Saturday, April 10th | 28 Nisan 5781

November 22, 2016 12:39 pm

The Sweden Democrats and Liberal Jews

avatar by Judith Friedman Rosen

Swedish MPKent Ekeroth. Photo: Alchetron.

Swedish MP Kent Ekeroth. Photo: Alchetron.

Upon learning that high-profile Swedish MP Kent Ekeroth was to speak to a gathering of foreign visitors in the Riksdag (parliament building), speakers from majority parties — the Social Democrats and the Moderates — pulled out of the event.

Ekeroth and his opposition party, the Sweden Democrats, are lightening rods, as they support containing and regulating mass, open immigration to their country — the fifth-largest in Europe in terms of land mass, but with a population of only 10 million. The Sweden Democrats believe that many ills of the economy — and the healthcare, justice and education systems — can be attributed to immigration. They have thus pushed for border controls and the monitoring of Muslim activity. They stand for integration and assimilation into the culture of the nation.

Ekeroth, a proud Swedish nationalist, is the son of an immigrant Jewish mother from the Former Soviet Union province of Kazakhstan. As a child at a school filled with immigrant kids, he was bullied by groups whom he has referred to as “from Africa and the Middle East.”

Immigrants arrive in Sweden demanding rights and benefits beyond that which the country can afford. Meanwhile, the aging indigenous population — in need of social services — can ill afford to pay for the demands of the newly arrived foreigners. Senior citizen residences, vacation villages and hotels have been turned into immigrant housing, paid for with the mandatory 17% value added tax collected from Swedish citizens.

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It would seem the Swedes have largely become too cowardly and politically correct to outwardly admit their concerns and fears. In a consensus culture wherein it is forbidden to question another person’s feelings, college students are reluctant to publicly express their true opinions. If an asylum-seeker is from Somalia or Afghanistan but claims he is from Syria, he is to be taken at his word, because, “Who are we to judge?” As I recently heard a tour guide tell visitors, “Swedes do not ask questions.”

Yet, as much as the progressive majority would like to rule out the Sweden Democrats, they are quietly becoming the fastest growing political entity in the country. Few will publicly identify with it, but within the private space of the ballot booth, the party is popular. As a local taxi driver told me, “Don’t tell anybody, but I support them. How dare a new Muslim immigrant come into my child’s day care center and demand that all the children in the group be required to eat only chicken sausages [as pork is forbidden in Islam]?”

But, according to Ekeroth, relations between the country’s 20,000 Jews and the Sweden Democrats are “tense.” This in spite of the fact that the party showed its support for the community by opposing the 2014 vote by the Riksdag’s Committee of European Union Affairs that unilaterally recognized a Palestinian state. As is the case in the US, many Swedish Jews are highly liberal, support mass immigration and have not taken kindly to the party.

What many Swedish Jews — who see it as their duty as a minority to protect other minorities — fail to recognize is that many Syrians are hard-core antisemites. But Lena Posner-Korosi, a leader in the Swedish Jewish community, explains that she, and many others, see Sweden — a country without a legacy of antisemitism — as the refuge that saved their families from the Holocaust, and consider it “a Jewish concept” to lend their humanitarian support to the refugees of today.

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