Sweden's Third-largest City Is Not a Welcoming Place for Jews

It's not just the residents of Malmo who make the city an uncomfortable place to live. It's the city itself.

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

Sweden's third-largest city has repeatedly been criticized for high levels of anti-Semitism, with the Simon Wiesenthal Center saying earlier this year that virtually nothing has changed since it placed a travel advisory on the city of Malmo in 2010 “for failing to act against serial harassment of the city’s Rabbi and other Jews and Jewish institutions.”

In July a man was beaten for displaying an Israeli flag in his window. In August a glass bottle was hurled at a Malmo rabbi and three windows of the city's main synagogue were smashed. More recently, Swedish public television aired a documentary showing that Jews wearing identifiable Jewish symbols like kippot could no longer walk on the streets of Malmo without being intimidated. That was no surprise for Malmo's Jews, many of whom have already begun to leave the city where several dozen anti-Semitic incidents occur every year.

But it’s not just residents of Malmo, which has a large immigrant Muslim population, who are making the city an unwelcoming place for Jews. It's also the city itself.

For a week in March, the city allowed parts of Israeli Apartheid Week to be held in a building owned and administered by the municipality, at no charge. It thus provided municipal support to the organization Isolate Israel, which inspected Swedish businesses for the week and urged them to remove Israeli products from their stores as part of its campaign advocating a boycott of Israeli goods.

This isn’t the first time the city has shown it is taking foreign policy into its own hands in its efforts to demonize Israel. In March 2009, not long after the Israel-Gaza war that winter, the city council of Malmo – where Sweden and Israel were scheduled to play tennis as part of the Davis Cup – decided the match would have to be played before empty stands. At the time, the mayor said he would have preferred if the game were not played at all and the deputy chairman of the city committee that reached the decision was quoted as saying he sees the empty stadium as a protest against what he considers genocide in Gaza.

That's not all. Malmo city council member Adrian Kaba has blamed a "Jewish-European extreme right-wing conspiracy" for the actions of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian man who killed 77 people in two attacks in Norway in July 2011 and has posted links to articles claiming that the Mossad is behind the Islamic State group. Yet he remains in office.

When the Eurovision Song Contest was to be held in Malmo in 2013, the chairman of its municipal cultural committee, Daniel Sestrajcic, urged Israeli contestant Moran Mazor to go home and not come back until “Palestine was free.” He made no such demands of singers from Russia or Belarus, the country that has come to be known as Europe's last dictatorship.

The fact that the city of Malmo has allowed the BDS movement to use municipal facilities is just one of the most recent in a long line of events demonstrating the absurd reality that Sweden’s third-largest city has adopted a foreign policy that is hostile to the State of Israel.

Nima Gholam Ali Pour is the spokesperson for Perspective On Israel, a Swedish organization that aims to counteract the negative image of Israel in Swedish politics and media.

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