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by Mathan Ravid


Since the beginning of the new millennium increased anti-Semitism has been detected within the political left in some European countries. It is often said to be most pronounced in the media, where criticism of Israel is sometimes tainted by anti-Jewish sentiments. An analysis of the contents of eight different newspapers of the Swedish left, from mainstream Social Democratic to radical Marxist-Leninist, suggests that the situation in Sweden is no different. During the 2006 Lebanon War they all expressed a number of attitudes and notions of questionable nature, which may be roughly divided into three different groups. Firstly, many of the newspapers examined contained explanations of the fighting in the Middle East which involved conspiracies, and in one way or another alluded to notions with anti-Semitic or problematic anti-Zionist roots. In some cases the Jewish state was depicted as a tool of an oppressive Western world, and Israeli actions as part of an "American imperialist plot." In addition to those notions directly or indirectly linked to anti-Semitism, concepts of Jewish power exerted over governments and media were also to be found. At times, it was claimed that Jewish or pro-Israeli lobby groups totally control the American and/or Swedish public debates, or possess a tremendous influence on various governments. Last but not least, most of the newspapers examined also contained anti-Semitic concepts associating Israelis with Nazis, depicting Jews and the Jewish state as copies of their historical persecutors. Explicit or implicit allegations of "Israeli genocides" and modern-day versions of the Holocaust or Nazi war crimes were found in a majority of the newspapers. All these facts call for a serious self-examination of the Swedish left.


In recent years numerous studies have shown that anti-Semitism is growing in some European countries and that its strongest foundation is within three groups: the extreme right, Islamist circles, and parts of the left. The increased appearance of, and tolerance toward, anti-Semitic attitudes and notions within the left is often said to be visible primarily in the media. It has frequently been argued that events in the Middle East are what "trigger" (or rather revive latent) anti-Semitic attitudes and notions, which often find expression in otherwise legitimate criticism of the state of Israel.

This was the background to a study conducted by the author in the fall of 2007 at the department of history of the University of Uppsala, Sweden. The aim of the research was to ascertain whether or not anti-Semitic attitudes and notions could be found in the reports and opinions expressed during the period of the war between Israel and Hezbollah, and the fighting in Gaza, in the summer of 2006. This was done by analyzing the content of the Swedish newspapers Aftonbladet (Social Democrat), Arbetaren (Syndicalist), Broderskap (Social Democrat), Flamman (Socialist), Folket i Bild/Kulturfront (Socialist), Internationalen (Trotskyite), Proletären (Marxist-Leninist), and RiktpunKt (Marxist-Leninist) between 12 July 2006 and 21 August 2006. Of primary interest were the presence and nature, rather than frequency or changes over time, of any attitudes and notions expressed in these newspapers.

These eight newspapers were chosen because they cover a large proportion of the left-wing spectrum of Swedish politics. The two Social Democratic newspapers - Aftonbladet and Broderskap - are both closely linked to Sweden's biggest party in 2006, the then-governing Swedish Workers Party (SAP), and therefore (unlike the rest of the newspapers) support an inner-parliamentary policy. Aftonbladet (majority-owned by Landsorganisationen, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation) is Sweden's biggest, and some would argue most influential, newspaper, while Broderskap is the body of the Christian Social Democratic Association of Sweden (SKSF). This dynamic makes an analysis of the content of these two newspapers in comparison to the remaining, more radical, and relatively small ones of even greater interest.

The results of the study strongly suggest that a phenomenon detected in a number of European countries can be found in Sweden as well: all of the eight newspapers of the Swedish left analyzed contained (albeit in different forms and quantities) anti-Semitic attitudes and notions, and/or a deeply problematic form of anti-Zionism which bears a kinship to certain anti-Semitic beliefs.

"Usrael" and Imperialist Conspiracies

The first point that must be stressed is the presence of conspiracy explanations for the fighting in the Middle East in a majority of the newspapers during the period examined. The significance of the kidnappings of Israeli soldiers and the rocket attacks against the Israeli civilian population, which sparked the fighting in Gaza and Lebanon, was often substantially played down or neglected altogether. Instead there was a striking tendency to portray the fighting not as "ordinary" conflicts between states and/or groups, but rather as part of a big "American-imperialist" plot.

