High security at Jewish buildings across Sweden after Gothenburg synagogue attack

Molotov cocktails were also hurled at a Jewish cemetry in the southern city of Malmö on Saturday


Swedish police arrested three men over the weekend on suspicion of arson on a synagogue in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city.

The Molotov cocktail attack took place while a group of Jewish youths held a party in the adjacent community building. It caused a blaze in the synagogue’s courtyard but no damage or injuries.

Over the weekend, Molotov cocktails were also hurled at the Jewish cemetery in Malmö, Fredrik Gellberg, a spokesman for the city’s Jewish community, told the JC. There was no permanent damage there, either.

The two attacks occurred during a tense weekend in Sweden, with protests around the country against U.S. president Donald Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In Malmö and in the capital, Stockholm, pro-Palestine protesters chanted antisemitic slogans and set Israeli flags on fire.

Aron Verständig, president of the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden, said many Jewish community members, particularly from Gothenburg and Malmö, have been in touch with him in the past couple of days. Many feel upset and saddened by the weekend’s events, he said.

Speaking to the JC just before a meeting with Sweden’s culture minister Alice Bah Kuhnke, Mr Verständig said: “Lots of journalists are calling me and it feels like we are in the midst of a media cycle now that keeps repeating itself whenever there is an intensification of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“That tends to lead to antisemitic incidents here in Sweden.”

Mr Verständig said he was still hopeful that this time might be different because the Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven had issued a tough statement condemning antisemitism.

“Swedes in general are not antisemitic. The problem lays mainly among people with roots in the Middle East, in countries where there is state-sanctioned antisemitism,” Mr Verständig said.

Swedish police have been tight-lipped about the identities of the three men arrested on suspicion of carrying out the Gothenburg attack, but a prosecutor told local media on Monday that there are no signs of the suspects having any links to right-wing extremism.

Regional police chief Erik Nord told the JC that “many of us are thinking along the lines of this being part of the reaction to events in the Middle East”.

Mr Nord, who has worked on security matters in Gothenburg for nearly 20 years, said that Jewish groups face multiple threats: from Islamists, right-wing extremists and left-wing movements.

“I would say that the most frequent threats are those that come from militant Islamists. That is my impression,” Mr Nord said.

Security around Jewish buildings in Sweden, such as synagogues, schools and community centres, has been heightened following the weekend’s events.

A public Chanukah celebration in central Stockholm on Tuesday evening looked set to go ahead.

In a Facebook post, Chabad emissary Chaim Mina Greisman wrote: “At a time like this it is even more important that we show to all that we are proud to be Jewish and deserve the same natural right as all other Swedes to celebrate and express our traditions openly and securely.”

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