Following the terrorist outrage in Denmark, ASW have undertaken a major investigation into Antisemitism in the Scandinavian countries.
Typically, the likes of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland are often described in the media as some of the most content countries in the world. They are renowned for their generous social welfare programs, childcare and education provision. What is the reality for the long-established Jewish communities there?
Sweden’s history, for example, when it comes to Jews is not a happy one. It was not until 1870 that Jews were permitted to settle wherever they wanted in the country. Indeed, Sweden was behind the proposal to stamp a big “J” in the passports of German Jews, to prevent Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany from entering.
In Norway during WWII, the civilian police in many cases helped the German occupiers to arrest those Jews who failed to escape in time.
Back in 2012 Finland’s Helsinki Jewish community security officer was advising members not to wear a kippah in public for fear of Antisemitic attacks. The security officer added that the community faced six to ten Antisemitic incidents a month (see original article). Only 1,500 Jews live in Finland today, many of them descendants of the Jewish soldiers who served in the Russian army in Finland in the mid-19th century, when Finland was an autonomous grand duchy of the czarist empire.
Norway too has had its fair share of Antisemitic incidents over the years, like back in 2012 when Professor Johan Galtung, a Norwegian academic, went on an Antisemitic rant linking mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik to the Mossad, while suggesting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are what led to the Holocaust (read more). In the same article, Irwin Cohen, the president of the Jewish community in Norway, reached out to reporters, making allegations reminiscent of the pre-second world war atmosphere in Europe, and warning that Antisemitism was growing in the county.
For many years, reported Ingrid Carlqvist and Lars Hedegaard (in a fascinating Gatestone Institute article) Sweden’s Malmö Jews have suffered from a growing number of hate crimes against their synagogue and themselves, but nobody has taken their complaints seriously.
That brings us to the recent terrorist outrage in Denmark just yesterday (although it is worth knowing that the BBC on Radio Four this afternoon suggested only that ‘others’ were referring to it as a terrorist incident). In 2014, The Copenhagen Post covered a meeting between political leaders and Jewish and Muslim representatives to examine the extent of the rise of Antisemitism triggered by the conflict in Gaza.
Their report cited The Jewish Society of Denmark alleging that they had reports of 29 physical, verbal and online attacks on Jews in a one month period from the conflict in Gaza flaring up.
The murderous attack yesterday can be seen in the context of an ongoing rising tide of global Antisemitism. However, it is also part of a specific Scandinavian context that must give us all, and particularly the Jewish communities there, cause for concern.