An explanation for this can perhaps be found in the strong criticism that, according to German sociologist Klaus Holz, has always accompanied the Jewish national movement, Zionism, since its birth at the end of the nineteenth century. At that time, Zionism was regarded skeptically by the political left (including many Jews) from a purely anti-nationalistic viewpoint. Others, primarily on the right, warned that a future "Zionist state" would only appear to be a Jewish national state. In essence, they claimed, it would constitute a base for international Jewry's "struggle for world domination."[1]

After the Second World War had been replaced by a colder heir, criticism of Zionism grew strongest within Stalinist ideology. According to Holz the arguments resembled earlier ones, primarily from the political right. Firstly, the Jewish state was allegedly established merely to constitute a base for "American capitalism." Unlike in the case of other countries, it was believed that Israel's policy was not governed by national interests; instead the Zionists were thought to be "American monopolists," serving "American imperialism" rather than Israeli interests. Furthermore, anti-Semitism was now disguised as anti-Zionism, since the former could not be legitimized in either democratic or "class-less"/"race-less" Socialist societies. "Jew" was therefore exchanged for "Zionist," which in turn was equated to "imperialist." The communist parties of several East European dictatorships were cleansed of Jews who, in large, staged trials were accused of "crypto-Zionism" and of betraying the Socialist cause. According to Holz this transition (Jew à Zionist à imperialist) was facilitated by the traditional anti-Semitic notion of "the Jew" as the personification of capitalism. This in turn resulted in the possibility of legitimizing anti-Zionism within the political left, dissociating it from any accusation of anti-Semitism at a time when the memory of the Holocaust was still fresh.[2]

However, it was not until the end of the 1960s that central themes in Soviet and Arab propaganda also reappeared in Western public debate; Marxist-Leninist orientated parties and movements naturally becoming their primary breeding ground. It is only in recent years that this anti-Zionist anti-Semitism has played any significant role within the democratic spectrum, often as a form of latent or blatant anti-Semitic stereotypes in the media. As Holz has pointed out, this results in an erasure of the border between criticism and resentment, an anti-Zionist camouflage leading to a detabooization of anti-Semitism.[3]

Some would surely dismiss the fact that most of the examined newspapers contained conspiracy explanations for the fighting in the Middle East as a result of a habitually unbalanced criticism on the part of the often anti-American/Israeli Swedish left, ergo not anti-Semitism. Despite this, the fact that some of the opinions voiced in the newspapers (consciously or not) alluded to the above-discussed notions of questionable nature motivates a closer look at them, irrespective of the motive behind the demagogy.

"The Attacks Were Ordered by the American Secretary of State!"

Notions of various conspiracies were most discernible in the Marxist-Leninist newspapers Proletären and RiktpunKt. In the former, an article was published on 26 July 2006, which claimed that the fighting in the Middle East was "a part of the strategy of the US-imperialism" and that Israeli attacks were without a doubt "approved-possibly ordered-by the American Secretary of State!"[4] Three weeks later, on 15 August 2006, part of a speech by Ulf Nilsson (a member of the Swedish Communist Party) was published in which the Swedish government was urged to "show solidarity with the people of Palestine and Lebanon by breaking relations with Israel and stopping the cowardly crawling to the representatives of US-imperialism."[5]

The same day an appropriate drawing, signed by Niclas Andrén, was published. It shows a giant Jewish man wearing a kippa and with the text "Israel" emblazoned on his back, dressed in striped pants (historically a symbol for prosperity and a stereotypical trademark of "the Jewish capitalist" in Nazi-German propaganda), smashing the head of a small Arab ("Lebanon") against a stone wall in a dark alley. Next to "Lebanon," slumped on the ground, is the equally small, and somewhat dazed, "Palestine," who has apparently already received a beating. In the background Western political leaders, among them George W. Bush and former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson, can be seen together with Uncle Sam, all cheerfully whistling, acting as though they cannot see a thing.[6]

"The Bush-Rice Criminal Conspiracy"

In the Marxist-Leninist RiktpunKt, Peter Cohen "confirmed" that the U.S. was behind Israeli actions and that the final goal was Iranian oil. He went on to claim that, as he put it, "the Bush-Rice criminal conspiracy" planned the staging of fake terror attacks in Europe and/or the U.S. as a pretext for an American-Israeli attack on Iran.[7] Cohen's colleague, Astrid Boman, continued in a similar vein in the very same issue-according to her it should by then have been clear to everyone that the U.S. had given Israel the green light and that "the Israeli invasion of Gaza and Lebanon was planned several years ago."[8]

