Thursday 10 July 2008

Swedish Social Democrats flirt with extremist anti-Zionists, Jonathan Leman

Excerpts from an article by Jonathan Leman, freelance writer, in Engage:

"Mona Sahlin, leader of the Social Democratic Party, spoke a while ago at Stockholm’s Great Synagogue about the importance of working towards a two state solution in the Middle East and combating antisemitism in Europe. Despite this, organizations affiliated with her party have on numerous occasions held conferences where extremist views have been propagated. Mona Sahlin has said nothing about the views harbored by some of the guests at a recent meeting of the Palme Center, just as she kept silent when the Christian Social Democrats last year invited the antisemitic writer and activist Gilad Atzmon. What do all Social Democrats who dislike the links with extremism and doctrines of hate have to say about this?

On the 11th of June I attended a conference that claimed to have a "sustainable peace in sight" (sic). (...) it is deeply worrying that to a conference that is said to promote peace, speakers such as Azzam Tamimi from the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, and Ghada Karmi from the Institute of Islamic and Arabic Studies at Exeter University, are invited. Both of these speakers deny the existence of a Jewish people and Israel’s right to exist. For a genuine debate on peace and dialogue there are many reasonable representatives one could have invited. Instead, the Palme center deliberately chooses extremists with messages of intolerance.

What then are Azzam Tamimi’s views? Well, he for example sees Israel as a "cancer" that has to be "eradicated", he believes that suicide bombing "is the straight way to pleasing my God and I would do it if I had the opportunity" (BBC 02/11/04 transcript), he justifies violence against women, and he considers Muslims who oppose radical Islamism as traitors (Al-Quds Al-Arabi 29/08/05). How could a person holding such views contribute to "dialogue" at a so called "peace conference"? And how come the audience applaud his extremist statements? (...)

Karmi wrote that "The power of the Israel lobby in the US is legendary" in an article on Guardian’s Comment is free (25/10/07). She elaborates further on this topic in her book under the chapter "Who controls America?" where she describes the US as an Israeli puppet. "All media – film, TV, newspapers and magazines have supported Israel", she writes. The only possible reason for this support, Karmi argues, is that Jews control newspapers, Hollywood and TV channels. She looks for Jews among owners, editors and writers. This kind of thinking is common in antisemitic propaganda. (...)

Ghada Karmi believes that Palestinian freedom cannot come about through a peace agreement with Israel, the only solution, in her view, is that the Jewish state no longer exists. In spite of this, the Palme Center characterizes Karmi's views as expressions of "optimism" and of an "openness for new alternatives". As has been pointed out on Engage (25/10/07 and 24/05/08), Karmi also supports the idea of a boycott against Israeli scholars and sees opposing ideas as a "gross interference in British democratic life".

In her book ["Married to Another Man"], Karmi mocks Holocaust education, and complains that films and books have been made on the topic. "A type of philosemitism, often as extreme as the antisemitism that preceded it, took over in a number of European countries" (p.113).

In Karmi's world, the fact that young Europeans are taught about the Nazi genocide against the Jews is as extreme as virulent antisemitism. At the conference Lena Hjelm-Wallén, chair of the board of the Palme International Center, was on good terms with Karmi and recommended her book, which also was for sale. Ironically, Hjelm-Wallén was Deputy Prime Minister in the former Social Democratic government, which signed the declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust in 2000. In this declaration the importance to teach about the Holocaust was stressed and promises were made to fight prejudice and hatred. Now Hjelm-Wallén recommends Karmi’s book which denies the existence of the Jewish people, spreads conspiracy theories and portrays Holocaust education as Zionist propaganda. Hjelm-Wallén is also a former Chair of the Living History Forum, a government agency which has been commissioned with the task of promoting knowledge of the Holocaust and to combat all forms of racism. (...)

In spite of the fact that Tamimi at the meeting in Stockholm clearly stated that he thinks Israel is a "cancer" and that he supports suicide bombings, the Palme Center in a report from the conference falsely claimed that Tamimi no longer held such views.

Critical examination and debate on Israeli policies is tremendously important. But what we have been witnessing here is something quite different and very troubling. These tendencies have been sharply criticized by some members who are worried about the development of the party (Expressen 23/06/08). However, the party’s leadership and majority remain silent."

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