Did parliament speaker say Jews can’t be Swedes?


Björn Söder, a deputy speaker of the Swedish parliament and secretary-general of the far-right Sweden Democrat Party, triggered a furore in Sweden recently when he was interpreted as saying that Jews can never be accepted as Swedes.

It landed Söder on the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s list of “Top Ten Worst Global Antisemitic/Anti-Israel incidents” in 2014.

Asked by newspaper Dagens Nyheter if it was possible to be both Swedish and Jewish, Söder said: “I think most people of Jewish origin who have become Swedes leave their Jewish identities behind, but if they don’t that doesn’t need to be a problem.” Söder said it was important to distinguish between “citizenship and belonging to a nation”.

Söder defended himself in a Jerusalem Post op-ed, declaring himself a friend of Jews and of Israel.
This did little to appease Sweden’s Jewish community, with Lena Posner-Körösi, president of the Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden, calling him a “hypocrite” and stating that his party wanted to clamp down on key Jewish practices and institutions. The Sweden Democrats want to extend Sweden’s ban on kosher slaughter to a ban on importing kosher meat. They also want to introduce a ban on non-medical male circumcision and to shut down faith schools, Ms Posner-Körösi said.

“As far as I know, the Sweden Democrats have not openly supported antisemitic statements,” said Marie Demker, a professor in political science at the University of Gothenburg, who studies the rise of xenophobic parties in Europe. “The party supports an assimilation policy, demanding that new Swedes leave their old identities behind. They also separate nationhood and citizenship.”

Jews are regarded as legitimate Swedish citizens but also as belonging to another nation, Ms Demker explained, adding that the party’s main target was Islam and the Muslim community. “Muslims are regarded as not fully accepting Swedish behaviours and traditions or Western values.”

Kjell Magnusson, a sociology professor at Uppsala University, where he founded the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Programme, said that while Söder expressed himself clumsily, “it is a simplification to label his comments antisemitic.

“Historically, Swedishness has been expressed through universal values. That is because, up until the late 1950s when a wave of guest workers arrived, Sweden was a very ethnically homogenous society.”

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