Skip to content
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region
Menu

The Uncomfortable Truth about Malmö, Sweden – The Host of the European Song Festival

 
Filed under: Europe and Israel, Operation Swords of Iron

The Uncomfortable Truth about Malmö, Sweden – The Host of the European Song Festival
Anti-Israel demonstrations at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Swede, May 9, 2024. (Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency via AP)

We all saw the thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathering in the Swedish city of Malmö to protest against Israel’s participation in the Eurovision Song Contest. The media claimed peaceful protests, but that is far from the truth. Following Hamas’s October 7, 2023, massacres, Swedish cities, especially Malmö, have seen a vast storm of vile hatred against Israel and against the Jews of Sweden. They are a small minority of not more than 18,000 who have endured an avalanche of Jew-hatred at the hands of Islamist mobs and their far-left supporters.

On May 2, 2024, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (BRA) released a 17-page detailed report on the rise of antisemitic hate crimes, stating that between October 7 and December 31, 2023, Sweden saw five-time folds of antisemitic incidents compared to the same period a year earlier. Jon Lundgren, an investigator at BRA, said in a press statement released on May 2, “These include antisemitic placards and statements in connection with demonstrations, but also threats and offenses against individuals who, based on their Jewish background, have been blamed for Israel’s actions in Gaza.”1 Lundgren added that around 20% of incidents registered by the Swedish police contained “some form of reference to the Hamas attack on October 7.”2 Of the incidents, 39 percent of the incidents fell under the category of “incitement against an ethnic group” and 28 percent were categorized as “vandalism.” Most of the crimes of Jew-hatred crimes were recorded in the police’s southern region, which is where the city of Malmö is located.3

On November 20, 2023, two months after Hamas’s October 7 pogroms, the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities conducted a survey among Sweden’s Jewish communities, including Malmö and Stockholm. The findings were shockingly alarming: “91% reported that insecurity had increased during October-November 2023;” 63% of Sweden’s Jews were scared of falling victim to antisemitic crimes; 82% are afraid to be openly Jewish, e.g., wearing a Star of David or Kippah.4

It is essential to highlight the geographical differences and the most significant concerns. Most reported antisemitic incidents occur in southern Sweden, meaning Malmö. The capital, Stockholm, and Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg, are marginally lower. According to the study, “Malmö is mentioned in particular, along with suburbs with a large population of Middle Eastern origin.”5

The Islamization of Malmö and the Rise of Contemporary Antisemitism

In recent years, a new form of antisemitism emerged in Sweden, an imported one. Much like the “traditional” form of antisemitism – vehement views about the Jewish people, wild conspiracies, Holocaust denial, distortions, and so on. The imported contemporary antisemitism removed the word “Jew” and replaced it with “Zionist” and “Israel.”

Before going any further, let us be clear: it is not antisemitic to criticize the Israeli government or the Israeli army, nor is it antisemitic to express sympathy with the plight of the people of Gaza; many Jews and Israelis do that. The imported form of antisemitism we are witnessing in Sweden is not about criticizing the Israeli government, nor is it about a call for peace, a call to return the hostages, or finding solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead, it’s about “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a call for the elimination of Israel and the denial of the Jews to exist as people in their own homeland. This imported “Middle Eastern” antisemitism is deeply rooted in Jew-hatred, whitewashed by pretending to call for a ceasefire.

In 2000, as an undergraduate student living in Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city and once home to a vibrant Jewish community, I would often pass by the city’s first and only synagogue, Malmö Synagogue, which was built in 1903. It is a gigantic building with a colorful mixture of Moorish Revival design and Art Nouveau décor, making it one of the rare synagogues with that design in Europe when most of them were destroyed during Kristallnacht 1938.

The Malmö Synagogue
The Malmö Synagogue (Francois Polito/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Jewish history in Malmö and Sweden goes back centuries. The first Jews settled in Sweden at the end of the 17th century. In those days, the Swedish authorities demanded that they convert to Christianity. However, by 1870, Sweden granted Jews full civil rights. With the rise of Nazim, thousands of Jews from Germany, Russia, Poland, Denmark, and Norway fled to Sweden, with many of them settling in major cities like Stockholm, Malmö, and Gothenburg.

Today, many universities across Sweden, including Lund University, Sweden’s most prestigious educational institute, where I graduated, have turned into a hub-of-Hamas front, calling on the university to cut any educational cooperation with Israeli universities.6 As seen across university campuses in the United States, some so-called students are outsiders and not students.

Two decades later, the Malmö I knew has changed beyond recognition, with repeated vile antisemitic attacks. Regardless of their political affiliations, Malmö’s Jews have come under attack mainly from the city’s Muslim immigrants. During IDF operation “Cast Lead” 2007-2008 against Hamas, the Jewish community in Malmö held a vigil in support of Gaza’s civilians. They were soon after to be outnumbered by Muslim protesters who shouted abuse at them, “damn the Jews” and “Hitler, Hitler.” Sharp objects were thrown towards them, including homemade explosives.7 The list of crimes committed against the Jewish community in Malmö is a lengthy one: on July 23, 2010, Malmö Synagogue was hit with explosives and was attacked again on September 28, 2013.

