Sweden: the Face of Anti-Semitism Today

by A. Jay Adler on August 24, 2009
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Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, the largest circulation newspaper in Nordic Europe, produces a prima facie instance of anti-Semitic slander – an article by Donald Boström headlined “They plunder the organs of our sons.” Offering no evidence, the article reports the accusation of a Palestinian family that Israeli Defense Forces are engaged in organ harvesting from Palestinians and demands an international inquiry. Rival paper Sydsvenskan fiercely condemns the obvious, virulent anti-Semitism. Swedish ambassador to Israel Elisabet Borsiin blood libelcondemns the article. What does the Swedish government do? It disavows the ambassador’s comments and despite calls for a statement of denunciation, from Israel and others, refuses, claiming respect for freedom of speech.

The blood libel lives, in the modern world, propagated not only in the form of fearful Palestinians nurtured in conditions of direct conflict with Israel to demonize their enemy, but still in the cultural institutions and the more “enlightened” modern political ideologies of a supposedly transformed post World War II Europe. Aftonbladet identifies itself as Social Democratic in leanings and it is partly owned by the Swedish Trade Union Confederation, a confederation founded by the Swedish Social Democratic Party. While far right anti-Semitism never disappears, the hatred is a growth industry on the radical left, particularly in Europe, but in the U.S. too. Today, it frequently masquerades as criticism of Israel, but the engine of it, working in tandem with the age-old unreason of primal hatred, is leftist ideologies and cultural analyses of power.

Regarding Phillip Weiss and the Mondoweiss blog, a perpetual anti-Semitic screed under the guise of a pro-Palestinian action-journalism center, a reader, Andrew Michael W. wrote

The saddest thing is that Phil thinks about the same things neo-nazis think about – Jewish power. They project a sentiment onto the Jews – tribalism, where the Jews compete against whites and others for power. But it is really just neo-nazis who are tribal for no logical reason. Phil views Zionism as the tribalism the neo-nazis see. Zionism empowered Jews and because he sees it as an overall negative since the Palestinians suffered, he believes everything power related involving Jews is ill gotten.

This is very astute. Weiss is not just anti-Israel, i.e. an opponent of the state’s existence. He is a committed assimilationist, frequently arguing that Jews have reached such an ascendency of power in the U.S., become so embedded in the establishment, that the need for a distinct (tribal) identity – one that requires care and protection – is no more. Of course, this feeds nativist, far right anti-Semitic tendencies, the kind that have always begun, in ideation, with Jewish clandestine power and subterranean activities – like draining and using the blood of Christian children – and progressed to clarion calls to counter a rising threat. But established Jewish power engenders no greater comfort on the radical left.

In fact, distortions of post-colonial analyses provide the ground for opposing not subterranean, but state Jewish power. At the end of the spectrum where Jews once found their natural political defenders and advocates, their rise to organized power in the U.S. – the bogeyman “lobby” – and their creation of a state that has thus far prevailed over its enemies, rising in ascendency over a group preferred by the radical, “other” worshipping left for its powerlessness: all this has alienated the nation-aspirant Jew – the Israeli, the Israel supporting Jew – from ideological favor. Once more, in new ways, the Jew cannot be integrated unless, as Weiss would have it, the Jew cease to be a Jew. So we get the intellectual monstrosity of the leftist heirs of a centuries-old regime of European anti-Semitism and half a millennium of colonial conquest and genocide viciously condemning as colonial racists and Nazified perpetrators of genocide the victims of the greatest organized genocide of them all, who for that entire history didn’t have a country, never mind a colony.

For the modern European left, the ascendant Jew is as disturbing as was the ostracized Jew for the old European right. Once more, a weak-willed Europe that repeatedly demonstrates an unwillingness to bear the burdens of its own defense, and intellectually debilitated by self-regard for its (underwritten) secular, social achievements, is troubled by the Jew, the Israeli, who, in contrast, will – must – do the dirty work of defending himself. So now it is not the secretive, submissive Jew draining blood; it is the secretive, oppressive Jew harvesting organs.

