When the Social Democrats swept into power in Sweden in 2014 led by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, a prominent member of his cabinet was a self-styled ‘feminist’ Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom. Both Lofven and King Carl Gustav XVI got more than they bargained for the new Foreign Minister.
Wallstrom’s controversial comments about Saudi Arabia’s misogyny required a tet e tet between the Swedish and Saudi monarchs to preserve the country’s status as the 12th leading exporter of arms. Sweden has more than 700,000 Muslims amongst the Nordic country’s population of 12 million. The Muslim presence in Sweden has given rise to reports of gang rape of Swedish women and a spike in anti-Semitism, especially given the Muslim majority in the country’s third largest city, Malmo. With Sweden admitting thousands more Muslim migrants and asylees from the conflicts in Syria, North and sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia, it has become even more problematic.
However, major contretemps were occasioned by the Lofven government’s recognition of the corrupt, undemocratic Palestinian Authority as a state, when it doesn’t meet the internationally recognized definition of the 1933 Montevideo Convention. That set Israel’s Foreign Ministry on edge, given that Sweden was buying into the victimhood mantra and hate- filled incitement of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Wallstrom is currently the center of approbation given her controversial accusations that Israel has engaged in “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians and Israel Arabs in response to the daily toll of knifings, car rammings and shootings. According to a Reuters report on the Wallstrom Israel controversy, the toll since October “includes 24 Israelis and a U.S. citizen. Israeli forces or armed civilians have killed at least 143 Palestinians, 91 of whom authorities have described as assailants.” Wallstrom said in Swedish parliamentary debates on January 12th, “It is vital that there is a thorough, credible investigation into these deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability.” Reuters noted that Wallstrom “earlier described the Palestinians’ plight as a factor leading to Islamist radicalization – comments seen in Israel as linking it to the November gun and bomb rampage in Paris.”
These latest comments by Wallstrom triggered actions by Israel’s Foreign Ministry capped by remarks, January 14th by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in an Arutz Sheva article calling her accusations, “scandalous”, “immoral” and “foolish ”. Sweden Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser was called in by Israeli Foreign Ministry Deputy Director General Aviva Shir-On for a reprimand. According to a Jerusalem Post, report:
Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said Wallstrom would not be welcome to visit Israel. His comments served as a clarification to remarks made earlier in the day by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely who said Israel was closing its door to visits from Swedish officials in the wake of Wallstrom’s words. Israel was sending in the clearest manner possible a very sharp message to Sweden saying that it is backing terrorism and giving a tail wind to the Islamic State to act throughout Europe.
Wallstrom’s comments were a “bad combination of folly and diplomatic stupidity, and Israel will close its door to official visits from Sweden.”
Wallstrom was essentially deemed persona non grata and Swedish officials would be barred from any future deliberations in Israel regarding the Palestinian conflict.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the new CEO and national executive director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, was prompted to send a letter to Swedish Prime Minister Lofven. According to a report in The Algemeiner, Greenberg wrote:
We urge you to ensure that official Swedish statements demonstrate respect for, and knowledge of, Israel’s proven commitment to the rule of law, support for its security challenges, even as it faces armed threats on a scale which Sweden is fortunate not to know.
Sweden is joining the worst Palestinian incitement suggesting Israel is randomly shooting innocent Palestinians in the streets and planting knives in their hands to frame them.
None of this controversy surprises the opposition in the Swedish parliament, especially, Kent Ekeroth, the Jewish deputy in the right wing, Sweden Democrat party. An Algemeiner report on December 9, 2015 had these comments by Ekeroth about Wallstrom made during an Israeli Channel 2 interview following a debate with her in Sweden’s Parliament:
Sweden has always had misconceptions about Israel, but it has become more extreme. Our government, and especially [Foreign] Minister [Margot] Wallstrom have different standards when it comes to anything related to Israel.
Sweden would defend any other country, but “because we’re talking about Israel,” Sweden “attacks.”
“Either [Wallstrom] doesn’t know that [the Palestinians] support terrorists or she’s just lying,” said Ekeroth. “The foreign minister is carrying out false propaganda and accuses Israel of everything. It’s amazing she doesn’t understand the logic that Israel is defending itself from terrorists. She’s anti-Israel and tries to defend terrorists.”