It is somewhat hard to imagine that Israel was in any need of a plan for invading Gaza "several years ago," especially since it unilaterally ended its occupation of the area less than a year before Boman's article was published. It is less challenging to detect in this newspaper the notion that the Jewish state is just an American bridgehead in a hostile part of the world, a small piece of a big imperialist puzzle. This is also true of the Trotskyite Internationalen, which claimed on 10 August 2006 that "Israel would not exist if it was not for American oil interests."[9]

"A Neoconservative Plan for Regional Dominance"

According to the American professor of history Walter Laqueur, in recent years a more general transmutation and modernisation of anti-Semitism has been witnessed - "usury" has become "Wall Street," and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has reappeared as "the conspiracy of the neoconservatives aiming at world conquest."[10]

In the Syndicalist Arbetaren, Patsy Nakell wrote on 20 July 2006 that the Israeli attack on Lebanon was a method of implementing a "neoconservative plan for regional dominance." She went on to say that this was "yet another flagrant example of how Israel (read the West) oppresses the Arabs." According to Nakell, the first step of the Israeli "plan" had been "the removal of Saddam Hussein"; it now focused on "hitting Syria and Iran, through Lebanon."[11] If one chose to believe Nakell, the fighting in the Middle East was merely a step on the road toward total Israeli dominance over neighbouring countries, and the Jewish state a tool of an oppressive Western world.

"Same War of Revenge Now as Then"

Conspiracy theories about the fighting in the Middle East were not as common in the Social Democratic newspapers Aftonbladet and Broderskap. One of the few exceptions was found in the former on 31 July 2006; the Australian journalist John Pilger claimed that "the tale about the kidnapped [Israeli] soldier put a stop to each serious examination of Israel's plans to reinvade Gaza, from which it has staged a fake withdrawal." He added that the conflict in the Middle East was not a normal conflict, but a product of an "imperialistic tyranny." In the shadows lurked (of course) the U.S., and it was

apparent that the since long-planned attacks on Gaza, and now Lebanon, are ordered by Washington, and constitute a pretext for a more comprising campaign with the aim of installing American marionettes in Lebanon, Syria and eventually Iran.[12]

Only once in Broderskap, on 18 August 2006, was the opinion voiced that there was more to the conflict in the Middle East than met the eye. If one was to believe a letter to the editor published that day, entitled "Same War of Revenge Now as Then," Jews were, among many other things, responsible for the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The author went on to claim that it was an identical Jewish desire for vengeance which had motivated the 2006 fighting in the Middle East, adding that

what was done to Jews in the past (the Babylonian captivity), is today done by them. The Israelis mock Syria and Iran, tear down Palestinian and Lebanese houses, ethnically cleanse their areas. This is a policy of retaliation, which Ehud Olmert and Israel conduct with the silent blessing of the West and the Vatican.[13]

According to the Swedish historian Henrik Bachner, the Christian Church constructed early on a picture of Judaism as Christianity's negative counterpart. While the latter was portrayed as teaching love and reconciliation, Judaism, on the other hand, was portrayed as a hateful, cruel, warlike, unforgiving, and vindictive religion. This originally theologically motivated demonization has sometimes also been applied to the Jews as a people.[14]

In the above-mentioned letter the author seemed to suggest that the Jewish people should be held collectively accountable for Israel's action (the words "Jews" and "Israelis" were used as synonyms). Apart from this the author also hinted at the notion that the Jews were still (about 2,500 years later) looking for revenge, a policy that, among other things, had led to "ethnic cleansing." This letter, published in the Christian newspaper, Broderskap, constituted one of the few examples of classical, theologically rooted, anti-Jewish sentiments found in the examined material.

Jewish Media Control and Manipulations

Alongside notions of the kind mentioned above, dubious ideas, not always directly connected to events in Gaza or Lebanon, were also to be found. According to the "Working Definition of Antisemitism" prepared for the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC)[15] in co-operation with ODIHR/OSCE, it is anti-Semitic to make mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective-such as especially, but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or the claim that Jews control the media, economy, government, or other societal institutions.[16]

The statement that pro-Israeli American lobby groups are influential is not anti-Semitic per se, but this relative influence is sometimes described in terms that allude to traditional prejudice. In the newspapers examined, a number of statements were found that referred to the tremendous influence, or sometimes even total control, which Jewish groups allegedly have over different governments and/or media.