Following President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 6, 2017, anti-Israel protests broke out in Gothenburg and Stockholm, with Malmö once again taking the prize of being the hotbed of antisemitism. Protesters shouted vile abuse against the city’s Jews. Some protesters told the Swedish national radio, “We have announced the intifada from Malmö. We want our freedom back, and we will shoot the Jews.”8 In the same week following Trump’s recognition, two firebombs destroyed the chapel of the Jewish cemetery, and on another occasion, a bomb went off in front of a Malmö synagogue. Malmö police arrested two: a Palestinian and a Syrian immigrant.9 On November 4, 2023, less than a month after Hamas terrorists committed heinous crimes against Israeli civilians, pro-Palestine protesters gathered outside Malmö Synagogue, burning the Israeli flag and chanting “Bomb Israel.”10

There are thousands of videos from Sweden uploaded on various social media platforms calling for “Globalising Intifada” and the destruction of the only Jewish state. Four months ago, a gathering of antisemites, in broad daylight, took place in one of Stockholm’s most prestigious districts. In the video, the ring leader, a young immigrant girl surrounded by a group of supporters, most immigrants, shouted, “Long live the Intifada, from Stockholm to Gaza, Globalize the Intifada. There is only one solution: Intifada from the river to the sea. Palestine will be free!”11 A few months later, on February 1, 2024, a terrorist attack on the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm was thwarted by Swedish security forces.

No Solution for Malmö’s Jews

The situation for the Jewish community in Malmö is beyond repair, leading to most of the Jews leaving the city. Malmö’s Jewish community has declined radically amid repeated harassment and attacks, mainly by Malmö’s massive Muslim community. Frederik Sieradzki, the spokesman for the Jewish Community of Malmö organization, warns that the “Jewish community could disappear entirely by 2029.12

According to the Malmö municipality’s data, the city today has a population of 362,133 (December 31, 2023). More than 30% of the city’s population is foreign-born, with Iraq and Syria being the top two most common countries of birth. They are followed by Muslim-majority countries “battling” to be on the top-five list: Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan, and Bosnia-Hercegovina.13

Anti-Israel demonstrations at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Swede, May 9, 2024.
Anti-Israel demonstrations at the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Swede, May 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

The number of Jews in Malmö is roughly 500, contrasted with the number of Muslims, which is over 50,000.14 According to the Islamic Center in Malmö, the number of Muslims is much higher, as many Muslims choose not to register with a Muslim congregation.

Historically, antisemitism in Sweden came mainly from right-wing extremists, with Swedish politicians quickly condemning it when it occurred. But in recent years, the sharp rise of antisemitism in Sweden has come mainly from citizens with immigrant-Muslim backgrounds. Nonetheless, there is immense hesitation from the Swedish government to openly address the issue, with many politicians abstaining from tackling it because of the fear of being accused of Islamophobia.

Numerous studies and surveys have shown there is a correlation between Islamism and the rise of contemporary antisemitism in Western societies, including Sweden. In regards to Sweden, Islam, in a short time, has become the second biggest religion in Sweden. Approximately 20% of Sweden’s 10 million population are of non-Swedish origin; according to some estimations, 810,000 Muslims live in Sweden.15 Sweden, like other European countries, has experienced a massive surge of refugees and immigrants since 2010. The majority of them were Muslims. Between 2014 and 2016, Sweden was second after Germany in taking in refugees, mainly Syrians fleeing the civil war; it took in over 200,000, with 77% being Muslims.16

According to projections by the Pew Research Center, the number of Muslims in Sweden will sharply rise within the coming two decades; Sweden “is projected to have the highest share of Muslims (12.4%) in total population among the Western European countries by 2050.”17

A survey conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), titled “Experience and perception of Antisemitism – factsheet –Sweden,” found “40 % of the cases identified the perpetrator as someone with a Muslim extremist view, 27 % – as someone with a left-wing political view.”18

A study commissioned by the Living History Forum and BRA, “Antisemitism in Sweden: A comparison of attitudes and ideas in 2005 and 2020,” concluded that “the great prevalence of antisemitic attitudes found respondents born outside the Nordic region, and even more so among those born outside Europe – a large proportion of whom came from the Middle East – may well reflect the adoption of antisemitic attitudes and ideas found in their countries of birth.” The report added, “It should be noted that antisemitism is comparatively more widespread and politically legitimate in countries in the Middle East.”19

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs approached Magnus Sandelin,20 a Swedish journalist, author, and lecturer with many years of experience mapping and examining extremist movements in Sweden. Sandelin said the fact there were people in Sweden openly celebrating and hailing Hamas’s October 7 atrocities shows that Sweden has a serious antisemitic problem. When asked who these people were, he said, “People with origins in the Middle East and those who belong to some extreme political camps both on the left and the right.”

