Malmö mayor in new row with Sweden's Jews
Published: 23 Mar 2012 16:18 GMT+01:00
Updated: 23 Mar 2012 16:18 GMT+01:00
Sweden's Jewish community has railed anew against Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu after comments suggesting the city's Jewish community had been "infiltrated" by Sweden Democrats to foment anti-Muslim sentiments.
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"With this letter, we want to point out that Ilmar Reepalu no long has any credibility among us Jews in Sweden," reads a letter signed by the heads of the Jewish communities in Malmö, Stockholm, and Gothenburg.
"Regardless of what he says and does from now on, we don't trust him."
The letter comes following an interview published on Thursday in the liberal-leaning magazine NEO in which Reepalu discussed the "strong ties" between the Jewish community and the Sweden Democrats, a political party with a clear anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim line which has its roots in Sweden's neo-Nazi movement.
According to Reepalu, "Sweden Democrats have infiltrated the Jewish community in order to push their hate of Muslims".
The statements were immediately dismissed by Fred Kahn, chair of the Jewish Community in Malmö (Judiska församlingen) as "pure fantasy".
Reepalu, a Social Democrat, quickly backtracked on Thursday, admitting to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) daily that he "had no basis" for his claims and that he "shouldn't have said it that way".
But the back tracking came too late for the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities (Judiska centralrådet i Sverige – JC), which on Friday penned a letter to Social Democrat head Stefan Löfven blasting Reepalu's claims.
According to the Jewish leaders, the Malmö mayor has "crossed all boundaries" with his comments, especially considering that Reepalu previously laid blame on Sweden's Jews for the threats, violence, and harassment to which they've been subjected.
"We are more than upset when we today read the interview in the magazine NEO where he flagrantly accuses Jews for ties with the Sweden Democrats," they write.
"We're all too familiar with these types of conspiracy theories."
The Jewish community leaders also warned Löfven that the Social Democrats risk losing support among Sweden's Jews, many of whom are members of the party, because of Reepalu's comments.
"Many of them have recently expressed their dismay, but also sadness, about no longer being able to support a party represented by someone whose rhetoric is clearly anti-Semitic," they write.
Speaking with the TT news agency following the release of the Jewish community's letter, Reepalu once again defended himself.
"I've never been an anti-Semite and never will be," he said.
"I've been in Israel with my children several times and explained to them the importance that Jewish culture has Europeans."
However, Reepalu ruled out taking any extraordinary measures to make amends with the Jewish community.
"What can I do? They don't listen," he said.