But Sweden believes in the right of free speech. The right of the anti-Semite to slander. But not the government’s own right – no, its responsibility – to say, “This is wrong.”


5 comments

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael W. August 25, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Hey Jay,

I’m honored to have my comment quoted in your blog, just address me correctly. Who is Andrew?

I think you’ve analyzed Phil very well but you missed one thing. He does advocate opponents of Israel to identify themselves as Jews when they are indeed so. He wants Jews to be very vocal in anti-Zionist rhetoric or plain criticism.

I believe he’s afraid. He knows very well that ultimately, whether correctly or not, the world judges the Jews collectively. And he believes that when things comes to shove, the world will clamp down on Israel and on Jews all over the world. He hopes that when people see anti-Zionist Jews protesting against Israel, those Jews would be spared from any backlash. But till then, Jews uninvolved with Israel should “assimilate” and lose any Jewish identification when in a non-Jewish forum as to not provoke any anti-Jew rhetoric because Israel’s bad standing in the world. He doesn’t believe Israel as a powerful country, or even its establishment, or even any Jewish immigration to Palestine was an overall good.

There’s a form of realism in Phil’s world view. But this worldview, whether I’m correct in my analysis or not (I’m too humble to be authoritative about this), is contradictory to another part of Phil’s stated mission, tikkun olam. Tikkun olam deals with the world that should be, not with the flawed world that is.

Jewish society and culture sometimes deals with the way the world is, but in many ways it deals with how things should be. Why does Israel exchange so many terrorists with blood on their hands for the bodies of dead soldiers no matter how much it encourages the enemy to kidnap more soldiers dead or alive? Because in the perfect world you do anything to get your people back no matter what, and you accomplish the ancient tradition of burying our dead.

Before I go on, I have to say something about assimilation. I don’t know what Phil’s definition is but I think that world Jewry has already achieved the highest degree of assimilation imaginable. Have the Jews not surpassed every threshold of success our societies value? Just look at American culture, education, science, and civil involvement.

So why does Phil view all of this Jewish accomplishment as something negative? (I might have said this already) Phil believes that when any Jew reaches any position of success without condemning Zionism and Israel, that Jew is excessively ethnocentric. His success is no long the success of an American in America, it is the success of a Jew who has gained power so that Zionism and Israel can continue its oppression of the Palestinians.

Surprisingly, Phil is afraid (look at Phil’s article Jay saved in his cache) to talk about his objection of Israel and Zionism in front of Jews. No matter how much of an assimilationist he is, he still finds himself in Jewish forums. He is afraid to put himself in a position of power or authority to debate other Jews about the “I/P issue”.

He sometimes tries to bridge with other Jews with “tikkun olam” and social justice rhetoric but ultimately he prefers to be in gentile atmospheres. Sometimes it looks like he would have preferred to have been gentile fighting against “Zionist oppression”. Though if he was gentile, I doubt he would have felt obligated to be involved in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

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Suzanne August 25, 2009 at 6:36 am

Jay–I’ve said it on other blogs, I’ll say it here. Israel has a terrible PR problem.

Until they become as ambitious as the Palestinians in their use of PR (yet hopefully more ethical than the Palestinians)–they are a hostage of Paliwood and Pali PR Inc.

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A. Jay Adler August 25, 2009 at 7:07 am

I agree. A great difficulty is that the current post-communist-era, but still Marxist-inspired left discourse is not structurally receptive to any altered message about the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. Nor is the matrix of historic European anti-Semitism and colonial guilt. But there are new, young unbiased minds emerging all of the time, and –foolish child of the enlightenment that I am – we can always hope for the influence of truth and reason.

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NatetheGrate August 24, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Great post. Sweden still has a lot to answer for its “curious” relationship to the Nazis during World War II and after, and this latest bit of illogic adds to the perception that anti-Jewish hatred still lives just beneath the surface.

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