"Does the Success of the Israel Lobby Threaten the Security of the U.S.?"

Although the Social Democratic newspapers Aftonbladet and Broderskap were less likely to see imperialist American schemes behind Israeli actions than their more radical colleagues, they seem to have found more appealing notions of Jewish power over various forms of media and governments. An article in which one can discern notions of Jewish power over media and governments, in this case both Swedish and American, was written by one Kerstin Hallert and published in Aftonbladet on 25 July 2006. In this article, she claimed that the state-owned Swedish TV-channel SVT was "kept on a short leash," implying that its employees were generally afraid and/or unwilling to criticize Israel in a direct manner. However, according to Hallert, even SVT "let its blinkers fall" once in a while: for example when the reporter Stefan Åsberg referred to "a taboo such as the grip of the strong Israel lobby over American politics." Hallert added that Åsberg had placed himself "a cook's stride from the American gun smoke around the professors Mearsheimer and Walt,[17] who had dared to ask whether the success of the Israel lobby threatens the security of the U.S."[18]

"The Israel lobby" was, in this case, not only portrayed as something tremendously powerful, but also as a dangerous and disloyal element in American society. The question also arises as to why Hallert found Mearsheimer and Walt (probably also Åsberg) so "brave" for asking this particular question. Clearly, there is an insinuation that those who "dare" to criticize Israel or pro-Israeli organisations are bound to suffer, that the democratic debate is constantly being throttled by some veiled force. This can be compared to notions raised in some of the more radical newspapers. For example, Hanin Shakrah, in the Socialist Flamman, 27 July 2006, claimed that there was a "very obvious phenomenon" of fear among Swedish journalists that, if found to be using critical language vis-à-vis Israel, they would be accused of one-sidedness and "sent home to write the harness racing results, or something."[19]

"The Governments of the U.S. Are Controlled by Jews"

Two days after Hallert's article, Aftonbladet's Lena Sundström wrote about the debate sparked by the decision by Systembolaget (the state-owned company holding the monopoly on sales of alcoholic beverages in Sweden) to name "Israeli-occupied Syrian territory" as the origin of the Israeli wines Golan and Yarden. Sundström interpreted in her own way the Israeli embassy's written statement on Systembolaget's new-found interest in political standpoints, which noted that it was "surprised to learn about Systembolaget's new expertise in world politics." According to her, one could discern here an attempt to strangle the debate. She claimed that what the embassy actually intended by this comment was: "Concentrate on selling intoxicants in Sweden and do not give a damn about what we do down in the Middle East." She continued:

which was also exactly what Systembolaget decided to do. "It is not our task to solve the conflict in the Middle East, but to present good kosher wines to our customers," as Systembolaget's head of PR put it.... (And then he wrote it 100 times on the blackboard before he was allowed to go home.)[20]
To whom this "blackboard" belonged was never revealed. Without a doubt Sundström was insinuating that Systembolaget's head of PR did not "dare" to stand his ground and that he, not unlike a small schoolboy, had been told off or received a "detention." It is left to the reader to ask her/himself by whom, if not the Israeli embassy or pro-Israeli groups.

Judging by opinions voiced in many of the newspapers examined, among them Aftonbladet, during the summer of 2006, one could easily draw the conclusion that Swedish society had been struck by a "fear of criticizing Israel," when in fact large parts of Swedish media and public opinion (rightly or not) condemned the Jewish state ad infinitum during this period.

In the other Social Democratic newspaper, Broderskap, the ideas of Jewish media and governmental control were fewer, but more blatant. On 18 August 2006 it was asserted that "the governments of the U.S. are controlled by Jews."[21]

"The Stranglehold of the Israel Lobby"

It is worth pointing out that few, if any, of the other newspapers even came close to expressing so explicitly the ideas about Jewish power over American politics found in the Social Democratic Broderskap. The newspaper qualifying as a "good second" was probably the Marxist-Leninist RiktpunKt< /i>. In its August issue, Peter Cohen claimed that "Zionists" "have in practice decided American policy in the Middle East for a long time" and that the top priority of, as he put it, "the powerful Israel lobby" was to control the American political debate. Cohen also, as the above-cited Hallert in Aftonbladet, referred to the American professors Mearsheimer and Walt, according to whom certain pro-Israeli American organizations were nothing less than "a de facto agent for a foreign government" that "has a stranglehold on Congress."[22]

"Naziisrael" and "The Holocaust of the Twenty-first Century"

Along with the notions discussed above, the most palpable group of anti-Semitic attitudes and notions in the examined newspapers were of another kind. These directly or indirectly portrayed the Jews and/or Israelis as copies of their former Nazi tormentors and demonized Israel as an illegitimate "Nazi" state.

