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Ilmar Reepalu: 'the Swedish Ken Livingstone'

Ilmar Reepalu: 'the Swedish Ken Livingstone'

Published: 04 Apr 2012 15:25 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 Apr 2012 15:25 GMT+02:00

Embattled Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu's most recent "anti-Semitic" row is reminiscent of the troubles that plagued London's outspoken ex-mayor Ken Livingstone, argues historian and former Malmö resident David Linden.

The recent comments of the Malmö's mayor, the Social Democrat politician Ilmar Reepalu, have been similar to those of the British Labour Party politician Ken Livingstone.

Both Ilmar Reepalu and Ken Livingstone are successful politicians and proud men.

As a result, both have often refused to apologize when they insulted a group or a specific individual. Their comments were "misunderstood" and when they tried to explain them "nobody listened".

Despite the fact that they are politicians who have often spoken truth to power, in London and Stockholm, neither can admit to a mistake. Especially, and most tragically, when it comes to questions concerning Jews or Islam.

Their verbal “mistakes”, however, cannot be blamed on them being new to politics.

In the 1980s, Ken Livingstone led the Greater London Council (GLC). Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher thought "Red Ken" to be a dangerous opponent and abolished the GLC.

He resurfaced in national British politics when New Labour created the post of an elected Mayor of London. In 2000 he ran as an independent and defeated Frank Dobson who was the official New Labour candidate.

Meanwhile, "The Strong Man of Malmö", Ilmar Reepalu, has led the city council since 1994.

Both Livingstone and Reepalu are seen as "straight talking" politicians. They say what they think and they have often benefited from it, politically.

In 2003 Livingstone articulated many people’s critique of the invasion of Iraq. When Ilmar Reepalu suggested that newly arrived immigrants should be forced to settle where there were employment opportunities, he was by many seen as the voice of reason.

Reepalu is also a political tactician who ran Malmö from a minority position between 2002 and 2006

During the 2006 elections that followed, the “Ilmar effect” played an important role in seeing the Social Democrats achieve better results in Malmö than in much of the rest of the country.

For a long time, both Livingstone and Reepalu were seen as politically invincible.

In 2008, however, Ken Livingstone's success story ended when the Conservative candidate Boris Johnson defeated him.

Before the election he had also made a fool out of himself with a series of scandals or "gaffes".

For example, he refused to apologize to a journalist whom he had likened to "a concentration camp guard" following one lubricated dinner.

Even when the journalist informed him that he was Jewish, he refused to apologize.

Furthermore, during the election campaign Livingstone never thought Johnson to be a serious candidate.

Livingstone is once again running for mayor, but this time his Gloria of Invincibility has faded.

There are also scandals and "gaffes": he has avoided incomes tax, despite the fact that he referred to those who had done the same as "rich bastards".

He has supported a radical Islamist cleric who, among other things, has advocated the killing of homosexuals.

He has also taken a job as a TV-presenter for Press TV, which is a channel funded by the Iranian government, and he has claimed that Jews do not vote Labour "because they are rich", a statement he has refused to retract.

In his own way, Ilmar Reepalu is a Swedish version of Ken Livingstone.

He criticizes abuse committed by the Israeli state but he is quiet about radical Islamism. The same can be said of Ken Livingstone.

Both men have used a form of rhetoric where you can detect an underlying ugly sentiment about Jews.

It seems like "they should just put up with it".

Livingstone has in this election had difficulty avoiding accusations of anti-Semitism.

Reepalu should learn from Livingstone’s mistake and resign when he has a chance to do so with dignity.

Unfortunately the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Stefan Löfven, has declared that Reepalu has his "full support".

This is unfortunate for Reepalu personally.

Because with this "Ilmar is Ilmar" attitude, he is free to commit another gaffe and to be defeated at an election.

David Linden is a PhD student in history at King’s College London and a former resident of Malmö. Followed him on Twitter at @davidlinden1.

A previous version of this article was published in Swedish on the Newsmill opinion website.

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Your comments about this article

20:04 April 4, 2012 by BritVik
Reepalu could learn something from Red Ken?????

