• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Malmö has not become safer for Jews': rabbi

The Local · 9 Jul 2014, 11:55

Published: 09 Jul 2014 11:55 GMT+02:00

On Sunday Ismail Babakr, a 38-year-old living in Seved, Malmö, was severely beaten with iron pipes in what police have called a hate crime.

"I can't say it was a surprise when I heard the news, but there is still an element of shock," local rabbi Kesselman told The Local on Wednesday. "I was saddened by it more than anything else."

The American rabbi, who moved to Malmö in 2004, has experienced plenty of anti-Semitic taunts during his decade in the Swedish south. Ordeals have included someone carving the word 'Palestina' into his car, and the abuse is ongoing.

"Just last week somebody spat in my face and shouted 'damn Jew' at me. It has never happened on a daily basis, but the harassment is something I still experience, and as a result I don't spend so much time in town," Kesselman explained.

Initial reports about the incident on Sunday night said that Ismail Babakr had been beaten for hanging an Israeli flag in his window. He later said he suspected the assault may have more to do with the current political situation in the Middle East.

Babakr said he has had the flag in his window for over a year, and didn't understand why it became a problem now. The only reason he could think of was his political sympathies. 

"I am active on social media against the Iranian regime," Babakr told newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. "I like Jews and Israel. And for me it's no stranger than having a Swedish flag in my widow."

It isn't the first time that an Israeli flag in Malmö has been attacked. When the city hosted the Eurovision song contest in 2013, the Israel sign was removed on two occasions from a lamppost which included all the flags of the participating nations.

Don't miss: Fear and giggles - A day as a Jew in Malmö

"People were already reluctant to fly the flag, and will probably be more so now. I'm not sure there is another flag out there that would cause such a reaction," Kesselman told The Local.

He added; "It is one thing to have political views about Israel, but quite another to take the law into your own hands. That goes against the very fabric of Swedish society, which is freedom of speech."

One of Ismail Babakr's windows was smashed by a rock on Saturday, and just after midnight on Monday the second stone was thrown. Babakr ran out to the street and followed those who had thrown the rocks - first just two young men, but with another eight or ten waiting around the corner, he said.

"They said that I couldn't have an Israeli flag in my window, and that things would go terribly for the Kurds," Babakr told Svenska Dagbladet. The gang proceeded to beat Babakr with iron pipes.

Malmö mayor, Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, told The Local in a 2013 interview that she intended to "build bridges" with the Jewish community. 

"It is completely unacceptable that anyone feels insecure when they walk on the streets of Malmö, whatever the reason," she told The Local.

Her predecessor, Ilmar Reepalu, had caused outrage for remarks about the city's Jewish population. The membership of the local Jewish community centre has dwindled to approximately 600, while there are an estimated 2,500 Jews among Skåne County's total population of 1.25 million residents.

And things do not appear to be improving, with many of the Jews in the city electing to move to Stockholm or to leave Sweden altogether.

Story continues below…

Babakr, who suffered severe injuries to his head and leg in the fight with his perpetrators, said that he is not afraid, but no longer wants to stay in his home city. 

"I want to move now. I don't want to live here. Not in Malmö."

Rabbi Kesselman said he didn't want to encourage people one way or the other if they wanted to wanted to emulate Babakr and fly an Israeli flag in Malmö.

"That is the dangerous start of a slippery slope when you start making the unacceptable an acceptable reality. What is mind-boggling is how society just accepts these things happening.

He concluded: "I wish I could say Malmö is getting safer for Jews but unfortunately it isn't." 

The Local
Patrick Reilly/Solveig Rundquist

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
PLO seeks apology over Sweden Eurovision flag ban
Sweden was the first EU member state in Western Europe to officially recognise the State of Palestine. Photo: TT

First it was the Basques...

Sweden's king celebrates 70th birthday
King Carl XVI Gustaf joins in with a rendition of All You Need Is Love with the Tensta Gospel Choir and their leader Cedwin Sandanam. Photo: TT

But Norwegian royals stay at home after deadly helicopter crash.

