Saturday, January 31, 2004

Swedish premier dismisses Israeli anti-Semitism claim 

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull%26cid=1075349807675Associated Press Jan. 29, 2004

Prime Minister Goeran Persson dismissed Israeli accusations that Sweden tolerates anti-Semitism and insisted he will continue criticizing Israeli policies, saying such criticism has nothing to do with attacks on Jews. He acknowledged though that "hate crimes are getting worse."

In a radio interview aired Wednesday, the last day of an international conference on preventing genocide, a meeting he initiated, Persson referred to earlier accusations of anti-Semitism by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by saying that he did not think Sharon "is the person to lead the discussion in this context." "I will continue criticizing his policies. But this must never be mistaken for anti-Semitism," Persson said.

"The State of Israel is there and it will continue to exist within secure and recognized borders, which many of us feel strongly for. But the State of Israel has a government worth criticizing and that criticism, we will deliver. Those are two different things," he said on Swedish Radio.
In a speech Tuesday night at the Great Synagogue in Stockholm commemorating the Holocaust, Persson acknowledged that he has noticed increased animosity against Jews, but also against Muslims, in Sweden.

"Hate crimes are getting worse. Not only anti-Semitic groupings have increased their activities, but also the Islamophobics," he said.
In the radio interview, Persson said that this was unacceptable.

"Ultimately, all this is about showing that we do not accept this type of behavior. And that we do not accept this type of hate, this type of attack, on groups who do not lay claim to anything else than sharing the everyday life with the rest of us," he said.

Persson's comment followed a row between Sweden and Israel over a controversial art exhibit, which Israeli ambassador to Sweden Zvi Mazel vandalized on January 16. The artwork, called Snow White and the Madness of Truth depicts a small ship in a rectangular pool filled with red-colored water. The ship carries a picture of Islamic Jihad bomber Hanadi Jaradat, who killed 21 people in Haifa's Maxim restaurant last October.

Mazel said the exhibit glorified suicide bombers.
Mazel's act was condemned by Sweden as unacceptable, but won praise from Sharon, who shortly after the incident thanked him "for his strength in dealing with increasing anti-Semitism" and said that "the entire government stands behind him." Since then, Persson's office has been bombarded with thousands of e-mails protesting against the installation.

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