From the JTA:
The mayor of Malmo makes “recurring ignorant and bigoted statements,” a Swedish minister said after meeting with the U.S. envoy to combat anti-Semitism.
Erik Ullenhag, Sweden’s integration minister, issued the statement just after meeting Thursday with Hannah Rosenthal.
“Mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s recurring ignorant and bigoted statements complicate the work to combat anti-Semitism,” he said in an unusually sharp attack in Sweden’s political culture. “These statements not only have a negative impact on the image of Malmo but the entire country’s credibility in these issues.”
Rosenthal told Ullenhag in their meeting that the hourlong meeting she had Tuesday with Reepalu was essentially fruitless.
In an interview with JTA, Rosenthal described the frustrations of her meeting Reepalu.
“I went through and showed how he was using traditional anti-Semitic language, accusing Jews of being part of a conspiracy, denying Jewish people a homeland when he was vocal in support of other people for a homeland — namely, the Palestinians — blaming Jews for what goes on in another country,” she said. “He kept saying he couldn’t understand why ‘they are doing this to me.’ It was ‘they, they, they.’ He could not hear where this was something ‘he’ has to deal with.”
Reepalu told the media after his meeting with Rosenthal that the two had “a good conversation.”
Rosenthal said she told Reepalu that unless he changed, his legacy following his expected departure from office in 2014 after 20 years would be as a bigot rather than one who has helped revive Malmo.
Rosenthal told JTA that she met with leaders of the Jewish, Roma and Muslim communities in Malmo who have joined to combat bigotry in the city. She said the Muslim and Roma leaders told her that Reepalu’s anti-Semitic statements troubled them in part because they created a hostile atmosphere and contributed to attacks on their communities.
The minister who criticised the Mayor is from the ruling Liberal Party. Reepalu is largely uncriticised by his party, as far as I can see. This was the reaction of his party leader, Mona Sahlin:
“There are a number of unfortunate comments from Ilmar that came to be interpreted in that way,” Sahlin added, and underlined that she knows Reepalu well enough to know that it was not what he meant.
“He is a good person. Ilmar is no anti-Semite but is someone who fights racism, and also against the attacks sustained by Jews in Malmö. I have asked him to open a proper dialogue with the Jewish community in Malmö in order to work things out,” the party leader said.
London is too large and important a city to see a significant exodus of Jews. There is hostile rhetoric here, but violent incidents are still pretty rare. Politically speaking, however, the parallels with London under Livingstone are depressingly obvious.
Gene adds: Hannah Rosenthal delivered an excellent speech on antisemitism in 2010.