Malmo mayor accused of lies and antisemitism

By Nathalie Rothschild, March 31, 2011

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has renewed its criticism of Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu, accusing him of failing to combat antisemitism and of "echoing the conspiracy theories against Jews in the 1930s".

In October 2010, the Centre demanded that Mr Reepalu be disqualified from the World Mayor Award because of his "anti-Jewish statements".

Two months later, following a string of hate crimes against Malmö Jews, the Centre imposed a travel advisory, warning Jewish visitors to Malmö to take extreme precautions.

After a meeting with Mr Reepalu earlier this month, a group of Wiesenthal Centre representatives said the travel advisory will not be lifted.

The group accused Mr Reepalu and local authorities of not doing enough to protect Jewish citizens. They said the community had been forced to pay a "Jewish tax" since they have to cover the cost of most security measures put in place after a surge in assaults.

After the meeting, Mr Reepalu said the conversation had been "rewarding". He said the group, which also met Jewish, Muslim and Roma leaders during a week-long fact-finding mission, had realised it is not just Jews who have been victims of hate crimes in Malmö.

Shimon Samuels of the Wiesenthal Centre told local press that the meeting had been a "total disappointment". He said: "[Reepalu] puts the blame on others, saying the responsibility lies with 'the police' or 'in Stockholm'."

Mr Samuels wrote to Mr Reepalu, accusing him of lies and antisemitism. He was particularly critical of the mayor's statements about "the Wiesenthal Centre's influence" on the media.

In response, Mr Reepalu said: "I think they have trouble accepting that I can be clear in my criticism of Israel and still combat antisemitism."

He told Swedish daily Sydsvenskan that he has "never had an antisemitic thought" and vowed that, despite the Centre's attempt to "muzzle" him, he will "never stop criticising the Israeli state's assaults".

Last updated: 11:05am, March 31 2011