination of legal restrictions, political and hostile surroundings will take its toll.”

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