• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Analysis
Who exactly is the Swedish woman 'banned' by Israel?
Sweden's foreign minister Margot Wallström. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Who exactly is the Swedish woman 'banned' by Israel?

AFP/The Local · 15 Jan 2016, 11:54

Published: 15 Jan 2016 11:54 GMT+01:00

The unusually frank approach of Sweden's foreign minister is deeply divisive. It has seen fans send her flowers over her biting criticism of Saudi Arabia -- yet also prompted Israel to declare her persona non grata.

Declared unwelcome by authorities in the Jewish state on Wednesday thanks to a raft of critical comments, Margot Wallström has made a name for herself as a vocal feminist and fierce defender of human rights.

The 61-year-old Social Democrat is the undisputed star of her government, but critics wonder whether her tendency to speak her mind -- not a quality traditionally found in diplomats -- is good for the country.

She has repeatedly enraged Israel, starting with Sweden's recognition of a Palestinian state shortly after she became foreign minister in October 2014.

In the wake of November's terror attacks in Paris, she identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the factors explaining why "there are so many people who have become radicalised" -- comments Israel called "appallingly impudent".

And in December, she called on Israel to halt what she called "extrajudicial executions" in response to attacks by knife-wielding Palestinians, following up with a demand the next month for "thorough" investigations into the killing of Palestinians by the Israeli army.


Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he does not want Wallström to visit. Photo: AP/Dan Balilty/TT

Firmly signalling that Wallström needn't book any trips to Israel in the near future, the country's deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely blasted her comments as "a mix of blindness and political stupidity".

Swedish critics have also questioned the wisdom of her diplomatic strategy.

"The political actions of Margot Wallström are marked by controversy," said liberal commentator Lars Kriss, arguing that her anti-Israel offensive borders on "an obsession" and questioning whether she is "an asset" to Sweden.

"Margot Wallström has already made trouble with her habit of thinking aloud," wrote financial newspaper Dagens Industri. "She is beginning to become a problem."

Wallström defends her approach, pointing to the huge number of people who sent her flowers after she lashed Saudi Arabia for human rights abuses in frank terms that other Western foreign ministers might have avoided in dealing with the oil-rich state.

"It's important that you stand up for what you believe in, even when it costs you," she told The Local last year.

"I think there's a double standard among many who criticised me. They say that 'yes, sure, we'll stand up for democracy and human rights, but it must not cost us anything.' And yes, one could actually wish for a clearer stance from those who at least in words say they want to support my position."

READ ALSO: The Local meets Margot Wallström

In March 2015, Riyadh recalled its ambassador to Stockholm, accusing Sweden of "flagrant interference" in its affairs after Wallstrom told parliament the country was a "dictatorship" that violated women's rights and whipped bloggers.

And around the same time, Sweden unilaterally cancelled a long-standing military cooperation deal between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia proceeded to freeze Swedish business visas to the Gulf kingdom -- but with Stockholm fearing the financial impact, Saudi business leaders were invited for talks, and the two countries have now normalised ties.

Wallström has also found time to condemn the "reign of terror" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Story continues below…


Margot Wallström (left) with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (right) after their Social Democrat party formed a government in September 2014. Photo:  Adam Ihse/TT 

Handed the foreign policy portfolio by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven -- a former metal worker well aware of his own inexperience on the international stage -- Wallström has come a long way for someone who started out as a lowly bank clerk in the provinces.

Born in northern Sweden, she became an activist in the 1970s in the solidly left-leaning western province of Värmland, entering parliament at the age of 25.

After a series of ministerial roles she headed to Brussels to become EU environment

She has spoken out tirelessly against the under-representation of women in politics, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon naming her special envoy on Sexual Violence in Conflict in 2010.

And with her country struggling to cope with a huge migrant influx, she cried on television last September when commenting on the fate of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler whose photo became a heartbreaking symbol of the refugee crisis when his body washed up on a Turkish beach.

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

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
Police shoot knife man in central Stockholm
Police technicians spent the rest of Saturday night combing the square for clues. Photo: TT

A knife-wielding man was shot by police officers in Stockholm’s Sergel Square on Saturday night after he attacked officers.

 Ibrahimovic 'is not going to Manchester United' - agent
Ibrahimovic is pondering his next move. Photo: TT

According to Mino Raiola, the agent of Swedish superstar footballer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his client will not be heading to Old Trafford to link up with Jose Mourinho, Manchester United's new manager.

More flight delays hit Swedish airport
For some flights, the problems have led to up to two hours of delays. Photo: TT

Travellers at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport were beset again with delays on Saturday afternoon after technical problems with flightplan management software.

Video
The top reactions to Swedish high heels handyman video
Andersson was in agony after a day of laying floors in high heels. Photo: Emil Andersson

What did The Local's readers think about this viral clip challenging sexist beauty ideals?

Transport authorities call for probe into tech glitch
SAS aircraft grounded at Arlanda airport last week. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

But officials say it was not sabotage that caused last week's network failure, which knocked out large parts of Swedish air traffic.

Why northern Swedes get the hots for sex toys
File photo of handcuffs. Photo: Gunnar Lundmark/SvD/TT

Where in Sweden do people buy the most sex toys? Kiruna in the far north, apparently.

Royal baptism day for Sweden's Prince Oscar
Prince Oscar with Archbishop Antje Jackelén. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

UPDATED: Royalty, dignitaries and other esteemed figures took to Stockholm's Royal Chapel for the ceremony.

Giant replica of Swedish 18th century ship up for sale
The Götheborg setting sail from Stockholm in 2008. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

A replica of a doomed Swedish merchant vessel that sank in 1745 within sight of its home port of Gothenburg has been put up for sale.

Border checks
First migrants make it from Denmark to Sweden on foot
The Öresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark. Photo: Erland Vinberg/TT

Dozens of attempts have been made, but this is the first successful crossing since Sweden introduced ID and border checks.

Brexit
Poll: Swedes are worried about Brexit consequences
The possibility of Brexit has Swedes worried about the EU's future. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

Swedes are worried about what may happen both at home and abroad if Britain votes to leave the EU in June.

Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Gallery
The best, cutest and funniest snaps from Prince Oscar's christening
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Travel
Is this town the best place in Sweden?
Gallery
People-watching: May 25th
Blog updates

27 May

Editor’s blog, May 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, Would you spend a day doing manual labour in high heels? That’s what Swedish…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Society
WATCH: Why Swedish handyman wore pink high heels for feminism
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
Sport
LIST: Top-ten ridiculous things Zlatan has compared himself to
Business & Money
Why Swedes don't want the euro
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vika, Falun
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
National
Why a 116-year-old Swede isn't the world's oldest woman
National
Youth unemployment falls in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: May 11th
Gallery
People-watching: May 6th-8th
Politics
Why Sweden's Greens are in free fall
National
Can these cartoon Swedes help foreigners blend in?
3,348
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