Sweden

Another strong EU anti-Semitism warning. And yes, journalists should keep covering this story

Another strong EU anti-Semitism warning. And yes, journalists should keep covering this story

My wife was born in Israel and most of her extended family still lives there. We have several close friends living there, plus I also have journalist friends and acquaintances in Israel.

It’s wonderful to have so many people I care about in a nation to which I’m deeply connected. However, this means that when we visit, which is often, we generally have a packed schedule. This leaves us little down time for rest and seeking out new experiences, even when we’re there for a couple of weeks or more.

So for that we schedule stopovers in Europe, either going or coming. Just the two of us and a rented car, exploring and hanging out where our interests take us, including  beautiful and nourishing environments. We're also drawn to Jewish historical sites, old synagogues and the like.

We’re now thinking about another trip to Israel this spring or summer. But this time, we’re considering skipping our usual European respite. Why? Because of the increasingly overt anti-Semitism.

We have no desire to either experience it anew or spend our money in societies where the dislike of Jews and Israel are menacingly on the rise.

A disturbing survey, released just last week, by the European Union on the growing insecurity of the continent's Jews — and their increased desire to emigrate — prompted our reevaluation. Here’s part of how Bloomberg reported the survey's chief findings.

Insecurity fueled by anti-Semitism prompted a growing number of British, German and Swedish Jews to consider leaving their countries, according to a landmark survey conducted by the European Union.

Nine out of every 10 Jews sense anti-Semitism is getting worse with some of the most acute concern registered in northern Europe, according to the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency. The survey is the largest of its kind worldwide and polled more than 16,000 Jews in 12 countries.

“Mounting levels of anti-Semitism continue to plague the EU,” said Michael O’Flaherty, the Irish human rights lawyer who runs the Vienna-based agency. “Across 12 EU member states where Jews have been living for centuries, more than 1/3 say that they consider emigrating because they no longer feel safe as Jews.”

Concerns over safety are prompting Jewish communities in some of the EU’s biggest economies to question whether they should remain, according to the data. In Germany, their share soared to 44 percent from 25 percent six years ago.


The BBC ran its online story on the survey under the headline, “Anti-Semitism pervades European life, says EU report.”

Let that sink in for a moment. “Pervades.”

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Atlantic essay on Poland asks: Why do religious biases seem to accompany populist politics?

Atlantic essay on Poland asks: Why do religious biases seem to accompany populist politics?

“Who gets to define a nation?,” journalist Anne Applebaum asks in a piece she wrote for the latest edition of The Atlantic magazine. “And who, therefore, gets to rule a nation?

For a long time, we have imagined that these questions were settled — but why should they ever be?”

Newspaper, magazine and broadcast reports attempting to explain the moves toward nationalist-tinged political populism in a host of European nations, and certainly the United States as well, have become a journalistic staple, which makes sense given the subject’s importance.

Here’s one recent example worth reading produced by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat  that looks at the issue in light of the recent Swedish national election. His focus is whether the political center can continue to hold, and for how long?

So why single out this magazine essay by Applebaum, who is also a columnist for The Washington Post?

Because it’s a good example of how a writer’s deep personal experience of living within a culture for many years can produce an understanding that’s difficult to find in copy produced by the average correspondent who, at best, spends a few years in a region before moving on to a new assignment.

Granted, the American-born Applebaum has the advantage of being married to a Polish politician and writer. She herself has become a dual citizen of the U.S. and Poland, and is raising her children in Poland.

As a Jew, however, she retains her outsider status in Polish society. It's from this vantage point that she conveys how Poland’s shift toward right-wing populism has impacted the nation, and her. (Her piece is one of several published by The Atlantic grouped together under the ominous rubric, “Is Democracy Dying?”)

If it is dying, at least in the short run, she argues that in large measure it’s due to the sweeping demographic changes in Europe triggered by the large number of Muslim refugees and immigrants fleeing war, poverty and general chaos in Syria, Iraq, North Africa and elsewhere who have moved there.

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Anti-Semitism in Germany: Prime your sources, Israel-Iran conflict could make it far worse

Anti-Semitism in Germany: Prime your sources, Israel-Iran conflict could make it far worse

The supreme irony of German anti-Semitism is that it took the horrors of the Holocaust and the near-total destruction of German Jewry to banish it from wholesale public acceptance.

These days, anti-Semitism still has a bad name in Germany, at least under the law. It's illegal there to incite hatred against Jews (and other ethnic and religious groups) or to deny and even minimize the nation’s Nazi-era Holocaust crimes.

But that hasn't been enough to keep anti-Semitism from reemerging in Germany in a big way of late, particularly among the far-right and Muslim immigrants. I’ll say more below, but for now just keep this in mind: the Israel angle.

Germany, of course, isn't the only European nation to fall prey to a re-run of what many over the years have labeled the world’s oldest hatred. Examples abound in the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary and elsewhere.

Nor is rising anti-Semitism in the West confined to Europe. It's being more freely expressed in the United States -- remember Charlottesville? -- and in Canada, as well.

By way of illustration, here’s a bit from a recent story from Poland by JTA, the global Jewish news wire service. (Journalists and others with an interest in Jewish-related news should read it regularly; it's free.)

Things went from bad to worse following a row between Poland and Israel over Warsaw passing a law in January that criminalizes blaming the Polish nation for Nazi crimes. The dispute unleashed the worst wave of anti-Semitism since the fall of the Iron Curtain, according to Rafal Pankowski, co-founder of the Polish anti-racism group Never Again.

In the wake of the fight over the law, he told JTA: “In the space of one month, I have seen more anti-Semitic hate speech than in the previous 10 years combined.”

