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Anti-Semitism in the European Union: Sweden

(Updated December 2003)

Within its general population of 8.9 million Sweden has an estimated Jewish population of around 18,500, most of whom live in the three large city areas of Stockholm (5500 members belonging to the Jewish community), Gothenburg (Götheburg, 1800 members) and Malmö (1200). Around 50% of the Jewish population in these cities are members of Jewish communities.

There has been a slow but steady upsurge in anti-Jewish activities since the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000. Perhaps the most dramatic example from the beginning of this period was in October 2000 when a big anti-Israeli demonstration was held in Malmö and demonstrators forced their way into a shop owned by Jews and threatened them. There have been some examples of references to old Christian anti-Jewish sentiments in the media, where references have been made to concepts like “an eye for an eye”, child slaughter and Christ-killers; furthermore, Israeli politics has been compared with Nazi politics on a few occasions. In the early spring of 2002 the daily Aftonbladet published an article criticising Israeli politics with the headline “The crucified Arafat”, a reference to one of the most well known anti-Semitic myths. References have also been made to “Jewish media power”. A television programme in November 2001, Mediemagasinet, pointed out that three out of the six Swedish reporters reporting from the Middle East were Jewish. The programme put in question the objectivity of these Jewish reporters. Internet homepages of both the extreme right and the radical left have used anti-Semitism when discussing the Middle East conflict. One left-wing homepage, Indymedia, featured an anti-Semitic cartoon; the Grim Reaper sporting a hat with a swastika and the Star of David. The Indymedia chat has featured statements referring to well-known conspiracy themes such as a “New World Order” and a “Zionist Occupation Government – ZOG”. The anniversary of the November-pogrom 1938 on 9 November 2001 was exploited by some groups for anti-Israeli propaganda. Nazi groups like the National Socialist Front have applauded Islamic anti-Semitism and terror, including the acts of al Qaida.

1. Physical acts of violence

On 18 April 2002, a small public meeting with approximately 100 participants protesting against both anti-Semitism and phobic attitudes to Islam took place in central Stockholm. The organisers expressed that the rally was non-partisan and did not take sides in the Middle East conflict. The rally was organised by a branch of the Liberal Party youth organisation and several of the participants were Jews. As the rally was about to end, a much larger anti-Israeli march organised by the Palestinian support organisation was passing nearby. Suddenly, 100-150 young demonstrators broke out and charged into the little crowd that was left around the small demonstration - most of them Jews. The attacking group was threatening and some violence was seen. Individual attackers could be heard shouting, “Kill the Jews!” and “We’ll blow you up!” Some attackers also went around aggressively asking people if they were Jewish. It should be pointed out that there were also many young Swedish extreme left-wing people amongst the most aggressive participants.

There were no incidents reported for Stockholm and Göteburg over the period of May and June. Malmö has witnessed a consistently high level of anti-Semitic agitation since the beginning of the current Intifada in the autumn of 2000. The city has a higher percentage of Muslims than the other two large Swedish cities. Among the population of around 250,000 inhabitants there are 45,000 individuals of Muslim background in Malmö. Including the surrounding areas, the number reaches around 100,000. Though the anti-Semitic sentiments are not shared by a majority of the Muslim population, indications show that such sentiments are more common there than among the rest of the population. Several incidents were directed towards the Jewish cemeteries in Malmö.

19 May: vandalism inflicted at the Jewish cemetery in Rosengard in the suburb of Malmö.

3 June: burglary and vandalism in the funeral chapel at the Jewish cemetery at Föreningsgatan close to the city centre of Malmö.

4 and 6 June: burglary and vandalism at the Jewish cemetery in Rosengard. Smashed windows and anti-Semitic graffiti.

2. Verbal aggression/hate speech

On 21 May a group of young Arabs were reported yanking at the entrance doors of the Jewish Community Centre shouting “Fucking Jew!” (literally “Judejävel”: “Jew Devil!”), and making obscene gestures at a woman inside.

