They’re a fading breed of champions for the downtrodden, the impoverished, and the misunderstood. They aim to slay socio-economic injustices and inspire the collective to repent when our societal stragglers fall behind. They might think they speak for the collective social conscious of Swedish society. Whatever the motive, they mean well. But then, defenders of the perceived moral majority don’t always get it right. And maybe it’s because their hearts are in it that the righteousness sometimes backfires. And when you know that you fight against evils like anti-Semitism, you’re probably among the last to realize that you contribute equally to anti-Semitism.
The road to anti-Semitism is paved with good intentions. Olle Wästberg seems to agree. In his February 2015 newsletter, which came by email today, under his headline, “Anti-Semitism – Swedish blind spot” he writes, “Sweden lacks self-awareness when it comes to seeing anti-Semitism.”
Nothing has been more obvious than just after the Copenhagen attacks, Sweden made worldwide news when a reporter from one of its state-sponsored media arms, Radio Sweden, asked the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman,“Do the Jews themselves, have any responsibility for the growing anti-Semitism”?
Since the interview the reporter, Helena Groll, and the editorial leadership of Studio Ett from Radio Sweden all apologized for the line of questioning. The apology goes so far that in a historical decision, Sweden Radio has edited the archived interview. The insensitive question was ‘doctored’ to remove offense. The sentiment is right, the censorship is questionable.
Apologies were certainly in order, but has this moment opened up Swedish media’s eyes and will help prevent future passive anti-Semitism? I doubt it.
One of her peers in Swedish media has come to her defense. Mats Svegfors writing in Sweden daily, Dagens Nyheter, defended Groll for her use of “journalistic] method to ask contradictory questions.” After which, he quickly qualifies, “I think it’s hair raising to hold ‘Jews’ or ‘The Jews’ individually or as a collective, responsible for the political decisions of the State of Israel or for the opinions of a number of confrontational Jewish activists express.”
But why doesn’t he or nearly no one else query the Swedish media’s choices when representing Jews in Sweden or Denmark? Why was Studio Ett interviewing the Israeli Ambassador at all? And why did Aktuellt use an image of the Israeli flag when discussing the rise in anti-Semitism in Sweden?
The one voice bucking the trend is in an opinion piece in Sweden daily, Svenska Dagbladet written by Maria Ludvigsson. Its headline says it all, “There is no Jewish flag“. Ludvigsson was critical to the passive anti-Semitism during a Swedish Television Aktuellt news broadcast from Copenhapen when the Aktuell reporter, Thomas Lundström called the Israeli flag, “The Jewish Flag.” Ludvigsson wrote, “The ignorance seems widespread and a most often needed reminder that not all Jews are Israelis and all Israelis are not Jews either. That this ignorance is also reflected in our public service channels is bad.”
I don’t live with a daily threat of being hated, threatened or attacked for being a Jew because, well, I’m not Jewish. Not ethnically. Not religiously. Most Jews are both.
I’m not an expert on anti-Semitism, but the “good guys”, even if they mean well, have got to educate themselves and stop the passive contribution to the growing anti-Semitism plaguing Sweden, the Nordics and the rest of Europe.