Swedish Mayor Calls Both Anti-Semitism and Zionism Forms of 'Unacceptable Extremism'

Swedish Jews are upset about comments made this week by the mayor of Malmo, who said anti-Semitism and Zionism were both forms of "unacceptable extremism," and urged local Jews to disassociate themselves from Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip.

"These statements and other events in Malmo are making the Jewish community feel very uncomfortable and some people, especially the young, are leaving the city," George Braun, the president of the Jewish community in Gothenburg, about 250 kilometers from Malmo, told Haaretz. Ilmar Reepalu, mayor of Malmo, Sweden's third largest city, spoke in an interview published in a Swedish newspaper on Wednesday, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. "We accept neither Zionism nor anti-Semitism," Reepalu said. "They are extremes who put themselves above other groups, seeing others as something lesser."

He said it was "terrible" that Jews felt so insecure in Malmo that they felt compelled to leave, but that a recent city-center demonstration in solidarity with Israel by local Jews stirred up feelings against them

"I wish the Jewish Community would distance itself from Israel's violations of the rights of the civilian population in Gaza," he said. I wish that representatives of Muslims in Malmo would clearly say that the Jews in Malmo shouldn't be mixed up in the Israel-Palestine conflict."

Malmo's Jewish community has complained about harassment by extreme left-wing and right-wing activists, but mostly by radical elements from the city's Muslims, who make up about 15 percent of the population of 250,000.

Malmo drew international attention last March when the city council barred spectators from a Davis Cup tennis match in which Israelis were competing, citing public order concerns because of planned anti-Israel protests.

The Israelis won and the International Tennis Federation banned Malmo from hosting Davis Cup events for five years. Dr. Mikael Tossavainen of Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, said Reepalu's statements were "far from helpful in indicating that the Jews themselves have a share in the responsibility for their precarious position."

He added: "Mr. Reepalu's statements risk strengthening those who take out their frustration against Israel on the local Jews."