That's a damned laugh. All he could learn is to be even worse than he is, certainly not better.
21:15 April 4, 2012 by johan rebel
Livingstone and Reepalu, ha ha ha, I'm not sure whose image is tarnished most by being compared to the other.
21:26 April 4, 2012 by Prat
The Star of David burns again...
07:52 April 5, 2012 by RobinHood
David, I think you could have added George Galloway to the list. All three are clever operators who have cynically courted Islamic voters by being beastly to Jews. Is this how local politics will be in the multi-cultural society that we now live in; working-class white boys, shakings hands with numerous radical Islamic leaders and clerics, spouting Jew hating propaganda, and electioneering on the current issues in Bangladesh, Iraq, Somalia or Afghanistan?

The Social Democrat party in Sweden seem to think so. Last week, the party leader publicly expressed his total confidence in Reepalu, and only yesterday, an Eritrean born Social Democrat MP wanted to set aside Sweden's ancient freedom of association laws to stop Eritrean's meeting in Sweden.

A left-wing politician in this new multi-cultural age, really has to have a wider perspective. "If my constituents hate the Jews, then so do I." What nice people they must be!
09:57 April 5, 2012 by tgolan
the problem is that Ilmar Reepalu doesn't know he is the problem,
15:47 April 5, 2012 by Cornelius Hamelberg
Ilmar reepalu is not a professional anti-Jew, anti-Semite and anti-Zionist although he thinks that the Jews of Malmö should lay low or be held collectively responsible for anything that happens in Israel that is not to the liking of the Muslims in his Malmö constituency

That would be like holding US citizens all over the world including here in Sweden responsible / guilty for everything that Uncle Sam does in Afghanistan and Pakistan ....

The Mayor should be more cautious after more than seventeen years experience in office....

At this stage he is not yet as bad as Ken Livingstone and by the way, one of my cousins( Stober) who worked in his office lost a leg on 7th July 2007 in that London terrorist attack....

Ilmar is not yet as bad as Livingstone who invited Professor Tony Martins to do his ranting ina London.... and if he had has his way Farrakhan would have stoked the fires some more in London, the capital of the United Kingdom.....

The New Social Democrat leader must have given him a real talking to in private....
20:19 April 5, 2012 by Berrgurra
I think this story with the Swedish mayor is out of proportions. How can a few words said in a way that can be seen as a mistake crash the whole country into discussions ?
23:27 April 5, 2012 by Uncle
Cornelius

Hey, every Jew in the world seems to be responsible for any decision Netaniyahu makes. If there would be no Israel, Jews would be responsible for poor economies, floods, magnetic storms and shark attacks in Fiji, as they have always been...

Man, only in 2006-2007 UN Human Rights Council had 10 resolutions and 4 decision against Israel (about 25 thousand dead since creation of Israel), whereas Sudan (300 thousand dead in Darfur and 3 million misplaced and 2 million dead since 2002 in Southern Sudan) 1 resolution and 4 decisions... WHile having Sudan as a MEMBER of this wonderful council...

Everyone who would like to be the king of the hill with huge testicles, trashes the Jews in order to get points. Cheap bully behaviour.

Iran was a buddy of Jews when feces hit the fan with Iraq. Then all of a sudden, trading with zionists is not so bad. Turkey trained its entire airforce in Israel. It got the leader of Kurds on a plate from Israel. Now all of a sudden it is strong enough to trash the Jews. Egypt got strongest military in the middle east and Sinai for a peace with Israel. Now all of a sudden the suffering of the palestinians is not equal to the state of say, kopts or the same palestinians in Egypt. Jews are hated out of fashion and begged for help and forgiveness when needed.

