Sweden Is No Friend of Israel

Despite the mollifying declarations by its foreign minister, Sweden's government won't unconditionally condemn Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli civilians.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks next to Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom during the inauguration of the Embassy of Palestine in central Stockholm, Sweden, Feb. 10, 2015.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks next to Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom during the inauguration of the Embassy of Palestine in central Stockholm, Sweden, Feb. 10, 2015. Credit: Reuters
Mathias Sundin is a Member of the Swedish Parliament for the Liberal Party and Chairman of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association.
Mathias Sundin

Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, claims in a recent article in Haaretz ("From Sweden, Looking Toward Israel With Friendly Concern")  that the Swedish government is a friend of Israel : "Sweden has a long history of friendship with Israel. We are and will remain a good friend." This statement is simply not true and her government's own actions showcase its falsity.

The most recent example is the lack of condemnations by the Swedish government of the daily terror attacks in Israel. The government only condemns “all violence” and makes it look like that Israeli protection from violence is as bad as the terror attacksl. Shooting and killing those who try to stab civilians to death is not violence that should be condemned.

Sweden itself recently suffered a trauma that one might reasonably think would emphasize this for the government. In October, a man with a sword and a large knife attacked children and school workers, many of a foreign background at a primary school. This happens several times a day in Israel. Two people died in the attack and the police shot and killed the attacker. Of course, no one has criticized the police for this. Then why does the Swedish government criticize its counterparts in the Israeli police for doing the same thing?

Recently, I asked one of the government ministers at the weekly Parliamentary question-time about the lack of condemnations of Palestinian terror attacks. He answered that the government “condemns all terror attacks in Israel and in Palestine”. But there are no terror attacks in Palestine!

When there are news about new Israeli settlements, the condemnation from the Swedish government is immediate and thorough. Is it really worse to build new houses than to kill civilians?

If you can’t condemn terror without ifs and buts then you’re no friend.

Last year, one of the newly elected government's first actions was to officially recognize the State of Palestine. The reasoning from the government was that this would support “the moderate Palestinians” and make it more possible to put pressure on the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian Authority. This has not happened. When the Palestinian ambassador in Sweden has been asked to condemn the violence and terror attacks against civilian Israelis she has refused to do this, despite direct questions from the Swedish media. The reaction to this from the Swedish government and the Foreign Minister has been silence.

The government is no friend of Israel, but they're no friend of the Palestinian people either. They are only a friend of the Palestinian leadership. They put no pressure on the PA to hold new elections, no pressure on them to respect the human rights of their own people (and of course not of Israelis) and no pressure to become a democracy. I know many Palestinians feel hatred towards Israel, but I’m also convinced that they also want to live in peace and democracy. Two democratic countries have never gone to war against each other and the only hope for lasting peace is a democratic Palestine. This is not the responsibility of Israel, but the rest of the democratic world should pressure the Palestinian leaders and help the Palestinian people to embrace democracy. It’s obvious that the current Palestinian leadership has no interest in either democracy or peace. Sweden, as one of the world’s top financial donors to the PA, has great leverage to do this, but chooses not to.

A protester chants slogans near a banner reading "Boycott Israel" during an anti-Israel march in Malmo, Sweden. Credit: Reuters

Sweden should also put pressure on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to accept a two-state solution. In 2008 he rejected the proposal from then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for a Palestinian state. He didn’t even come up with a counter proposal, just as Yasser Arafat refused to do so in the negotiations in 2000. If Abbas and Arafat had said yes, there would most likely be a Palestinian state today. The pressure should be on the PA and Abbas to show they really want a two-state solution, not the Israelis.

The Swedish government is truly no friend of Israel. The Swedish public is also strongly biased against Israel. But the Israeli people shouldn’t give up on Sweden, because there are also many friends of Israel in Sweden. The organization I chair, the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association, has 3,000 members and growing. We fight back against attacks on Israel and attempts to boycott Israeli products. It’s an uphill battle, but recently we won one of those fights, when Palestinian activists tried to get a large Swedish grocery chain, the Co-op, to boycott Israeli products. There is also a group of parliamentarians across several parties who question and fight the government's policies towards Israel, in Parliament and in the media. We fight for the right for the Jewish people to live safely in their own state and we, without ifs and buts, condemn the terror against Israel.

Mathias Sundin is a member of the Swedish Parliament for the Liberal Party and Chairman of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association.

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