Magnus Hellgren, the Swedish ambassador to Israel, apologized to Sweden’s Jewish population during an interview with an Israeli newspaper. Hellgren was addressing the last few months of anti-Semitic incidents, including the December 6 firebombing of a synagogue in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city.
“This is the reality of the Jewish community and it’s a failure, it’s not something that should be allowed to happen,” Hellgren said, discussing Swedish Jews’ apprehensions about wearing kippot in public. “If a single Jew feels this way, we have failed.”
That life for Jews in Sweden is harrowing is not news. Besides the firebombing, there have been bombs discovered outside of a Jewish cemetery, and many Swedish Jews have spoken about their inability to wear a Magen David around their necks. In Malmo, there were rallies where calls to kill Jewish people were rampant. And this is just the last few months.
Luckily, Hellgren has an explanation for why the rally was allowed to continue as long as it did. The police officers who heard the cries to shoot Jews “simply didn’t understand,” Hellgren said, as the chants were in Arabic; otherwise, he argued, they would have intervened.
Now, one firebombed synagogue in Gothenburg does not a Kristallnacht make. But nor should the new normal accept Jewish kindergarteners having to walk into schools with metal detectors, additional security, and bulletproof glass to play behind.
Unfortunately, as long as the only anti-Semitic incidents that elicit strong responses are those perpetrated by neo-Nazis, the problem is going to keep getting worse. Sweden’s biggest newspaper, Aftonbladet, published actual blood libel a few years back, and has roundly mocked the idea that Swedish Jews may be scared out of the country. Apologies or no, the future does not look too promising for Sweden’s Jews.