According to EUMC's "Working Definition of Antisemitism," anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel in various ways, including the drawing of comparisons between current Israeli policy and that of the Nazis.[23] As the French historian Pierre-André Taguieff has pointed out, modern-day anti-Semitism has, to a great extent, undergone a transformation from being a special sort of racism directed against Jews to an ideology accusing Jews of racism. A central phenomenon of the post-war anti-Semitic discourse has been the tendency to demonize the Jews and the Jewish state by portraying them as reflected images of their Nazi tormentors and Nazi Germany. This leads, according to Taguieff, to a shift in historical identities, so that "today's real persecuted Jews are the Palestinians," a role reversal which makes the Palestinians victims of "genocide" committed by "the Jews."[24]

According to Henrik Bachner, the pain of guilt after the Holocaust plays an instrumental role in explaining why Europeans are attracted to this demonology. Accusing the Jews of committing the same crimes as the Nazis makes it easier to deal with the difficult memory of the slaughter of European Jewry.[25] Some, among them the German professor of history Wolfgang Benz, have summarized this phenomenon as anti-Semitism not in spite of but because of Auschwitz.[26]

Most of the examined newspapers contained direct or indirect comparisons between Israeli policy and Nazism, between the fighting in Gaza/Lebanon and the Second World War and/or ideas about Israel planning, or even being in the process of carrying out, "genocide" against various Arab peoples. In the summer of 2006 a number of military conflicts took place around the world, many of them equally or more brutal and with equally horrible or worse consequences than the fighting in the Middle East. In spite of this, only the state of Israel and its policy was associated with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in the newspapers examined. This fact raises a serious question concerning the motives behind these kinds of analogies.

"No to the Holocaust Then as Now"

The newspaper that contained the greatest number of Nazi analogies was the Marxist-Leninist Proletären. On 12 July 2006, to take just one of many examples, it was claimed that "what the Nazis did to the Jews, the Israelis are now doing to the Palestinians."[27] One week later the Swedish government was urged to break off relations with Israel in reference to the "1.4 million Palestinians locked up in Gaza," which was characterized as a "ghetto-resembling concentration camp."[28] On 9 August 2006 an anti-Israeli demonstration in Uppsala was described as "a new demonstration against...the genocide of the Lebanese and Palestinian people," and the newspaper was quick to emphasize that it had involved a banderol saying, "Zionism is racism."[29] One week earlier the same newspaper described another, as it put it, "successful" demonstration in Malmö, at which "red banners were waved against the clear blue summer sky, and at the head was a big banderol saying 'No to the Holocaust then as now.'"[30]

A Platform for an Infamous Anti-Semite in Flamman

In the August issue of the other Marxist-Leninist newspaper, RiktpunKt, the above-cited Peter Cohen claimed that he, "as an atheist Jew and anti-Zionist," could confirm that the Israelis in 2006 were "behaving as equally damn bad as the Nazis did during the war." In addition he asked what the difference was between "Israeli air strikes on Lebanese villages and the German Luftwaffe's terror bombings of, for example, Guernica, Durango and Rotterdam." He claimed that one similarity, among others, between Nazi and Zionist ideologies was the notion that "a society should be made up of human beings with the same blood, not citizens with the same rights and obligations."[31]

As exemplified earlier, the material examined contained a number of drawings with anti-Jewish motifs, the majority of which were published in Proletären. However, the one drawing most obviously referring to American-backed "Israeli genocides," à la Nazi Germany, was published in the Socialist Flamman on 3 August 2006. It portrays a soldier in a characteristically green-grey Nazi-German field uniform, the Swastika armband on his left arm replaced by one bearing the Israeli flag, in the process of dropping a big bomb on a group of Lebanese children. On the bomb is written "From Israel with Love." Uncle Sam eagerly cheers on the soldier, standing next to a small man who is tied up and gagged (representing the UN). In the left corner of the drawing is a representation of "the West" with his back turned, seemingly lacking the possibility, courage, and/or will to intervene.[32] The artist was the Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who was awarded second place in a contest of Holocaust caricatures indirectly supported by the Iranian authorities in 2006 ("International Holocaust Cartoon Contest").[33]

Lebanon-The Lidice of 2006

It was the form, rather than the quantity, of the Nazi analogies found in the Social Democratic newspaper Aftonbladet (Broderskap did not contain any) that distinguished it from the ones found in its more radical competitors. Even though John Pilger did not hesitate to draw certain parallels between the situation in Gaza 2006 and "the Nazi bombardment and starvation of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw" during the Second World War,[34] Aftonbladet usually preferred insinuations to blatant attacks.

