DE RUEHSM #0087 0571113
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 261113Z FEB 10 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM
TO AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM IMMEDIATE
UNCLAS STOCKHOLM 000087
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SW
1. Summary: Following a recent rise in attacks on the Jewish
population in the Swedish city Malmo, comments made by Mayor Ilmar
Reepalu, a leading figure in the opposition Social Democrats, have
caused a ruckus in national media. Reepalu has been interpreted as
blaming the escalation of anti-Semitic harassment on Sweden's Jews
themselves, because they did not take a clear stand against Israel's
incursion into Gaza last winter. Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin
finally spoke out February 25, telling reporters that Reepalu's
comments were "unfortunate" and that she had asked him to open a
dialogue with Malmo's Jewish leaders. End Summary.
2. The regional paper Skanska Dagbladet ran a series of articles on
anti-Semitism in January, in which Reepalu was quoted as saying that
he opposes all forms of extremism, from Zionism to anti-Semitism.
He reportedly also said that Malmo's Jews bore part of the
responsibility for attacks against the community because they failed
to criticize strongly Israeli actions in Gaza last winter. Reepalu
subsequently claimed he was deliberately misquoted. However, in a
February 21 article in the UK's Sunday Telegraph titled "Jews leave
Swedish city after sharp rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes," Reepalu
reportedly stated, "There have been no attacks on Jews, and if Jews
here want to move to Israel, that is of no concern to Malmo."
3. In three recent editorials, national daily Svenska Dagbladet
strongly criticized Mayor Reepalu for his statements. More opinion
makers entered the debate, and on February 25, Social Democrat party
leader Mona Sahlin finally weighed in. "There have been many
examples of discrimination and attacks against Jews, not least in
Malm. The Jews deserve strong support and also one must never mix
up the debate about anti-Semitism and Zionism," Sahlin told
journalists. "There are a number of unfortunate comments from Ilmar
that came to be interpreted in that way," Sahlin commented, adding
that she knows Reepalu well enough to know that it was not what he
meant. "Ilmar is no anti-Semite but is someone who fights racism,
and he also is against the attacks sustained by Jews in Malmo. I
have asked him to open a proper dialogue with the Jewish community
in Malmo in order to work things out," said Sahlin.
4. That same afternoon, Reepalu invited Fred Kahn and Fredrik
Sieradzki from the Jewish community in Malmo to a meeting.
Afterward, both parties said they were pleased with the outcome. "I
think Reepalu gained a better understanding for the threats and
harassments we are subjected to," said one Jewish community leader.
For his part, Reepalu told newsmen that the suggestion he is
anti-Semitic "are completely absurd." He indicated further that
some sort of ongoing dialogue would commence.