• Sweden's news in English
 
almadalen_header

'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'

Published: 24 Jul 2014 11:27 GMT+02:00

As usual it didn’t take long for events in Gaza and Israel to reach Swedish public attention. For the benefit of those who witnessed the demonstrations in Stockholm last week , those who read the statements made by Swedish politicians and those following the coverage in the Swedish media here are a few recommendations and warnings about the way Swedes may see the conflict, and how they can do something about it.

See also: Löfven rejects 'Israel self-defence' post criticism

Firstly, don't believe the demonstrators who tell you that Hamas is a legitimate liberation movement.

Hamas is a fundamentalist, racist, death-worshipping organization which uses terror and violence against both Palestinians and Israelis. It's in total control of Gaza which is not occupied by Israel; it has never agreed to the two state solution; it doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist; it invests millions of dollars received from abroad in warfare instead of infrastructure, healthcare and education and it intentionally targets Israeli civilians.

Hamas' aim is the total destruction of the Jewish state, not a compromise with it. Swedish Green Party MP Mehmet Kaplan's words last week were particularly revealing. "We shall free Jerusalem" he shouted at a demonstration in Medborgareplatsen. Yes, that's right, Jerusalem, not Gaza. But beyond the politics of borders and security arrangements, if there's an hierarchy of evil-doers in this crisis, Hamas, which uses intentional killing of children as a political tool justified by religious ideology, is no doubt on the top of it.

But don’t believe the official Israeli spokesmen quoted in the Swedish media either.

Even if they're extremely well-spoken, even if they have American accents and great catch phrases, don’t believe them when they paint a picture of a military operation which is defensive by nature, targeting only armed militants.

Israel isn't out for Palestinian blood, but its overwhelming advantages in military technology and fire power make a bloodbath inevitable. Palestinians are being killed by the hundreds and there is a built-in asymmetry in the death toll. Israel's military operation in Gaza is causing a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the world's poorest and most densely populated areas. Because of this and because of Israel's modern defence systems, if there's an hierarchy of suffering, the Palestinians with their dead children, their thousands of displaced refugees, their bombed hospitals and demolished quarters are no doubt on the top of it.

See also: Swedish activist defies Israel warning in Gaza

 

But don’t believe the Palestinian story of a bloodthirsty Israeli government operating an army of professional killers either.

The main reason Palestinian civilian targets are being hit is because Hamas militants choose to place their weapons and hide their troops behind, under and besides apartments, schools, hospitals and mosques. This has been proven time and again and Hamas leaders have even been seen publicly justifying the practice of using civilians as human shields in the name of the holy war against the infidels.

Most Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza so far are young men in their late teens or early twenties, just out of high-school, put in a terrible situation wanting to protect their parents, girlfriends and siblings from missiles aimed at their homes. They are not bloodthirsty mercenaries.

But don't believe Israel's advocates who tell you that Israel, as the only democracy in the Middle-East, is a western, almost European society, promoting humanism, gay rights and religious freedom while it's attacked by its barbarian neighbours.

Sadly, the plague of racism and extreme nationalism has entered mainstream Israeli society as well as its national media and corridors of power. Israel could have been, indeed it should have been, a force for progress, democracy and welfare in the Middle East, instead it's becoming more and more adapted to the ugliest sides of the region with its growing fundamentalist religious movements and brutal xenophobic mobs, all in the service of international forces using the local population as clients for weapons manufacturers and sellers of energy sources.

But don’t believe the Palestinians who tell you the conflict is between Jews and Arabs. It's not.

This conflict is part of a wider political complex. Israel is now - at least temporarily - in a strategic partnership with Egypt which is why it agreed to an Egyptian ceasefire plan designed to counter an initiative by Qatar and Turkey. While the Arab world is in flames fuelled by tension between Sunnis and the Shiites, rivalries between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the disintegration of Syria and Iraq, radical Muslim organizations such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are are just as eager to kill rival Muslims as they are to kill Jews.

But don't blindly accept the Israeli narrative describing the Arabs as pathological rejecters of peace.

