“We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, in a statement.
“There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes.”
Samuels, along with Wiesenthal associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper, conveyed their concerns for the safety of the Jewish community to Swedish Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask during meetings in Stockholm on Thursday.
The statement emphasised that the travel warning had nothing to do with Saturday’s suicide bombing in Stockholm.
In issuing the warning, the Wiesenthal Centre cited “the outrageous remarks of Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu, who blames the Jewish community for failing to denounce Israel.”
Reepalu, Malmö’s long-time Social Democratic mayor, has come in for criticism over his comments regarding Jews on a number of occasions in the last year.
Speaking to the The Sunday Telegraph in February, Reepalu seemed to deny that Jews in Malmö were suffering from harassment despite police reports showing a doubling in the number of crimes against the town’s Jewish residents between 2008 and 2009.
“There haven’t been any attacks on Jewish people and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel, that is not a matter for Malmö,” he told the newspaper.
Reepalu has also been criticised by Malmö-based Jews for allowing anti-Semitism to fester.
“He’s demonstrated extreme ignorance when it comes to our problems,” Fredrik Sieradzki of the Jewish Community of Malmö (Judiska Församlingen i Malmö) told The Local in January.
“More often, it’s the far-left that commonly use Jews as a punching bag for their disdain toward the policies of Israel, even if Jews in Malmö have nothing to do with Israeli politics. It’s shameful and regrettable that such a powerful politician could be so ignorant about the threats we face,” he added.
According to the travel warning, Jews should exercise “extreme caution when visiting southern Sweden.”
The discussions with Ask, Cooper and Samuels invited Swedish officials to participate in a law enforcement training programme offered by the Wiesenthal Centre and urged Sweden to “strengthen the security of all Jewish institutions.”
“It is unacceptable in a democracy committed to protecting its citizens, that the Swedish Jewish community is forced to pay for necessary upgraded security measures to safeguard their lives and property,” said Samuels.
The Wiesenthal Centre has previously issued travel warnings for Turkey, Dubai, France, and Belgium.
Calls by The Local to Reepalu asking for comment were not returned.