On 13 July 2006, the above-cited Swedish-Palestinian journalist Hanin Shakrah claimed that the most recent crisis in Gaza had brought the question of "how cheap Palestinian blood actually is" to the fore. According to her, Israel, instead of negotiating, had now gotten the pretext it had so long hoped for: "namely to reinvade, attack and torment the population in Gaza." After this she seemingly felt forced to point out that as a teenager she herself had become "deeply interested in the Holocaust." She had been "fascinated, saddened, shocked and angry that assaults on the Jews could take place, that anti-Semitism could be accepted, and that people could be demonized in such a way." Having sworn her empathy for the historical suffering of the Jewish people, she later continued her article with the words "sometimes I think I feel like the Jews in Sweden in the 1940s must have felt."[35]

In the same newspaper (Aftonbladet), Henry Ascher's article "When I Am in Auschwitz Bombs are Falling over Gaza" was published on 23 July 2006.[36] Here Ascher recounted details of his trip to Auschwitz, using the opportunity to state that Israel in 2006 denied "its indigenous Palestinian people, as well as the neighbouring populations, the human rights that grew out of the experiences of the gas chambers of Auschwitz." The association to "the gas chambers of Auschwitz" was, in this case, hardly a coincidence. Ascher also asked in what way Lebanon 2006 could be differentiated from the Nazi massacre of civilians in the Czech village of Lidice in 1942. He went on to urge Israel's Jewish population to "realize what the whites of South Africa understood a few decades ago."

Having mentioned in passing that one could not draw exact equivalence between Israelis and Nazis, Ascher still saw fit to remind his readers of the famous quotation hanging in one of Auschwitz's brick houses: The one who does not learn from history is doomed to suffer it again. Ascher dryly finished his article by establishing that "it does not say whether one has to suffer it as victim or perpetrator."[37]

What the articles of Shakrah and Ascher had in common was, among other things, the indirect accusation that the Jews in 2006 were repeating what their Nazi tormentors had once done. Even though both authors, in passing, mentioned that they did not want to place the genocide of approximately six million Jews and a low-intensity conflict between two armed (albeit differently) sides on an equal footing, that was exactly what they succeeded in doing indirectly. Furthermore, one could argue that they were applying double standards vis-à-vis the inhabitants of the Jewish state; the (Jewish) Israelis were expected, to a greater extent than other people, to have "learned" from their own historical suffering, and should thus "know better."

Nazi Connotations

A last phenomenon worth taking a closer look at is the Nazi connotative Swedish words that seldom, if ever, are used in contexts other than discussions about Nazism. Yet these at times appeared in the newspapers examined in connection to Israel. It should be noted that most of them were found in the Social Democratic Aftonbladet, possibly a result of an unwillingness on the part of the newspaper to use the kind of direct language with which some of its more radical competitors were so awash.

The Swedish word generally used for the Holocaust is Förintelsen-"the annihilation." This word, in any of its inflections, is rarely used in other contexts. One can therefore wonder what motivated the accusation which appeared in Aftonbladet on 10 August 2006, that Israel was "annihilating" everyone in southern Lebanon unlucky enough to be travelling in vehicles.[38] On another occasion (in the Syndicalist Arbetaren), Israel was said to have launched a blixtkrig, a rarely used, direct translation of the German word Blitzkrieg.[39]

On 27 July 2006, in Aftonbladet, the above-cited journalist Lena Sundström indirectly put Israel's occupation of Arab territories and its military actions in 2006 on an equal footing with, among other historical phenomenon, the slave trade and the gassing of Jews. She implicitly branded the Israelis a härskarfolk, a Swedish translation of the Nazi-connotative German word Herrenvolk.[40]

On 20 August 2006, two days after an open letter in Aftonbladet had compared the Palestinian armed struggle to partisan resistance during the Second World War,[41] it was noted that the Israelis needed to accept that real peace in the Middle East required Israel to "give in to real territorial concessions." According to the authors this would have a number of unpleasant consequences for the Israeli rulers, as well as meaning "less livsrum" for Israeli citizens.[42] Livsrum is the Swedish translation of the German word Lebensraum.