Ingrid Carlqvist in a Gatestone Institute article, “Sweden’s Walking Diplomatic Disaster”, published, January 14th presented extensive background on the swirl of controversies surrounding Wallstrom. She cited this assessment of the Social Democrat Lofven government from former Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel:
Zvi Mazel, Israel’s ambassador to Sweden from 2002-2004, wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on December 14, that,
“The Swedish Social Democratic Party is not known for its sympathy toward Israel. Its current duo of leaders, however, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, have gone overboard and are waging a systematic campaign against Israel. Although the recognition of a Palestinian state was a continuation of the Swedish left’s hostile policy toward Israel, it was also aimed at the country’s large Muslim minority — comprising about 700,000 people — with the aim of attracting Muslim voters to the party in the next elections. During my diplomatic tenure in Sweden in the early 2000s, all my efforts to conduct a dialogue with that party fell on deaf ears. … the two countries’ relations have turned into a cycle of altercations.”
In Carlqvist’s Gatestone Institute article was this excerpt from a parliamentary debate between her and Ekeroth:
In early December, two members of Parliament, Mathias Sundin of the Liberals and Kent Ekeroth of the Sweden Democrats, had demanded that Wallström explain why she had not condemned the rampant Palestinian knife attacks against civilian Israelis with so much as a syllable. The ensuing debate ended with Wallström saying that she trusts Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas implicitly, because he told her he wants peace, and she believes him. She also leveled new accusations against Israel, which, according to Wallström, is engaged in “extrajudicial executions.”
Kent Ekeroth wondered how Wallström views President Abbas and his Fatah party. The Foreign Minister replied:
“The government supports moderate forces in Palestine, the government supports the Palestinian Authority and others who recognize Israel’s right to exist and seek a diplomatic solution to the conflict, enabling Israel and Palestine to live side by side with peace and security. I find that President Abbas has made it his life’s goal to replace the way of violence with a diplomatic struggle to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I also note that President Abbas, apart from his denunciation of terrorism, has also spoken against cries for violent resistance against the Israeli occupying force.”
“Wallström portrays Abbas as a pacifist who has denounced terrorism. He might condemn terrorism when it is French citizens who are killed, but when it is Israelis being killed there are no problems. He has not condemned a single one of the murders of 20 Israelis during the last few months. On the contrary, many of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah leaders have glorified the killers. A member of the Fatah Central Council told Palestinian TV in October that he congratulates all those who have carried out the attacks. He is proud of them, and thought that knife attacks should be taught in Palestinian schools. Your own ‘golden boy’ Mahmoud Abbas said in September, regarding the violence against Israelis, that ‘We bless every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem’, and we know that every Palestinian assassin apprehended by Israel is rewarded by the Palestinian Authority. So how can Wallström claim that he denounces terrorism, when he is actually rewarding it with money from the Swedish taxpayers?
“Wallström is either ignorant about Abbas’ celebrations of and rewards to murderers, or she is lying. Neither alternative is very flattering. I would therefore like to ask two questions: Is Wallström aware of the praising of terrorism? Is Wallström aware of the rewards paid to terrorists? Yes or no?”
Wallström replied that she certainly condemns “all acts of violence, regardless if they are carried out by Palestinians or Israelis, and I have emphasized the importance of bringing those responsible to justice and not engaging in extrajudicial executions.”
Wallström further thought that one should not attempt to interpret or translate what Abbas says, because there are so many different ways to do this. “I do not think we should do that, the important thing is that we condemn violence and I myself have heard Abbas do this, so I know he renounces violence.”
Ekeroth shot back: “One does not reward terrorists with recognition, and one does not pay them using Swedish taxpayers’ money.” He then proceeded to show a number of printouts of Fatah’s official Facebook page, where murdered Israelis are displayed and the killings celebrated. “You need to understand that Abbas speaks two languages — one to gullible [Western] politicians, where he says he wants peace, and another to Palestinians, where he promotes, glorifies and rewards terror. Wallström needs to stop listening to what Abbas tells her and instead start listening to what he tells his own people.”
WATCH this sub-titled video of the Wallstrom Ekeroth debate on December 4, 2015:
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.