Brussels attacks
Swedish terror suspect 'dumped bomb in toilet'
Osama Krayem. Photo: Facebook

Belgian media report that Osama Krayem tried to dispose of the explosives before carrying them onto the Brussels metro system.

Eurovision 2016
Regional politicians hit out at Sweden's Eurovision flag ban
Lots of flag-waving at Eurovision. Photo: AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson

Spanish politicians have criticized Swedish Eurovision organizers after a regional flag was banned alongside that of Isis from the competition in Stockholm.

Eight charged over shooting at Gothenburg restaurant
People leaving flowers at the scene of the fatal shooting last year. Photo: TT

The attack last spring left two people dead in one of the most high-profile shootings in Sweden in recent years.

Swedes want answers from Russia after Nato warning
Russian T-14 Armata tanks make their way to Red Square during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in May. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

UPDATED: What exactly does Russia's foreign minister mean when he says his country will "take action" if Sweden joins Nato?

Two historic shipwrecks found right in central Stockholm
Divers looking for a ship in central Stockholm. Photo: Anders P Näsberg/Statens maritima museer

Another two shipwrecks dating back to at least the 1600s have been found in central Stockholm.

Alicia Vikander scoops lead role in new Tomb Raider
Alicia Vikander poses at the Scandinavian terrace during the 68th Cannes film festival last May. Photo: Jean Christophe Magnenet/AFP

The next Lara Croft will be a Swede.

Brussels terror suspect wants jail time in Sweden
Osama Krayem. Photo: Facebook

Osama Krayem wants to come home if found guilty.

The Local Recipes
How to make Sweden's famous veal burgers
Photo: John Duxbury

These mouth-watering burgers, or Wallenbergare, are a classic at Swedish restaurants. Food writer John Duxbury shares his recipe with The Local.

Sponsored Article
Kista: The best office space in Sweden?
Analysis & Opinion
Why Sweden's fretting about Brexit
Sponsored Article
Why international researchers love to call Malmö home
National
INTERVIEW: Swedish police officer 'beat me up and used racial slurs'
Gallery
People-watching: April 27th
Blog updates

29 April

Editor’s blog, April 29th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Relations between Sweden and Russia went from slightly strained to full-on James Bond this…" READ »

 

18 April

A day as a guard (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Life as an Ambassador. Driven around in the Jaguar. Visits all planned so you go straight…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
‘Life in Stockholm’s suburbs is better than people realize’
National
Öresund bridge border checks net record number of drink drivers
Sponsored Article
'A huge waste of resources': how to fix integration
National
Swedes bid farewell to iconic Volvo
Gallery
Property of the week: Enköping
Gallery
People-watching: April 22nd-24th
Sponsored Article
'A sustainable Sweden must embrace diversity'
Politics
Could Brits in Europe stop Brexit?
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
National
The first official picture of Sweden's new royal Prince Alexander
National
Sweden's Sami reindeer still live in the shadow of Chernobyl
Sponsored Article
Sigtunaskolan: 'The best of what Sweden has to offer'
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 20th
Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
National
Why was a Nazi flag hoisted in a Swedish town on Hitler's birthday?
National
How did Sweden's deputy PM get in trouble over New York comments?
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 16th-17th
Sponsored Article
'I may work at a Swedish company, but we’re global'
Culture
Sweden finally axes historic dancing ban
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: Stockholm's secret dating scene
International
Have you phoned Sweden yet?
Sponsored Article
'Swedes must realize only soft power can defeat radicalism'
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 13th
National
Is booze going up in Sweden?
National
How Sweden's fake 'smombie' traffic sign is being used for real
Culture
Sweden's Tarzan drops trousers
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 9th-10th
Sport
Zlatan wants to be new 'Rambo'
National
Swedes in a huff about giant TV penis
3,269
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se