“Israel is an apartheid state. I think Gaza is comparable to the Warsaw ghetto,” said Ingalill Bjartén, the vice chair for the Social Democratic women’s organization (S-kvinnor) in Skåne in southern Sweden, to the Sydsvenskan newspaper.
“I’m surprised that Israel – where large numbers of the population suffered under the Nazis – can do the exact same things the Nazis did.”
The comments come as Bjartén and her counterparts from the Left Party have both called on Sweden to skip an upcoming Davis Cup tennis match against Israel, currently scheduled to take place in Malmö in early March.
The calls to boycott the Israel match have awakened memories of previous demonstrations in Sweden when its Davis Cup team was to meet Rhodesia in 1968.
At the time, Rhodesia was criticized for enforcing apartheid, and demonstrators from around the country descended on Båstad in southern Sweden to protest the match.
The match in Sweden was cancelled, but eventually played in France.
Social Democrats also tried to force the cancellation of a Davis Cup tennis match between Sweden and Chile held in Båstad in September 1975, two years after Augusto Pinochet staged a coup to take power in the Latin American country.
While the match went ahead, several thousand demonstrators gathered peacefully outside the stadium.
“If the match in Malmö goes ahead, I can guarantee that I’ll be there to demonstrate just as I would have in Båstad in 1968 and 1975 if I’d been alive then,” Left Party foreign policy spokesperson and Riksdag member Hans Linde, who was born in 1979, told the paper,
“I’ve been to the West Bank and I don’t think Israel is a democracy worthy of the name. It’s a racist apartheid state,” said Linde, adding that his party wants to see an “athletic and cultural boycott of Israel”.
However, Sweden’s trade minister, Ewa Björling of the Moderate Party, rejected calls for a boycott against Israel.
“We’ve already seen that the isolation of Gaza doesn’t lead anywhere, so why should we do the same stupid thing against Israel?,” Björling wrote on her blog.
“On the contrary, I’m convinced that more trade for both Palestine and Israel is a good thing, while trade between the two is even better.”
According to the Swedish Tennis Association, canceling a Davis Cup match is far from simple, and would require action by the United Nations, the European Union, or the Swedish government.