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In Sweden, it’s OK to link Jews, Trump and KKK

Three weeks ago, Swedens largest-circulation daily paper, Dagens Nyheter, published a cartoon on Donald Trumps election victory by the popular artist Bard.

The drawing (below) showed a happy, red-faced Benjamin Netanyahu sitting next to Mr Trump in a gold, Roman-style litter. The vehicle is being carried by Orthodox Jews, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a voluptuous woman and a few Israeli soldiers, marked with large Israeli flags on their chests. A speech bubble attributed to Mr Netanyahu says: “Finally!”

The image sends a clear message: that the Jewish state and, in a larger sense, the great, evil Jewish conspiracy, determined the outcome of the American presidential election in order to further its interests.

The idea that Jews run the world is an old antisemitic myth, and the absurd mix of people and powers represented in the cartoon — from call-girls to Charedim and the KKK — indicate the degree to which the cartoonist has fallen for this ancient lie.

After the cartoon started doing the rounds on social media, Dagens Nyheter issued a statement — which many were expecting to be an apology. Instead, the paper’s editor-in-chief, Peter Wolodarski, defended the cartoon, saying that it was merited by the fact that Mr Netanyahu celebrated Mr Trump’s victory even though the president-elect was supported by anti-democratic forces and white power movements. The statement did not mention the fact that what they referred to as “Netanyahu’s support of Trump” consisted only of the standard phone-call — a courtesy shown to a president-elect by any national leader.

Bizarrely, the Swedish committee against antisemitism (SKMA) defended the cartoon: “We interpret this as critique of Netnayhau and the Israeli government — of which the ultra-Orthodox and national religious are a part — who welcome Trump’s victory and ignore the extreme right and racist movements, including the antisemitic sort, that carried his campaign.” In other words, this is what is accepted as criticism of Israel today in Sweden. Even organisations claiming to be working against antisemitism accept that antisemitic imagery can be used to make a political point they happen to agree with.

Even though this example is unusually crude, one should hardly be shocked, as Sweden has excelled at mixing aversion with Israel with antisemitism for some time. The Swedish Foreign Minister has made few efforts to hide her disdain for Israel and on several occasions her party has issued half-hearted apologies after its representatives made antisemitic remarks.

This is the context in which the country’s largest paper can print 1930s imagery without causing either uproar or outrage.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a Sweden-based political adviser and writer on the Middle East, religious affairs and global antisemitism