Sunday 9 August 2009

Behind the Humanitarian Mask: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland

"Sweden is the Scandinavian country where anti-Semitism is thriving, where there is a scathing and poisonous anti-Israelism and demonization of Israel. This trend, which has its beginning at the end of the 1960s in the days of the radical Prime Minister Olof Palme, continued into the days of those who followed him and, at times it even intensified. Sweden, a seemingly secular country, has a very active partner in these negative trends - the Lutheran Church. How strange that this church runs the "Swedish Theological Center" in Beit Tavor on "The Street of the Prophets" in Jerusalem, where the study plan, the atmosphere and its leaders are so anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian."

Source: Norway, Israel and the Jews blog

Here is a book review by Moshe Yegar, a former Israeli ambassador to Sweden, printed in Israel Today, a scholarly journal.

Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews [in pdf]

The Scandinavian countries - Sweden, Norway, Denmark - as well as Finland enjoy a very positive image in the world. Many people are convinced that these democratic countries aim for peace, that their policies are based on justice, concern for human rights and moral humanitarian considerations, and that they help the underprivileged of the world as well as those suffering in regimes of oppression. Apparently the first person to question this, at least in regard to Sweden, was the British researcher, Professor Roland Huntford, of Cambridge University. In 1972 he published a profound study of the Swedish regime under the Social-Democratic Party, which has ruled the country since the early 1930s till now, with short interruptions. The title of his book, The New Totalitarians, as well as it contents, is very informative.

The name of the book before us now, Behind the Humanitarian Mask, and its content as well, are equally instructive. Its editor Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld is one of the most outstanding experts on Western anti-Semitism today. This is the fourteenth book he has written or edited, either alone or with partners. This time he has concentrated on the three Scandinavian countries and Finland, with an interesting chapter on Iceland.

It is no surprise that this book reveals that Sweden is the Scandinavian country where anti-Semitism is thriving, where there is a scathing and poisonous anti-Israelism and demonization of Israel. This trend, which has its beginning at the end of the 1960s in the days of the radical Prime Minister Olof Palme, continued into the days of those who followed him and, at times it even intensified. Sweden, a seemingly secular country, has a very active partner in these negative trends - the Lutheran Church. How strange that this church runs the "Swedish Theological Center" in Beit Tavor on "The Street of the Prophets" in Jerusalem, where the study plan, the atmosphere and its leaders are so anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian.

Besides the government itself, there are many important groups within the ruling Social-Democratic party, as well as other active Leftists and journalists who are responsible for the anti-Semitic activity and the anti-Israeli demonization propaganda in Sweden. They all hide behind a self-righteous appearance, hypocritical declarations about concern for human rights and anti-Semitic hypocrisy expressed as moral superiority. These trends, sometimes inconsistent, go hand in hand in Sweden as well as in the neighboring countries. Since outward anti-Semitism is not very fashionable in the world today, since the Nazi regime in Europe, these poisonous ideas are masked as anti-Zionist or anti-Israel, and are much more acceptable today in Leftist circles, as well as in the Right, among the Lutheran clergy, academics and media personalities. All of these have been active in the last generation, together with fundamentalist Muslim clergy within the ever growing Muslim communities, which are strongly involved in promoting Islamic anti-Semitism.

One prominent example of typical hypocritical Swedish policy is its attitude toward the fate of Raoul Wallenberg, the greatest of the righteous Gentiles. As is well known, he was active in Budapest at the end of the Second World War and succeeded in saving many thousands of Jews. With him was a young Swedish diplomat named Per Anger. After the war Anger returned to Stockholm and continued to work in the foreign service until his retirement. He devoted many years to researching the fate of Wallenberg and to attempt to free him from the Soviets. After he retired, he published a book - a sharp and serious accusation of his government - in which he brought out details and proof that Wallenberg had been knowingly abandoned by the governments of Sweden throughout the years, due to their fear of the Soviets. For many years Sweden did nothing to bring about Wallenberg’s release or to find out what had happened to him. A major role in this was played by the well-known Swedish ambassador Gunnar Jarring, (who is best known in Israel because of his UN peace mission to the Middle East) during his term as Sweden’s ambassador to Moscow. Only around 1990, at the time of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, did Sweden begin to think of Wallenberg as an asset, to memorialize him, to turn him into a national hero and to recognize his work, as if that had been an official Swedish undertaking.

The successive governments of Sweden have contributed their share to the anti-Israel atmosphere by expressing anti-Israeli ideas in various spheres, and by giving money to Palestinian groups, through under-cover organizations and also up-front organizations. Part of this financial aid has been used for anti-Israeli propaganda, and perhaps even worse than that.

Included in the book is a very interesting interview with Zvi Mazel, who was Israel’s ambassador in Stockholm between December 2002 and April 2004. Mazel tells how he found a country whose hate for Israel is nurtured by ruling groups, which has an extremely hostile press, and which tends to preach morality in a superior righteous and boastful tone. He paints a picture which is not known to many. Dr. Mikael Tossavainen, a Swedish historian, publishes a study of Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism in Sweden, including acts of violence against Jews, which have occurred as a result of the large Muslim immigration.