Them 700 Jews should leave Malmö and Sweden to Israel and finally be somewhere they are officially defended. Everyone else - and especially the Allah friends can continue rot in their hatred, poverty and uselessness...
10:37 April 6, 2012 by AHA
Leave the man alone. It is beginning to look like what goes on in the US where AIPAC has a great influence on policy making. The Official Council of Swedish-Jewish Communities and AIPAC have the same agenda. Their goal is to become the "King Makers" and it seems like they are succeeding.
11:47 April 6, 2012 by guliver
AHA

every country has its vital interests and act according that interests,it is not enough to be strong militarly but the fight on your exsistence goes on also abroad with the goal to convince forgein countries leadership in our right to defend ourselves against those arab countries and terrorists forces who try to eliminate us,so dipolomacy is also tool,I do agree about AIPAC I do not agree about the small old and weak Swedish coomunity, their Agenda is the Jewish life in Sweden and not the Israeli- Palestinian conflict,indeed Sweden and other Scandinavians countries are very much Pro Palestinian and conduce for a very long time a clear anti Israeli policy.
18:08 April 6, 2012 by Iraniboy
Overreaction and media support to a small issue and ignoring other similar issues which are even bigger is a method used in 'Propaganda friendly' countries headed by countries like US, Iran, Israel, N.Korea etc and in lower extent European countries like UK, France,...and in an extremely limited version in Sweden. As a result you will notice that this issue is not even reported in mainstream Swedish media. It is only one or two which have reported it and others have ignored it!
18:22 April 6, 2012 by TheWatchman
Well made article TL.

@Iraniboy

It's not just about those comments. His hatred for Jews and the acceptance of violence towards Jews at the hands of Muslims is already known and well established. Sweden IS dominated by propaganda, it is just that you like that propaganda, that's the difference.

You see the propaganda as legitimate news so in your eyes it is nearly invisible, except for the stories that go against your people regardless if what is said is true. That's why the plight of the Jews in Malmo isn't mentioned, that side of the story, that Jews are suffering at the hands of 'innocent' refugees and asylum seekers is ignored by the media. The Local has gained some more respect.
18:44 April 6, 2012 by Iraniboy
@TheWatchman

If connecting the Swedish Jewish Council to a legal Swedish political establishment is hatred against Jews then you confirm my point.

In my eyes Judaism and Islam are religions. The former is mainly followed by Semists the latter mainly by Arabs and Africans. Many politicians in Europe and the US for whatever the reason openly harass Muslims for what Islamic criminals have done and there is no problem in it. But heaven forbids if someone talk about possible connection between criminal Jews and the innocent ones. This is called propaganda and you don't need to belong into any group to see it. As millions of Swedes recognize it! Sadly in countries like US and UK who are posting the most in this forum, their government is obliged to justify their oil-hunting wars so they need to demonize the group who is going to be targeted! The less educated people the easier this propaganda process. As result it doesn't go smoothly well in the UK as it does in the US !
19:55 April 7, 2012 by ajs42548
@Iraniboy....How many Muslims have been beaten by Jews in Malmo or even all of Sweden in the last 5 years? How many Jews have been beaten in just Rosengart in the last year?
23:51 April 11, 2012 by Greysuede
Oh please just don't resemble our beloved Ilmar to livingstones, galloways and blairs for the sake of Jesus!
18:34 April 15, 2012 by motti
Livingstone complained that rich Jews would not vote for him. He is quite correct, with the addendum, that poor Jewws would not vote for this Jew hater either.

He and Galloway are awonderful pair of hypocrites and no doubt Reepalu will be keen to join forces with the pair of them. In the UK the big Jew haters were many of the old landed gentry who believe that Jews should not have power or money. They hated Thatcher for having Jews in her cabinet. Today, these idiots have been joined by the far left. There is no doubt that the socilaists have betrayed the Jews and Israel as badly as the those on the far right that hate the Jews. Let's not forget the LibDems with Lady Tonge, another Jew hater. These people feed on hate.
22:37 April 17, 2012 by RobinHood
While campaigning today for mayor of London, Livingstone informed us that Osama Bin Laden should not have been killed. Why would he introduce such an irrelevent issue into a campaign to lead the local goverment of London? Londoners can expect a Reepalu type anti-Jew/Israel comment from Livingstone any day now.

Is this the future of left wing politics? Gerrimander an inner-city electorate by importing tens of thousands of Islamic immigrants, and then campaigning as a Jew hating, terrorist sympathiser.

Can the left sink any lower?
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