Graffiti and inscriptions

On 3 June graffiti on the wall of the Jewish cemetery at Föreningsgatan read: “Fuck the pigs!”, “Smash Israel” and “Never forget Jenin!”

Publicly distributed leaflets

On 29 May in the northeastern town of Gävle a man was sentenced to two years prison for running a record company called Sniper Records and releasing racist and anti-Semitic CDs, some of them in German. The man admitted passing the profit on to the National Socialist Front. The local daily Sydöstran reported (6 June 2002) that the library of the town Karlskrona had found a great amount of anti-Semitic propaganda slipped into shelves, books and papers over the last year. The library has now decided to forbid people with openly racist views to visit the premises. On 14 June several Swedish papers reported that four leading Nazis, two of them living in Karlskrona, have been sentenced to six months prison for re-publishing a 1930s anti-Semitic book titled “The Jewish Question”.


Samtidsmagazinet Salt, an up-market magazine labelling itself “radical conservative”, released its latest issue at the beginning of June. Previous issues of Salt had clear anti-Semitic content. In the June issue one article paid tribute to Holocaust denial, while a well-known anti-Semitic conspiracy theoretician penned another article.

In March the presidents of the Jewish communities in Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö, acting together with presidents of the Swedish-Israel Society, the Swedish branch of the Israel Information Office and the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism, published an article in the main daily, Dagens Nyheter, in which they protested against “the one-sided reporting in the Swedish media about the conflict in the Middle East.” In an alarming passage, the article continues: “As a consequence of the massive anti-Israeli campaign, we have observed a dramatic increase in anti-Jewish activity and expressions of anti-Semitism in Swedish society”.

During Easter 2002 the newspaper Aftonbladet attacked Israeli policy with a headline “Crucified Arafat” referring to the old anti-Jewish accusation that it were the Jews who crucified Jesus.


In May and June, the website “Focus Israel” (Brännpunkt Israel) – run by one of the officials in the Malmö Jewish community – repeatedly received hate mail with anti-Semitic content. Karlskrona, a small town in the southeast of Sweden, is the stronghold of the largest and most active Nazi group in Sweden, the NSF, Nationalsocialistisk Front (National Socialist Front). The group is known for its high anti-Semitic profile, also reflected on its homepages, which are directly linked to the sites of the right extremist and revisionist Gary Lauck from Lincoln/Nebraska. Another Swedish internet site carries anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and anti-American material, mainly caricatures similar to those from a Swedish caricaturist who in the past has drawn anti-Semitic caricatures for the revisionist Ahmed Rami and his “Radio Islam” which was a radio station and today is one of the most radical right wing anti-Semitic homepages on the net with close links to radical Islam groups.

3. Research Studies

There is no recent report or opinion poll on anti-Semitic aggression or attitudes.

4. Good Practice for reducing prejudice, violence and aggression

Individual teachers in some schools have made a point of introducing the issue of anti-Semitism in class discussions. Reports to the Expo Foundation from several teachers indicate a growth of anti-Semitic sentiments, including various conspiracy theories among (predominantly) immigrant youth with a Muslim background. Such sentiments seem to be closely related to the media reporting and the development of the situation in the Middle East. There has been no formal study made about such claims. An example of good practice is how survivors of the Holocaust have related their experiences in the schools. A teaching method called “Abrahams barn” (“Abraham’s children”), pointing out similarities between Christianity, Islam and Judaism, has – according to teachers – been reported to be fairly successful in schools with a high percentage of immigrants. Along with this, teachers in some schools have reported that a generally increased vigilance against racist and anti-Semitic expressions has been a successful method in curbing such sentiments. The Swedish Committee against anti-Semitism has been writing articles and arranging a series of seminars in different cities and towns. The seminars were called “Stereotyping immigrants, Jews and Muslims in media and debate” and got a very good response in the evaluations.

5. Reactions by politicians and other opinion leaders

EXPO found no example of politicians speaking up against anti-Semitism. The leftist party Vänsterpartiet announced a campaign against racism, mentioning xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of racism, but not anti-Semitism

Sources: C.R.I.F. - Released by the European Jewish Congress