A Baghdad-born, British-educated Islamist suicide bomber holding Swedish citizenship killed only himself after apparently stumbling on an icy patch and accidentally detonating two of the three explosive devices he had brought to a bustling Stockholm shopping district. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt leader of the Moderate Party reacted placidly to the attempted mass murder saying that Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly's behavior was "unacceptable" and urging Swedes not to jump to conclusions about any jihadist connection.
That may prove tricky. Before the attack al-Abdaly emailed an audio recording to the media in which he declared himself a jihadi. While admitting that it was unaware of al-Abdaly, the Swedish domestic security agency SÄPO estimated that there are some 200 violent Islamists in the country.
Sweden has been neutral since the early 1800s managing to sit out both world wars that ravaged Europe. Yet, paradoxically, it appears destined to be inexorably drawn into the Islamist war against Western civilization. Even during the Holocaust Sweden sought to avoid entanglement though, ultimately, in 1943, it offered itself as a haven to Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Denmark. Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg stationed in Budapest rescued many Jews from Hitler's clutches only to disappear when the Soviets liberated the city.
It was another Swede, Emil Sandstrom, who in 1947 headed the UN committee which recommended the partition of Palestine into two states, one Arab, one Jewish. The Arabs said "no" and tried to strangle Israel at its birth. So Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN envoy to the Mideast, offered a peace plan that would have rolled back Israel's newly gained sovereignty. He was assassinated in 1948 by Zionist militants. Later, Swedish diplomats Dag Hammarskjold and Gunnar Jarring also sought to mediate between Arabs and Israelis.
Many Swedes are sympathetic to Israel, according to Manfred Gerstenfeld a Jerusalem-based analyst of Scandinavian affairs, citing the example of Hokmark Gunnar, a Moderate Party member of the European Parliament and chair of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association. Since the 1960s, however, the Swedish left has been hostile. The late Social Democrat prime minister Olof Palme even compared Israel’s policies to those of the Nazis. The left dominates the diplomatic corps, the Lutheran church, most newspapers and non-governmental organizations even though a center-right coalition narrowly holds power.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt is mostly indifferent toward Israel, while Foreign Minister Carl Bildt (a former Moderate Party premier) is frequently antagonistic castigating every Israeli self-defense measures as counterproductive. In Istanbul, Bildt brazenly visited Swedish extremists who had taken part in the Turkish flotilla to Hamas-controlled Gaza. Sweden has also been an unhelpful voice against Israel in the EU, pushing for recognition of east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. While the latest EU foreign minister's declaration did not -- as threatened -- give the Jewish state just a year to yield to Arab demands or face recognition of "Palestine" along the 1949 Armistice Lines, the tone of the announcement left little doubt which side the EU blamed for the current stalemate. Doubtlessly, Sweden would have been pushing for an even harder-line on Israel.
When in 2009, the country's largest tabloid Aftonbladet carried a contemptible calumny about Israeli soldiers harvesting the organs of Palestinian youths, the Sweden's political leaders obstinately refused to distance themselves from the accusations evoking the excuse of freedom of the press.
And what of the 15,000 Jews today living in the country? Those who are identifiably Jewish have not had an easy time due to anti-Semitism so prevalent among the 500,000 Muslims in the country (population 9 million). Approximately half of Swedish Muslims live in Stockholm with Malmö, in the south, one-quarter Muslim. Malmö's Social Democrat mayor Ilmar Reepalu insinuated that Jews deserved to be attacked for not distancing themselves from Israel. Many Jews have decided to abandon the city. And the Simon Wiesenthal Center has recommended Jews altogether avoid travel to Sweden.
Gerstenfeld goes so far as to argue that by opening its gates to a population coming from countries with discriminatory and anti-Semitic cultures, the Swedes have made an implicit decision to "promote" anti-Semitism.
Sweden has certainly embraced multiculturalism with gusto; critics scorn its immigration policy as suicidal. Stockholm is diplomatically predisposed to the Palestinian cause; domestically it has responded to violent Muslim anti-Semitism with appalling political correctness. What, then, could Sweden have possibly done to bring forth an Islamist suicide bombing?
Al-Abdaly's recording blamed the war in Afghanistan and a 2007 cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog. Is this credible? Sweden has a mere 500 soldiers in increasingly turbulent northern Afghanistan but they are involved mostly in reconstruction work and even training midwives. As for Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist, his caricatures in a regional newspaper were intended to protest widespread self-censorship that followed in the wake of the 2005 Muhammad cartoons published by a Danish newspaper.
More plausibly, Islamists will continue to strike at tolerant Sweden not in retribution for any particular "transgression," but simply because the "Land of the Midnight Sun" is part of the fabric of Western civilization.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Stockholm Gets Drawn into the War of Civilizations
Politico-Strategic Briefing... Enhance and deepen your understanding of Israel...Go beyond the 24/7 news cycle... Elliot Jager is a Jerusalem-based journalist, former NYU political science lecturer and a senior editor at The Jerusalem Report. He is a former editorial page editor at The Jerusalem Post and was founding managing editor of Jewish Ideas Daily (Mosaic). His 2017 book, The Balfour Declaration Sixty-Seven Words – 100 Years of Conflict told the story of what is, arguably, the most important political letter of the 20th century and why it still matters. Elliot will customize his briefings to suit your interests and schedule. He can meet you over breakfast before you start your day of touring or when you are back at your hotel.
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