In his article, Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University tells of the plots of the Swedish Agency for Foreign Aid, a branch of the Swedish Foreign Office, which distributes general financial support to Palestinian organizations which, under the mask of humanitarian aid, is used for anti-Israeli activities. These are official Swedish actions. It is hard to understand how the Government of Israel seems to be totally indifferent to these activities and does not find a way to react. In view of what has been said till now, it is not difficult to understand how Sweden refused to bring Nazi criminals to trial, and even offered them immunity. Among them are Swedes who had volunteered for the SS, just as in Norway and Denmark, and there were many thousands of such volunteers.

The situation is not much different in Norway, another country which enjoys a very positive image in the world, but which also stands out in the level of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in the country, among the same types of groups as in Sweden, including government ministers, heads of the Lutheran church, trade unions, academics, etc. A particular Norwegian "specialty" is publishing anti-Semitic cartoons in the manner of the Nazi Stürmer. One article in the book deals with this issue. The radicalization of the extreme anti-Israelism stood out especially during the First Lebanon War (1982-1984), and has continued till now. There was no other country in the West where Israel was attacked - in an anti-Semitic way - so strongly as in Norway and its media. Here too there is a strong connection between extreme Leftist groups and Muslim groups in the distribution of anti-Semitic propaganda material. And to these we can also add neo-Nazi groups and Lutheran clergy.

In Denmark as well there are waves of the "new" anti-Semitism and hatred of Zionism and Israel amongst the same groups, although there it seems to be a bit less malicious. Everyone remembers to compliment the Danes for good work during the Second World War and for their saving 7,000 Jews who were transferred in small boats to the Swedish coast in October 1943. It is only in the last decade that some very problematic and unpleasant facts hitherto unknown regarding the behaviour of Denmark during that period have come to light, including the degree of its cooperation with the Nazis. Facts about handing Jews over to the Nazis, as well as other unpleasant information about the treatment of Jewish refugees, have been uncovered. This subject is covered in this book in a special article written by two Danish researchers.

Another fact unknown until now is that about 6,000 Danish volunteers fought in SS units and even participated in the murder of Jews in eastern Galicia, together with Norwegian and Swedish volunteers. Since the War the governments of Denmark have done their best to keep this information secret, as well as the story of the cooperation between Danish food industries with contractor companies which worked for the German army, using slave labour and of course benefitting financially.

In another article negative information about the "white buses" affair is brought to light, as the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte was connected to this. The first to expose this issue was the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, who was criticized for publishing his findings, yet he was revealing the truth. The great wonder was how Yad VaShem fell into this Swedish propaganda trap and erected a "white bus" on its premises. The management of Yad VaShem should have known that there are many question marks surrounding this issue.

Little is known about Finland’s behaviour during the Second World War. Finland has won great sympathy in the world, including from Jews, due to the "White War" she fought so valiantly against the Red Army, and because her leader, Marshall Gustaf Emil Mannerheim did not allow the Jewish-Finnish soldiers to be harmed. There were those in his government who wanted to hand them over to the Nazis. But Finland did also give up Jews to the Gestapo, especially Jewish soldiers in the Red Army who were taken prisoner. In a short essay, Professor Steinberg gives illustrative details of significant current Finnish financial help to Palestinian organizations, supposedly for humanitarian purposes, but actually it goes to less honourable use, especially anti-Israeli propaganda, much like the financial support from Sweden, Norway and Denmark (according to various rumors there are some organizations in Israel generally referred to as the "Peace Camp" which are also benefitting from these funds - a subject worthy of examination).

The editor of this book, Dr Gerstenfeld, has done well in adding a very interesting article on Iceland, although this is an unusual issue and Iceland cannot be put in the same category as the other Scandinavian countries. This article examines the history of anti-Semitism in Iceland - an island where Jews arrived only in the 1930s- from 1625 till 2004. We have learned from other countries that Jews don’t have to be present in a place in order for anti-Semitism to develop. Anti-Semitism and anti-Semites existed in Iceland long before the arrival of a few Jews. The authorities of the island always made it difficult for any Jews who wished to settle there. It is hard to believe, but even in Iceland, before the Second World War, there was a small Nazi party. And several volunteers from Iceland also found their way into service in the SS. After the war, even in Iceland there were Holocaust deniers and those who distributed anti-Israel propaganda. And now, here we have an irony of history - the president of Iceland is married to an Israeli woman - Dorit Moussayef!

Dr Gerstenfeld has gathered very valuable material for this which must be brought to the attention of a wide audience. It is especially important that this book be distributed, as widely as possible, in the Scandinavian countries themselves. It would be good for those communities to see this book as the mirror it is, to see their picture without a mask, and perhaps this could lead to the birth of some positive groups who will be strong enough to bring about change.

Moshe Yegar

1 comment:

Carl said...

Calling the historic facts about what happened in Denmark "previously unknown" and something attempted to keep secret is simply a rather primitive sales pitch for a book, supposedly revealing new shocking information.

That the Danish governemt cooperated with the occupation forces until 1943, that about 1 in a 1000 Danes volunteered to fight for the Germans etc. (more served in the merchant marine on the allied side) and that lots of stuff was exported to Germany can be found in ANY book about Danish history covering the period and is part of the primary school history curriculum.