The use of this kind of language in the newspapers facilitated the indirect equation of Israel and Nazi Germany, thus portraying the Jews as copies of their historical persecutors, and the policy of the Jewish state as a modern-day version of Nazi war crimes during the Second World War or the Holocaust.

A Political Left in Need of Self-Examination

Israel is a state that, like all others, can and should be criticized. Generally, the Israel-critical debate in Sweden is conducted without the use of anti-Semitic images. Yet the study presented here clearly illustrates that this discourse is sometimes colored by ideas and notions which have extremely problematic roots. The fact that this also applies to the left, including Social Democracy, which so often in the past has constituted the bulwark in the fight against anti-Semitism, makes this an even more alarming phenomenon.

One wonders whether or not an internal discourse about the proven existence of anti-Semitism takes place within the political left. Is this uncomfortable fact brushed beneath the carpet or is the matter taken up for discussion? To what extent does the political left assume responsibility for the accusations of anti-Semitism made against it in recent years?

Even though the answers to these questions may be a long time in coming, one thing is already certain: the self-image of the Swedish left as the guardian of morality and the spearhead of anti-racism and tolerance is beginning to crack.


[1]. Klaus Holz, Die Gegenwart des Antisemitismus. Islamische, demokratische und antizionistische Judenfeindschaft (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2005), 85. [German]

[2]. Ibid., 86-88.

[3]. Ibid., 95.

[4]. (Anonymous), "USA manar Israel till hårdare tag," Proletären, nr. 30, 26 July 2006, 2. [Swedish] All translations in this article are the author's own.

[5]. Lars Rothelius, "Lyckad bojkottappell i Göteborg," Proletären, nr. 33, 15 August 2006, 18. [Swedish]

[6]. Proletären, nr. 33, 15 August 2006, 3.

[7]. Peter Cohen, "USA och Israel - allierade i krig mot Iran," RiktpunKt, nr. 4, August 2006 (date of publication unknown), 6-7. [Swedish]

[8]. Astrid Boman, "Det stod Mossad på bomben," RiktpunKt, nr. 4, August 2006 (date of publication unknown), 18-19. [Swedish]

[9]. Lars Henriksson, "En tragedi i stormaktsregi," Internationalen, nr. 32, 10 August 2006, enclosed article. [Swedish]

[10]. Walter Laqueur, The Changing Face of Antisemitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 9.

[11]. Patsy Nakell, "Attackerna stärker Hizbollah," Arbetaren, nr. 29, 20 July 2006, 7. [Swedish]

[12]. John Pilger, "Imperiets tyranny," Aftonbladet, 31 July 2006, 4. [Swedish, translated from English]

[13]. Ljubomir T. Devic, "Samma revanschkrig nu som då," Broderskap, nr. 33, 18 August 2006, 3. [Swedish]

[14]. Henrik Bachner, Återkomsten: Antisemitism i Sverige efter 1945 (Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, 2004 [1999]), 389. [Swedish]

[15]. In March 2007 EUMC was succeeded by The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

[16]. European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, "Working Definition of Antisemitism." (viewed 25 November 2008).

[17]. John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt, Professor of International Relations at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, are the authors of the heavily criticized paper "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" (2006). In this they, among other things, claim that the strong American support for Israel in the last decades has damaged the interests of the U.S. This may well be true and does not necessarily mean that they are presenting an anti-Jewish view. What many scholars and debaters (including, notably, the strongly Israel-critical American professor of linguistics Noam Chomsky) have reacted to, however, are -- besides the fact that the authors failed to prove their thesis -- the heavily exaggerated allegations about the influence of Jewish or Israeli lobby groups over American politics (it is first and foremost the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, which is said to secure the Jewish grip on the White House). Mearsheimer and Walt's paper can be found at$File/rwp_06_011_walt.pdf (viewed 25 November 2008). For more discussion on the topic see for example the American professor of philosophy Bernard Harrison's The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006), 194-204. Noam Chomsky's review of the paper can be found at (viewed 25 November 2008).

