Jewish leaders in Sweden were in an uproar this week after the far-right deputy speaker of parliament said Jews could not be truly Swedish unless they assimilate into Swedish society, European media reported.
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“We have an open Swedishness which also includes people with foreign roots. But you have to adapt to the Swedish and assimilate in order to become Swedish,” Bjorn Soder, the far-right party secretary of the Sweden Democrats, said in a Swedish newspaper interview published Sunday.
“I think that most people with Jewish origin who have become Swedes leave their Jewish identity behind. But if they don’t it doesn’t have to be an issue,” Soder said, according to an English report in the Sweden version of European news website The Local. “You have to differentiate between citizenship and national affiliation. They can still be Swedish citizens and live in Sweden."
In the same interview, Soder also suggested that migrants should be given a cash incentive to leave Sweden.
Willy Silberstein, the chairman of the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, attacked the Sweden Democrats, which took 13 percent of the vote in elections in September, as coming “from Nazi organizations,” The Local said.
“I am Jewish and born in Sweden,” Silberstein was quoted as saying. “I am just as much Swedish as Bjorn Soder.”
The leader of Sweden’s Jewish community, Lea Posner Korosi, classified Soder’s comments as “good old right-wing anti-Semitism,” The Guardian reported.
“I am appalled that Sweden’s third-largest party can express itself in this way about Jews and other minorities,” said Posner Korosi, president of the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden. “We have to take them really seriously. This is not a small group of fanatics you can dismiss.”
Soder has since said his remarks were taken out of context.
“Those who know me when it comes to Jews know I have long had a very strong commitment to both the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” he told Swedish Radio.