My name is Amit Bar and I am a student from Tel Aviv, Israel. I’ve become very interested in Sweden in recent years. I’ve spent countless hours watching Swedish television and learning the language and culture. I’ve traveled throughout the country, met people and made new friends but I have become concerned about the political stance Sweden has taken.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel 68 years ago, the two countries have had ups and downs in their relations. It seems that these days the relation between the countries is at an unprecedented low. Recently, we have witnessed an increase in anti-Semitism in Sweden and around the world. You cannot refute the correlation between the harsh criticism of Israel and the increase in anti-Semitic incidents.
It’s a fixed action pattern: something happens in the Middle East, demonstrators protest, Jews find themselves under attack. Sometimes it’s in universities, often in synagogues. Calls against Israel always lead to attack on Jews. This is the new anti-Semitism.
True, we have many things that we need to fix and work on. Racism in the Israeli society, both from inside and out, threaten us no less than the threats to annihilate us. But declaring Israel as an “apartheid” country is outrageous. The use of this word in many demonstrations against Israel is purely for populistic reasons. After all, the word describes a situation where a white minority controls black population. This is not the case.
Israel was established following a resolution by the Security Council, in accordance with international law. Since its establishment, Israel has been banned by most of its surrounding countries and no organization has addressed the issue. Sweden decided to recognize a Palestinian state but did not found it was necessary to try and open a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian state. Israel is the only Jewish state- and the only one that is threatened on a regular basis. Is this obsessive preoccupation with the very existence of Israel not the result of anti-Semitism?
The BDS movement that thrives in your country calls for economic boycott of Israeli products, with an emphasis on the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Since when do you fight fire with fire? To whom exactly do they want us to return the Golan Heights: to ISIS or to Assad that is massacring his people? Did you know that thousands of Palestinian families make their living from factories that manufacture in the West Bank? In 2005 Israel left the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority took back control of the area. I suggest you check whether any factories or industries were established in that area. Or is it Israel’s fault again?
Criticism is legitimate. In Israel there is a constant debate about the situation between the right wing and the left, the religious and the secular, the Jews and the Arabs. But I am under the impression that your country is distinctly pro-Palestinian. Margot Wallström, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, linked between the Paris terrorist attack and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said that the stabbing attacks against Israeli civilians are not terrorism.
Blaming Israel for the ills of the world, showing us as criminals and thieves of land has purely anti-Semitic motifs.
They do not tell you that here Jews and Arabs live side by side. That the Israeli Arabs integrate in the parliament, in court, in the entertainment industry, in the health system and all other walks of life. They are trying to paint a picture in black and white, but the reality is much more complex.
To distinguish by yourself whether it’s legitimate criticism or anti-Semitic material, I suggest to take the “3D Test of Antisemitism”, a tool that is used by the US State Department. Check whether the content uses Delegitimization, Demonization or Double standards, just as the movements that call for the boycott of Israel ignore the violations of human rights in our neighboring country Syria, and accuse us of many other things.
I invite you to form a more solid opinion as you experience the culture, language and spectacular places Israel has to offer. Vi ses!
The writer is a graduate of the Bar-Ilan University CIC Public Diplomacy Workshop and a member of the “Israeli Students Combating Antisemitism” and the “Israel Leadership Institute”.
Amit Bar. Photo by Adam Garff