"Malmo: A case-study of chronic antisemitism in public discourse, in micro, carries lessons for the OSCE region."
Prague, 24 March 2011
Dr. Shimon Samuels, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Director for International Relations and its Permanent Delegate to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) appealed to the 56 state body today to urge Swedish measures against rampant antisemitism in the southern city of Malmo.
Samuels was attending the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institution and Human Rights (ODIHR) High Level Meeting on “Confronting Antisemitism in Public Discourse”, in Prague, Czech Republic. His statement follows:
In December 2010, the Wiesenthal Centre imposed a ’Travel Advisory’ on the southern Swedish city of Malmo, warning Jewish visitors to take extreme precaution if visiting the city.
The Advisory came only after the Centre’s many appeals went unanswered. These related to:
- numerous incidents of harassment and assaults on the community’s Rabbi, which received no attention from authorities nor investigation by the police.
- police passivity during violence against a peaceful pro-Israeli demonstration. Victims, including elderly Holocaust survivors were advised, reportedly by police, to flee their attackers.
- the city’s exclusion of spectators from a Sweden-Israel Davis Cup heat, which was ordered to be held in a locked empty stadium.
- the Mayor’s reported analogy equating antisemitism with Zionism and suggestion that the local community of 700 Jews denounce Israel.
- a comment by the Mayor to the media following our meeting at his office ten days ago, regarding “the powerful Wiesenthal Centre’s influence,” is arguably redolent of 1930’s conspiracy theories against Jews.
During our one week fact-finding mission, we met with Jewish, Muslim and Roma leaders who all concurred that the municipality, the police and the State were obfuscating their responsibility to protect their citizens. Even security camera permits, for community institutions at risk, have been denied as a violation of privacy.
When Malmo Mayor, Ilmar Reealu, was short listed for the title of 'World Mayor,' we convinced the organisers that their award would, not only promote a negative message, the Mayor had violated their Code of Ethics, which required that laureates protect all their citizens.
We have also presented the following five mitigating proposals to Sweden, and now submit them to this conference for application throughout the OSCE region, as Malmo is a microcosm for all States Parties:
1. the introduction of telephone help lines for victims of hate crimes, manned by representatives of each targeted community. Based on our experience in France, this creates a greater rapport with call-in victims
2. resources for local hate crimes monitoring and investigation units, especially focussing on the Internet
3. a programme for school students to visit a synagogue, Islamic Centre, Church and other houses of worship to demystify stereotypes of ’the other’
4. the empathic condemnation of the import of foreign conflicts by elected officials into domestic political discourse - a factor that exacerbates inter-community tensions. Indeed, this aggravation of danger to Jewish citizens is anchored in the OSCE’s Berlin Declaration of 2004.
5. most importantly, governments must take over funding for security of community institutions at risk. Of hate crimes committed in Malmo over the past two years, a police source estimated that over 57% were directed against Jews. Incident statistics are not, however, an adequate measure. Jews are targeted, ipso facto, due to increasing Islamist radical and neo-Nazi incitement via the Internet and other fora.
Jewish gatherings and events have been cut back due to onerous security costs. What has become an indirect tax on religious and cultural identity is a governmental responsibility under the Council of Europe’s “Protection of National Minorities” convention – the signatories to which are also State Parties to the OSCE.
During our visit, we met many concerned Swedish citizens who shared our apprehensions and expectations for action. Our Centre hopes that through this conference, the Swedish and Malmo authorities will understand the urgency to address the situation, before the first review of our ’Travel Advisory’ this June.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”