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Monday, July 26, 2010

Malmö, Sweden synagogue attacked

From the JC:

Members of the Swedish Jewish community have expressed sadness after an attack on a synagogue in the city of Malmö.

Security has been stepped up after a bomb threat was left at the synagogue and the following day a firecracker exploded outside, shattering three windows.

It was reportedly the second threat to the synagogue in as many weeks.
Sweden, Israel and the Jews adds:
As reported by the local newspaper Skånskan, since the beginning of the year there has been an increased threat against Jewish families in Malmö. The feelings of insecurity and lack of personal safety are today so strong that some Jewish families have chosen to leave the city, or even to leave Sweden. Following the public outcry by the Jewish community in Malmö and the formation of a group to foster communication among various ethnic groups in the city, Chairman of the Jewish Community Fred Kahn had reported that hopes were that the situation now looked a little brighter.

Until now…

In an interview after this recent attack against Malmö’s synagogue, Fred Kahn stated to Skånskan’s reporter:
“We see this as an attack, alternatively as an attempted attack. This is not the case where somebody accidently happened to set off some firecrackers.”

The local police force feels that it is not necessary to enforce security around the synagogue although it is evident that the Jewish Community remains in a state of constant threat. How long the small Jewish community can persist under threat in Malmö while being forced to bear the cost of intensive security protection, and without the freedom to openly identify as Jews, is anybody’s guess. Despite Mayor Reepalu’s belief that this is the Jews’ problem, evidence shows that violence is everybody’s problem in Malmö.

The Forward went to Malmö a few weeks ago, and its lengthy report showed that anti-semitism there is endemic and growing:

At some point, the shouts of “Heil Hitler” that often greeted Marcus Eilenberg as he walked to the 107-year-old Moorish-style synagogue in this port city forced the 32-year-old attorney to make a difficult, life-changing decision: Fearing for his family’s safety after repeated anti-Semitic incidents, Eilenberg reluctantly uprooted himself and his wife and two children, and moved to Israel in May.

Malmo, Sweden’s third-largest city, with a population of roughly 293,900 but only 760 Jews, reached a turning point of sorts in January 2009, during Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. A small, mostly Jewish group held a demonstration that was billed as a peace rally but seen as a sign of support for Israel. This peaceful demonstration was cut short when the demonstrators were attacked by a much larger screaming mob of Muslims and Swedish leftists who threw bottles and firecrackers at them as police seemed unable to stop the mounting mayhem.

“I was very scared and upset at the same time,” recalled Jehoshua Kaufman, a Jewish community leader. “Scared because there were a lot of angry people facing us, shouting insults and throwing bottles and firecrackers at the same time. The sound was very loud. And I was angry because we really wanted to go through with this demonstration, and we weren’t allowed to finish it.”

Alan Widman, who is a strapping 6-foot-tall member of parliament and a non-Jewish member of the Liberal Party who represents Malmo, said simply, “I have never been so afraid in my life.”

There are an estimated 45,000 Muslims in Malmo, or 15% of the city’s population. Many of them are Palestinians, Iraqis and Somalis, or come from the former Yugoslavia.

But the problem is not just Muslims, and not just Malmo’s.

A continentwide study, conducted by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld in Germany, released in December 2009, found that that 45.7% of the Europeans surveyed agree somewhat or strongly with the following statement: “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” And 37.4% agreed with this statement: “Considering Israel’s policy, I can understand why people do not like Jews.”

“[There is] quite a high level of anti-Semitism that is hidden beneath critics of Israel’s policies,” said Beate Kupper, one of the study’s principal researchers, in a telephone interview with the Forward, citing this data and a tendency to “blame Jews in general for Israel’s policies.”

Most of Malmo’s Muslims live in Rosengard, the eastern part of this de facto segregated city, where the jobless rate is 80%. Satellite dishes dot the high-rise apartments to receive programming from Al-Jazeera and other Arabic-language cable networks that keep Malmo’s Muslims in constant touch with the latest Arab-Israeli developments.

Sylvia Morfradakis, a European Union official who works with the chronically unemployed, those who have been without work for 10 to 15 years, said that the main reason that 80% to 90% of Muslims between the ages of 18 and 34 can’t find jobs is that they can’t speak Swedish.

“Swedish employers insist workers know Swedish well, even for the most menial jobs,” Morfradakis said. She added, “The social welfare concept for helping without end does not give people the incentive to do something to make life better.”

Some Jewish parents try to protect their children by moving to neighborhoods where there are fewer Muslims in the schools so that confrontations will be minimized. Six Jewish teenagers interviewed recounted anti-Semitic abuse from Muslim classmates. According to their families, though the incidents were reported to the authorities, none of the perpetrators was arrested, much less punished.

One victim was Jonathan Tsubarah, 19, the son of an Israeli Jew who settled in Sweden. As he strolled through the city’s cobble-stoned Gustav Adolph Square on August 21, 2009, three young men — a Palestinian and two Somalis — stopped him and asked where he was from, he recalled.

“I’m from Israel,” Tsubarah responded.

I’m from Palestine,” one assailant retorted, “and I will kill you.”

The three beat him to the ground and kicked him in the back, Tsubarah said. “Kill the Jew,” they shouted. “Now are you proud to be a Jew?

“No I am not,” the slightly built teenager replied. He said he did this just to get them to stop kicking him. Tsubarah plans to go to Israel and join the army.

Meanwhile, 86-year-old Judith Popinski says she is no longer invited to schools that have a large Muslim presence to tell her story of surviving the Holocaust.

Popinski found refuge in Malmo in 1945. Until recently, she told her story in Malmo schools as part of their Holocaust studies program. Now, some schools no longer ask Holocaust survivors to tell their stories, because Muslim students treat them with such disrespect, either ignoring the speakers or walking out of the class.

Malmo reminds me of the anti-Semitism I felt as a child in Poland before the war,” she told the Forward while sitting in her living room, which is adorned with Persian rugs and many paintings.

I am not safe as a Jew in Sweden anymore,” a trembling Popinski said in a frail voice. But unlike others, she intends to stay in Sweden. “I will not be a victim again,” she said.

It is very worth reading the whole thing.