Ah, another Israel-angle tease. But first, a personal aside to make my bias clear.

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Next up: Look past terrorism to probe Europe's deeper changes tied to its Muslim influx

Next up: Look past terrorism to probe Europe's deeper changes tied to its Muslim influx

You may recall that just last week I wrote about Australia’s reticence to accept Muslim refugees and an apparent New York Times failure to identify Muslims as Muslims in a featured article on the issue.

My guess is that more than a few Australians who are against accepting Muslim refugees felt vindicated in their position when they learned about a new Pew Research Center report on how Muslim refugees are demographically transforming Europe.

My question: What is the appropriate reaction to this historical population shift and oes it vary from one host non-Muslim nation to another?

I'm referring to more than current -- and hopefully just temporary, even if lasts another decade or so -- fears about terrorism committed in the name of Islam.

Not to be misunderstood, let me make clear that I do think those fears are -- in many but not all instances -- absolutely warranted.

But what I’m attempting to address here are the more long-term impacts -- cultural, social and political -- guaranteed to result from this vast human migration from Asia and Africa into the historically white Christian nations of Europe.

Like Humpty Dumpty, the Europe of old will not be put back together again,

There will be so many ramifications ahead that journalists -- religion beat pros and others -- need to start addressing now, and doing it openly and honestly, without fear of offending but with sensitivity and respect as well.

We need to go beyond our journalistic uncomfortableness about projecting future possibilities. 

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Fighting radicalism: Los Angeles Times offers glossy look at new Muslim efforts in Sweden

Fighting radicalism: Los Angeles Times offers glossy look at new Muslim efforts in Sweden

It's one thing to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. It's another thing to ignore or gloss over what could very well be darkness. The Los Angeles Times comes close to the latter in its feature on Muslim efforts at peace in Malmo, Sweden.

The article begins with the three-year-old Islam Academy, which attempts to make young students not only better Muslims, but better Swedes.

In other words, this is a madrasa with a difference:

Like other madrasas, as Muslim religious schools are known, the academy teaches the Koran, traditional Sunni Islamic spirituality, sharia law and Arabic.
Unlike many, it also teaches secular topics. Among them: the Swedish language, nature and sports activities, and social responsibility. The last of these includes interreligious dialogue, especially with the Jewish community.
"All our education programs have the effect of immunizing our youth against radicalization," said Barakat, a 34-year-old imam, who was sitting in his office above the academy's prayer hall dressed in a pale, ankle-length robe and skullcap.

The story, which was funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, continues with a briefing on Malmo, the point of entry for most immigrants to Sweden. "About 20% of Malmo's 300,000 people are Muslim, making it one of the most Muslim cities in Western Europe," the Times says.

But the Rosengard district, where many of the Muslims finally settle, is the focus of this story. Rosengard was the site of riots in 2008 and 2011. Many outsiders regarded the area as a "no-go zone," hazardous for non-Muslims.

Clearly, the goal of this Los Angeles Times piece is to change that image:

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Missoula Independent takes sides on Muslim refugee debate

Missoula Independent takes sides on Muslim refugee debate

Missoula is a small city on a plain surrounded by the mountains of western Montana. I got to visit it in 2008 to enjoy the wilderness to the north and west of the city. It has a weekly newspaper, the Missoula Independent, which has a wide variety of pieces on life in the intermountain West.

One aspect of that life are the refugees trickling into some of these isolated locales. Recently, the Independent published a piece on Muslim refugees, and the problems that some of the locales are having with their presence.

The headline “Fear meets loathing” gives you a hint of what is to come. Watch for the POV the reporter clearly has in this piece:

A phone call was the first sign of trouble for Darby librarian Wendy Campbell. The small public library at the far end of the Bitterroot Valley had scheduled a University of Montana professor to speak about Islam on March 9 as part of a cultural series on immigration experiences. The caller, a patron, wanted it canceled.
"She said that she was so mad, she needed to talk to me and tell me how she felt. She was against this Muslim coming to Darby. She said we were at war with Islam," Campbell says.
The next morning, three more concerned patrons showed up at the circulation desk. Campbell gave them complaint forms. They took extra copies for their friends.
Two days later the library board held an emergency meeting, ultimately agreeing that longtime Arabic professor Samir Bitar's presentation should continue as planned. But Campbell says she's reluctant to discuss the situation, fearing further escalation of an already tense environment.
"There is something building," Campbell says. "It's not a nice thing."

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Really? A Starbucks cup is news and a Judenrein Kristallnacht commemoration isn't?

Really? A Starbucks cup is news and a Judenrein Kristallnacht commemoration isn't?

Let's start with some basic questions.

Raise your hands if you're familiar with the recent story about a Starbuck's coffee cup. You know, the red one. C'mon, keep them up. I'm counting. (Play along. Someday there'll be an app for this.)

Ah-ha. Quite a few of you, I see.

Now, how many of you are aware of the story about how the Swedish city of Umea marked the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht last week but didn't invite local Jews because city officials thought it too dangerous for them to attend?

Not many hands in the air this time, I see. I'm not surprised.

Last question: What does it say about the American news media that a silly non-story about a Starbucks' cup shows up everywhere, but a Judenrein Kristallnacht commemoration passes largely unreported?

I'd say a great deal. None of it good.

So I just said "last question," but here's one more. Why does it take a Paris massacre for journalists to pay close and continued attention to the individual dots that when connected lead to mass terrorist assaults?

Here's some background -- not on the cup. What's left to say? Let's talk about the incident in Umea.

The following is excerpted from The Daily Beast, one of the very few American news outlets to report the story, even if it did so with an incomplete and poorly edited story.

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