• Sweden edition
 
Anti-Semitism in Malmö
'Malmö has not become safer for Jews': rabbi
Rabbi Shneur Kesselman pictured at his office in Malmö. Drago Prvulovic/TT

'Malmö has not become safer for Jews': rabbi

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

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 stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

Swedes insist EU prioritize environment

An EU public opinion poll released on Friday revealed that Sweden is the only nation which thinks the environment should be a top priority for the union. READ  

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
File photo: TT

Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'

Police in Gothenburg have confirmed that sex trafficking in the city has developed into a full-blown slave trade - but that they lack the resources to do anything about it. READ  

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution
Photo: TT/The Missionary Church of Kopimism

Pirate Bay inmate claims religious persecution

Peter Sunde has complained that his religious rights have been impinged after he was refused permission to meet a representative of a church inspired by the keyboard shortcuts for cut and paste. READ  

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported
Police at the scene of the threat in June. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

Stockholm 'bomb man' jailed and deported

The 43-year-old man who threatened Stockholm's Gamla Stan with a bomb in June was sentenced on Friday to two years in jail, followed by deportation. READ  

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'
Swedish cops are unhappy with the heat. Photo: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr

Swedish police: 'We're sweaty all the time'

Swedish weather agencies say the summer's warmest day is yet to come, but police in the north have decided that they can't take the heat - and filed a report about the own stifling police station. READ  

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv
File photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

SAS resumes flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv

SAS Scandinavian Airlines has resumed flights from Stockholm to Tel Aviv after the airline completed a 'thorough security analysis' of the situation in Israel. READ  

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself
A Stockholm police car. File photo: TT

Swedish man stabs woman and kills himself

A man and a woman, reported to be both 45-years-old, were found dead on Thursday in an apartment on Lidingö in Stockholm with police suspecting a murder and suicide. READ  

Police fear arson after Sweden mosque fire
Central Norrköping in eastern Sweden. Photo: Stefan Vilcans

Police fear arson after Sweden mosque fire

Swedish police suspect arson after buildings at a mosque in Norrköping in eastern Sweden burned down in the early hours of Friday morning. READ  

Opinion
'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

'Moving wasn't a choice, Sweden called to me'

Caught in an identity limbo and surrounded by often apathetic "love refugees", The Local's resident Swedophile Solveig Rundquist wonders if she's the only expat who moved to Sweden for the culture alone. READ  

Swedish inmates to receive digital tablets
Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

Swedish inmates to receive digital tablets

Sweden's Prison and Probation Services are beginning a project in which suspected criminals will be given surf tablets to look at evidence against them. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
Blog updates

24 July

Sharing our Pride: Celebrating Love & the LGBT Community! (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It’s mid- July in Stockholm, and with much of the city on vacation, things can seem a little quiet – the streets, the bus, and the grocery store. One thing that has not paused for a summer break, though, is preparation for Stockholm’s Pride Festival, which will take place from July 28 to August 2...." READ »

 

22 July

Det (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! “Det” is a personal pronoun that can be used in many ways, and it might me confusing if you always translate “det” to English “it”. In this article I will do my best to guide you to how to use “det”. Det replacing a word, a phrase or a clause Let us begin with the less confusing..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Society
What's On in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Business & Money
Sweden falls to third in global innovation index
Society
Swedish ornithologists keep webcam watch
Photo: Andreas Nordström/Image Bank Sweden
Gallery
Top ten Swedish beach hot spots
Tech
Swedish Wiki vet sets new content record
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån
Lifestyle
In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching July 15-16
Photo: Ola Ericson/Image Bank Sweden
Society
What's On in Sweden
Photo: Lisa Mikulski
National
Hope springs eternal for expat pet shop owner
Gallery
Princess Estelle steals limelight at mum's birthday
National
Swedes risk infants' lives by covering up prams
National
Swede runs for office just using Bitcoin funds
Gallery
People-watching July 11-13
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

733
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
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:
http://psdmedia.se