Since the Oslo agreements in the early nineties Israel has rejected many peace initiatives both local and international, preferring Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and a one-sided disengagement in Gaza. In the meantime it has made the daily life of the Palestinians in both regions impossible and has weakened the moderate Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas.

But most of all – don't believe those who tell you that you don't get it, that you're ignorant, that you don't understand the complexity of the situation and that there's nothing you can do to change it. You can. But diplomatic statements, angry outbursts and one-sided demonstrations in the streets of Stockholm won't do it.

See also: Stockholm Gaza demo targets Israeli embassy

There's nothing wrong with outbursts and demonstrations. Showing solidarity with the victims of war and expressing popular support or outrage are worthy causes. But importing the Middle East's violence, shallow clichéd banners and ignorant hysterical screams won't help anyone. Neither will boycotts, sanctions and biased resolutions.

Swedes, however, can give a great deal to the people of Tel-Aviv, Gaza city, Sderot and Beit-Hanoun.

They can teach them the inspiring pragmatism of the Swedish welfare state and its ability to invest in universal healthcare, education, an uncorrupted governing system and an open society. Forget about carefully crafted diplomatic lingo; forget about vocal, uncompromising support to one side only. Swedes can contribute the moral and political legacy of the likes of Raul Wallenberg and Olof Palme, they can shake off the ugly baggage of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism still haunting them, and contribute their historical heritage of peacemaking and activism which takes a stand and saves lives wherever and whenever needed.

'What impressed me", wrote George Orwell about the Spanish Civil-War, "is that atrocities are believed in or disbelieved in solely on grounds of political predilection. Everyone believes in the atrocities of the enemy and disbelieves in those of his own side".

IN PICTURES: Stockholm demonstration against Israel

It seems many Israelis and many Palestinians have reached this point of apathy, distrust and despair. If anything, this should be what Swedish demonstrators, reporters and politicians together with their European allies, should contribute to this escalating crisis - impartial and unaligned help – not empty rhetoric of criticizing this and supporting that, rather humanitarian assistance and international funding and assurances for a lasting, stable and fair ceasefire.

David Stavrou

For more stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Almedalen 2015 with the EU Commission in Sweden
'Today's refugees could be tomorrow's Zlatan'
Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

'Today's refugees could be tomorrow's Zlatan'

Sweden is grappling with how to handle a large influx of asylum seekers while some other EU nations brush off responsibility – but it's important to focus on the benefits of immigration as well, high-profile panelists agreed at an Almedalen event. READ  

Almedalen 2015
LIVE: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven
Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

LIVE: Sweden's political power forum - Day Seven

It's the seventh day of Almedalen, the most important week in Swedish politics, and the Left Party is running the show. The Local is live blogging the key moments. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Opposition head pledges lower taxes on first jobs
Sweden's Moderate party leader Anna Kinberg Batra at Almedalen. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Opposition head pledges lower taxes on first jobs

Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra spoke about jobs in her first speech at Almedalen since becoming head of Sweden's biggest opposition party. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six
New Moderate Party leader Anna Kinberg Batra speaking at Almedalen. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Six

Anna Kinberg Batra - the new leader of Sweden's biggest opposition party, the Moderates - focused on job creation in her first speech at Almedalen, Sweden's huge week-long politics forum. READ  

Jump in solo children seeking Swedish asylum
A playground at Märsta immigration centre in Sweden. Maja Suslin/TT

Jump in solo children seeking Swedish asylum

A record 1447 unaccompanied children sought asylum in Sweden last month, figures from the Swedish Migration Board have revealed. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Cashless society faces backlash from losers
What are the downsides of a cashless society? Photo: Per Larsson/TT

Cashless society faces backlash from losers

Sweden is possibly the nearest thing the world has to a cashless society, but some Swedes are worried about the effects on rural areas, pensioners - and personal integrity. READ  

Almedalen 2015
Sweden's green leader in second Auschwitz gaffe
Åsa Romson at Sweden's Almedalen Week. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Sweden's green leader in second Auschwitz gaffe

UPDATED: Sweden's Deputy Prime Minister and Green Party leader Åsa Romson has stirred up a storm after she placed Auschwitz in southern Germany instead of Poland, her second gaffe about the holocaust. READ  

