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Malmo Syndrome

Anti-Semitism in Sweden leads Jews to Israel

Marc Tracy
October 13, 2010
A mosque in Malmo, Sweden.(Forward)
A mosque in Malmo, Sweden.(Forward)

Sweden was famously neutral during World War II, and served as a refuge for many Scandinavian Jews (especially those from Denmark, nearly all of whom were saved); Raoul Wallenberg, the Righteous Gentile par excellence, was Swedish, and saved thousands of Hungarian Jews by placing them in what was technically Swedish territory. But Sweden’s third-largest city, Malmo, is now shedding Jews, mostly to Israel, due to a steep uptick in anti-Semitic incidents ever since the Gaza conflict of early 2009: The torching of a Jewish chapel, desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and shouts of “Heil Hitler!” have all been reported.

A scrupulous Forward article reports that most of the incidents stem from the city’s Rosengard slum, which is home to much of the 15 percent of the city’s population that is Muslim. The Gaza War was obviously the catalyst, and that should not be ignored; but nor should the fact that Rosengard’s unemployment rate is 80 percent. Material factors and religious/ideological ones are mutually reinforcing in the worst possible way. Moreover, the trouble in Europe isn’t confined to Muslims: A December 2009 poll found that nearly half of Europeans agreed somewhat or strongly with: “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” Malmo’s 32-year-old left-wing mayor has also come under criticism, for not sufficiently protecting the city’s dwindling but historic Jewish population.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.