• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Demonstrations at Sergels Torg in Stockholm. Photo: Kent Vilhelmsson

'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'

Published: 24 Jul 2014 11:27 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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
National
Chainsaw man destroys house in family feud
The man used a chainsaw to destroy most of the Lidköping home. Photo: Shutterstock

Chainsaw man destroys house in family feud

A man in central Sweden has gone on a rampage with a chainsaw after a family housing dispute took an unexpected turn. READ  

National
Man frames beggar with stolen tablet computer
The beggar was detained for almost 24 hours after the accusation. Photo: TT

Man frames beggar with stolen tablet computer

A man in southern Sweden has landed in hot water after he stole a tablet computer, gave it to a beggar, then reported her to the police. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden ready to use force to surface sub
The Swedish Armed Forces have sent out 200 troops. Photo: TT

Sweden ready to use force to surface sub

UPDATED: Sweden's military has announced that if it finds a suspect foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago, it is prepared to force it to the surface "with weapons if necessary". READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sub hunt: 'There is something out there'
Former navy officer Bosse Linden in Vaxholm. Photo: Maddy Savage

Sub hunt: 'There is something out there'

Stockholm's archipelago is the focus of the biggest military operation in Sweden since the Cold War. The Local is in the region's capital, Vaxholm, to see what residents make of the drama. READ  

Presented by CurrencyFair
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
CurrencyFair co-founder Brett Meyers

CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers

Tired of losing money when you send cash back home? Join other expats in Sweden who avoid bank fees and hidden charges by sending money internationally with CurrencyFair, an online marketplace where secure transactions are faster and cheaper. READ  

European Union
Extremist saves Sweden Democrats' EU group
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Extremist saves Sweden Democrats' EU group

The EU group that bound several Eurosceptic parties including the Sweden Democrats has been saved by an MEP from a far-right Polish group, just a week after it appeared to have crumbled, according to a UK press report. READ  

Stockholm 'submarine' hunt
Timeline: Mystery 'submarine' in Stockholm
Sweden's Armed Forces are out in force after reports of a foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: TT

Timeline: Mystery 'submarine' in Stockholm

The world has had its periscope on Sweden since the Swedish military launched an extensive hunt for what is rumoured to be a damaged Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago. Here is the timeline of events so far. READ  

Business & Money
Profit leap for Swedbank
A branch of Swedbank in Malmö. Photo. TT

Profit leap for Swedbank

Swedbank has seen its profits rise higher than expected. READ  

New coalition
Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition
Stefan Löfven has changed his strategy on sick pay. Photo: TT

Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition

Small businesses won't face rising sick pay costs, following a policy reversal from Sweden's new coalition government. READ  

Stockholm 'submarine' hunt
Vessel hunt continues at 'full strength'
Minehunter HMS Koster takes part in the search in the Stockholm archipelago on Sunday. Photo: Marko Säävälä/TT

Vessel hunt continues at 'full strength'

The search for a suspected foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago continues with "full strength" on Tuesday morning, according to Sweden's armed forces. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
National
Sweden deploys troops over underwater threat
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Blog updates

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 

17 October

Editor’s Blog, Oct 17th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Here’s the whole week of news in just 60 seconds. The most-read story was about a..." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
National
A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Lifestyle
Sweden's The Bridge to become 'more Danish'
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
National
What's on in Sweden
National
Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' protection
Society
Interview with Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
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

1,008
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
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
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