Oasis star calls Zlatan 'idiot' but 'likes Sweden'
Noel Gallagher performing earlier this year (L) and Sweden’s star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic (R): Photos: TT

Oasis star calls Zlatan 'idiot' but 'likes Sweden'

One of the UK’s most iconic Britpop era stars, Noel Gallagher, has caused a stir in Sweden after calling its star footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic a ‘moron’ and slamming a Nordic journalist. READ  

Julian Assange
Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations
Julian Assange following a court hearing in 2010. Photo: TT

Timeline: Julian Assange sex allegations

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden where he is facing sex assault allegations. The Local looks at the key points in his case so far. READ  

The Local Music
The Local's top Swedish songs of the month
Tove Lo - The Local's number one singer for July. Photo: Promo

The Local's top Swedish songs of the month

The Local's music guru, Paul Connolly, has been sweating over Sweden's hottest new music so you don't have to. Here's a selection of July's best tracks. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Learning Swedish: different rules for expats and refugees?
Sport
IN PICTURES: Thousands welcome home Sweden’s heroes
Politics
Almedalen: The Local's guide to Sweden's power players week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Swedes soak up sun on hottest day of year
Sport
Sweden celebrates greatest sporting victory in decades
Blog updates

2 July

Som eller att (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! It happens quite often, that my students are confused over when to use “som” and when..." READ »

 

26 June

Editor’s blog, June 26th (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Stockholm, We’re about to transport our newsroom to the idyllic Swedish island of Gotland for..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: July 1st
Sponsored Article
VIP Mingle at Almedalen's hottest event
National
Swede battles slug invasion
Sponsored Article
What can we learn from Swedish women's sex habits?
National
VIDEO: Is this herring tasting clip an 'insult to Sweden'?
Gallery
Property of the week: Visby, Gotland
National
Sweden set for sunniest week of year
Gallery
People-watching: June 26th-28th
Features
The Local's essential guide to who's who in Swedish politics
National
More Swedish military exercises as Russia aggression fears grow
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Travel
Why Swedish camp sites are set for a bumper summer
National
Swedish summer's really on its way (at least according to forecasters)
Gallery
People-watching: June 24th
National
Why are southern Swedes angry about becoming 'Danish' again?
Society
Lifestyle: When to catch your favourite features on The Local
National
Is Sweden one of the world's most peaceful nations?
Sponsored Article
Harstena: Travelling to Sweden's secret islands
National
One in ten Swedish cats homeless
Sponsored Article
'I constantly evolve my Swedishness'
Gallery
Property of the week: Värmdö, Stockholm
Society
Would you eat this Swedish pizza?
National
Swedish royals' dream honeymoon
National
Swedish hospital opens first centre for male rape victims
Gallery
People-watching: June 20th-21st
Photo: TT
Lifestyle
Midsummer: The Local's guide to Sweden's craziest festival
Sponsored Article
Murder, myth and magic: Travelling to the birthplace of Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th
Sponsored Article
Gallery: Life in Sweden's secret archipelago
Society
Seven alternative names for Sweden's Prince Nicolas Paul Gustaf
National
FBI returns stolen Swedish books
National
Want to smell like Zlatan?
National
Royal joy over birth of new prince
Gallery
Property of the week: Brantevik, Simrishamn
National
How racy graffiti inspired a teacher's high school sex class
Gallery
People-watching: June 12th-14th
National
As it happened: Prince Carl Philip marries Sofia Hellqvist
Technology
Is Stockholm the world's creative capital?
National
Timeline: Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
KTH President: ‘Sweden’s success is because of its size’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: New royal couple Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Features
Ten Swedish festivals to discover
Features
Ten reasons Stockholm is definitely way cooler than Copenhagen
National
VIDEO: Watch Swedish man rescue baby elk from cold creek
National
VIDEO: Have you seen this jet ski blunder at a Malmö hotel opening?
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Sponsored Article
The millionaire teacher who leads by tough love
Sponsored Article
How to change the world: Malmö to Mogadishu
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

3,236
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