However, he continued, that most people in Sweden were shocked by the horrific killings Hamas committed against Israeli civilians, but this “general sympathy for the Israeli victims turned to the usual accusation that Israel is committing crimes against the population in Gaza.” One of the main reasons for that, Sandelin argued, is Swedish media, whom he criticizes and blames for being a contributing factor in whipping up anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments.

He told us, “Information from Hamas has been uncritically published and often without any verification. Perspectives that are critical of Israel are usually chosen, and Swedish media rarely place any blame and responsibility on Hamas.” When asked, “Why is Swedish media so critical of Israel?” He replied, “It’s a good question. It seems to be in the walls of many newsrooms. Perhaps it has to do with a distorted power analysis where Israel is seen as the strong one and the Palestinians as the weak/oppressed.” Maybe unintentionally or maybe not, “they are entertaining and playing with the dark forces that want to wipe out the Jewish state.”

Eden Golan, Israel’s representative to the Eurovision Song Contest
Eden Golan, Israel’s representative to the Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, Sweden. (Arkland/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö

Since October 7, there have been many protests in Sweden against Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas, with many of those protests openly having antisemitic prevalences. Sandelin also argued that the younger generation has poor knowledge of the history of the conflict. Without further questioning, “they adopt a ready-made opinion package in which Israel is falsely portrayed as a colonial power, an apartheid state committing genocide.”

Sandelin shared with us his views about what occurred in Malmö during the Eurovision Song Contest: “What went on there was a massive and merciless manifestation of hatred against Israel and against Jews in general, driven mainly by immigrants from countries in the Middle East where antisemitism is legitimate and widespread.” Unfortunately, he said, “it’s been going on for many years. It’s like the boiling frog slowly getting used to the hot water. And with many in Sweden failing to understand how seriously dangerous the situation is becoming.” Today in Sweden, “Jews feel that they no longer can live in Malmö with many thinking to leave Sweden where Jewish kindergartens and schools must have armed guards. Where an Israeli 20-year-old artist (referring to singer Eden Golan) cannot leave her hotel room for fear of being murdered.”

Sandelin told JCPA, “I was ashamed as a Swede and as a human being to see how the mob behaved during Eurovision, with boos and bullying against Israel and against Eden Golan.” The fact that Golan’s song Hurricane received the top vote from the Swedish public, Sandelin explained, “shows that most Swedes are on Israel’s side, and let’s not forget they are the majority, but the boycotters and Israel-haters are just louder,” added Sandelin.

* * *

Notes

  1. https://bra.se/om-bra/nytt-fran-bra/arkiv/press/2024-05-02-kraftig-okning-av-antalet-anmalda-antisemitiska-hatbrott-hosten-2023.html↩︎

  2. Ibid↩︎

  3. https://bra.se/download/18.4488712e18f0fafb6a6333e/1714473688213/2024_Polisanmalda-hatbrott-med-antisemitiska-motiv-under-hosten-2023.pdf page 7 & 13↩︎

  4. https://www.judiskacentralradet.se/single-post/svenska-judars-upplevelse-av-antisemitism-efter-7-oktober – page. 5-6 & 10↩︎

  5. https://eurojewcong.org/news/communities-news/sweden/according-to-a-report-63-of-swedish-jews-are-concerned-about-being-subjected-to-antisemitic-harassment/↩︎

  6. https://www.svt.se/nyheter/lokalt/skane/studentprotesterna-sprider-sig-till-lund↩︎

  7. https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/swedens-damn-jew-problem↩︎

  8. https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Antisemitism/Teens-apologize-for-threatening-to-bomb-Swedish-synagogue-551338↩︎

  9. https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/2017-12-11/ty-article/swedish-jewish-cemetery-attacked-in-second-anti-semitic-incident-this-week/0000017f-f836-d887-a7ff-f8f686020000↩︎

  10. https://www.timesofisrael.com/protesters-chant-bomb-israel-and-burn-flag-outside-synagogue-in-sweden/↩︎

  11. https://www.bing.com/videos/riverview/relatedvideo?q=twitter%20anti%20jewish%20protests%20in%20Malmö%20sweden&mid=D0760DC2802865A29C96D0760DC2802865A29C96&ajaxhist=0↩︎

  12. https://www.jta.org/2021/10/14/global/with-dozens-of-world-leaders-watching-sweden-looks-to-turn-around-its-reputation-on-antisemitism↩︎

  13. https://Malmö.se/Fakta-och-statistik/Befolkning.html↩︎

  14.  
  15. https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2017/11/29/europes-growing-muslim-population/↩︎

  16. Ibid↩︎

  17. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/15-european-countries-with-most-muslims.html↩︎

  18. https://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra_uploads/fra-2019-2nd-survey-on-discrimination-and-hate-crime-against-jews-in-eu-ms-country-sheet-sweden_en.pdf↩︎

  19. https://www.levandehistoria.se/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Summary-of-Antisemitism-in-Sweden-A-comparison-of-attitudes-and-ideas-in-2005-and-2020.pdf – page 107↩︎

  20. Interview with Magnus Sandelin – May, 16, 2024 – conducted in Swedish.↩︎