”Is it real, then, the rise of Anti-Semitism in Sweden?”

Stockholm Pride Week is one of the highlights of the Swedish capital’s cultural calendar. Everybody participates, from government and cultural institutions to commercial enterprises, religious groups and individuals. Rainbow-flags decorate everything, offices, restaurants, shop-windows and private homes in a show of solidarity and an all-encompassing sense of fun. The Pride Week program is a multi-page booklet which includes countless parties, concerts, learning-opportunities and cultural events for all ages and sectors. Stockholm Pride goes way beyond addressing the rights and interests of the LGBT community, it has become a huge public affirmation of tolerance and the rights of every individual to freely choose the lifestyle he or she prefers. The highlight of Pride Week is the Pride Parade, an extravaganza with tens of thousands of participants and this year over 600.000 spectators, the largest ever.

Two things happened during the recent Pride Parade in Stockholm which seem to indicate that Anti-Semitism is indeed on the rise in Sweden. As number 85 of 153 participants, a delegation from the Stockholm Jewish Community walked in the parade to express the community’s support for the rights of the LGBT community. In years past, the Jewish community, led by its previous Rabbi, David Lazar, was very active in inviting and including the gay community in its activities.

The 2014 parade strode through all the major through-fares of Stockholm for close to four hours, all the way flanked by a cheering crowd. But, when the Jewish Community’s Delegation reached the central spot of Södermalmstorg, they were met by a compact silence, punctuated only by occasional Anti-Israeli slurs. Whether orchestrated or spontaneous, that is a collective behavior that smells of mobbing. Giving the Jewish community a cold shoulder because of decisions taken by the government of Israel, willfully mixes the identities of Jews and Israelis. On this joyful day, when the capital comes together to celebrate diversity, inclusion and tolerance, it was an act of intentional violence, although understated, to single out one delegation for the silent treatment.

In another incident, a group, which incidentally did not appear in the official Parade Program, walked under the banner ″Queers for Palestine″. They walked in the parade simply chanting ”Boycott Israel”. The organizers apparently accepted this bizarre and incongruous political demonstration against the only country in the Middle East where the LGBT community enjoys full freedom and equal rights. Besides, the chants had nothing to do with the message of the Pride Parade and deviated from the gist of all other slogans. What motivated the Parade organizers to allow the inclusion of one deviation from the theme and purpose of the Parade?

The Pride Parade is for and by the most progressive and liberal elements of Swedish society. An educated guess would be that this is more an event geared towards ”old” Swedes, as opposed to more recent immigrants and refugees, who tend to be more conservative. No organized Muslim group participated in the parade. Thus, the events connected to the 2014 Pride Parade were not instigated or executed by the regular suspects, Middle-Eastern or Muslim immigrants to Sweden.

In response to accusations in Swedish media of the apathy of the Swedish establishment to signs of growing Anti-Semitism, expressed by a small number of critics, Swedes tend to explain that this is a result of the conflict in Gaza. That is not how it feel on the streets of Stockholm, rather, the opposite is the truth. The war in Gaza lends legitimacy to, and an opportunity to air those anti-Jewish feelings that lurk just beneath the surface in a number of different Swedish quarters. The norms in Swedish public discourse regarding Israel are such that it seems acceptable to say almost anything about the Jewish State in polite company without risking recriminations. From reporters to talk-backs, one need not bother with facts or nuances of the conflict, which in other contexts is an entry-level demand in order to participate in any discussion. Aftonbladet, infamous for having published Anti-Semitic accusations that Israelis kill Palestinians and that an international conspiracy of Jews then steal their organs, have twice in the last week’s published Der Stürmer grade Anti-Semitic cartoons. The sewers of Swedish Facebook-talkbacks overflow with yearnings for Hitler and final-solution remedies by gas. And those are the covert signs, not the actual, physical, hate-crimes that get reported and counted. That is the face of Swedish Anti-Semitism, the acceptance of the slip-sliding of norms, which would be utterly unacceptable in referring to any other minority group.

In one month, Sweden will hold national elections. Politicians and talking heads are selling their goods on every street-corner. A major issue, possibly the major issue, in these elections is the relationship between Sweden and its immigrants. Much is made of the urgent need to deal with racism. But no one talks about the rights of Swedish Jews to feel safe and accepted in the streets. It is not a hot potato. It is an old, cold herring, an issue with no political champions. Those Jews who wear a kippah in Sweden prefer to cover it with a baseball-cap when they go out. Wearing a Star of David around your neck is considered a provocation. Friends report that they are reluctant to mention being Jewish at work. Sweden is a secular country where political correctness is god. But, in many places, it is not unacceptable to express anti-Jewish prejudices in public.

Something is rotten in the Kingdom of Sweden and holding our noses will not make it go away.

Noomi Stahl