[18]. Kerstin Hallert, "'Aktuellt' ligger lågt i Libanontragedin," Aftonbladet, 25 July 2006, 42. [Swedish]

[19]. Hanin Shakrah, "Robert Fisk äcklas av media," Flamman, nr. 29, 27 July 2006, 8-9. [Swedish]

[20]. Lena Sundström, "Korkat när vinet inte har något hemland," Aftonbladet, 27 July 2006, 15. [Swedish]

[21]. Ljubomir T Devic, "Samma revanschkrig nu som då," Broderskap, nr. 33, 18 August 2006, 3. [Swedish]

[22]. Peter Cohen, "USA och Israel-allierade i krig mot Iran," RiktpunKt, nr. 4, August 2006 (date of publication unknown), 6-7. [Swedish] See also$File/rwp_06_011_walt.pdf (viewed 25 November 2008, 18).

[23]. European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, "Working Definition of Antisemitism."

[24]. Pierre-André Taguieff, Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee Publisher, 2004 [2002]), 67-68.

[25]. Henrik Bachner, Återkomsten: Antisemitism i Sverige efter 1945 (Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, 2004 [1999]), 157. [Swedish]

[26]. See for example Wolfgang Benz, "Tradierte und wiederentdeckte Vorurteile im neuen Europa: Antisemitismus, Fremdenhass; Diskriminierung von Minderheiten" (paper presented at the conference Antisemitismus in Europa, Berlin, 1992), 2. [German]

[27]. Mario Sousa, "250 i Palestinademonstration i Uppsala," Proletären, nr. 28, 12 July 2006, 11. [Swedish]

[28]. Teddy-John Frank, "Till listan av namn kan nu läggas ännu ett...Libanon juli 2006," Proletären, nr. 29, 19 July 2006, 2. [Swedish]

[29]. Proletären Uppsala, "'USA ut ur Mellanöstern'," Proletären, nr. 32, 9 August 2006, 10. [Swedish]

[30]. Patricia Rocca, "&AUML;nnu en lyckad demonstration," Proletären, nr. 31, 2 August 2006, 7. [Swedish]

[31]. Peter Cohen, "Sionister agerar som nazister," RiktpunKt, nr. 4, August 2006 (date of publication unknown), 4-5. [Swedish]

[32]. Flamman, nr 30, 3 August 2006, 2. An English copy of the drawing published in Flamman can be found at (viewed 25 November 2008).

[33]. The winners of the contest can be found at (viewed 25 November 2008).

[34]. John Pilger, "Imperiets tyranni," Aftonbladet, 31 July 2006, 4. [Swedish, translated from English]

[35]. Hanin Shakrah, "Vilka är fångarna-egentligen? Och offren?," Aftonbladet, 13 July 2006, 4-5. [Swedish]

[36]. Three days later, on 26 August 2006, the same article also appeared in Marxist-Leninist Proletären.

[37]. Henry Ascher, "När jag är i Auschwitz faller bomber över Gaza," Aftonbladet, 23 July 2006, 4-5. [Swedish]

[38]. Wolfgang Hansson, "Civilas lidande-Israels vapen," Aftonbladet, 10 August 2006, 22. [Swedish]

[39]. Patsy Nakell, "Attackerna stärker Hizbollah," Arbetaren, nr. 29, 20 July 2006, 7. [Swedish]

[40]. Lena Sundström, "Korkat när vinet inte har något hemland," Aftonbladet, 27 July 2006, 15. [Swedish]

[41]. Kjell Olsson, "Vakna och se vad Israel gör," Aftonbladet, 18 July 2006, 31. [Swedish]

[42]. Bo I. Cavefors, Carl Ehrenkrona, Bo Gustavsson, Harald Hultqvist, Lars Mikael Raattamaa, Christoffer Rahm, Magnus Ringgren, Staffan Vahlqvist, Veronica Svärd, Nils Håkansson, and Jon Smedsaas, "Tvinga Israel till fred," Aftonbladet, 20 July 2006, 40-41. [Swedish]

Mathan Ravid has a BA from Uppsala University, Sweden. His fields are history and the history of religions. He has done research on anti-Semitism and the swedish press in relation to Nazi Germany as well as gender roles in Rastafarian culture. Ravid has lived in Israel, Italy, and Germany.

This article was published May 2009 in the Jewish Political Studies Review 21:1-2 (Spring 2009) 1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=625&PID=0&IID=2987&TTL= Prejudice_and_Demonization_In_The_Swedish_Middle_East_Debate_ During_The_2006_Lebanon_War


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