US Jewish centre meets Malmö mayor

A US-based Jewish group was in Malmö in southern Sweden on Monday to meet with the mayor Ilmar Reepalu, who has previously been the target of criticism for allegedly failing to protect Jews in the city.

US Jewish centre meets Malmö mayor

Representatives for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles met with Reepalu to discuss initiatives for improving the safety and security of the city’s Jewish population.

“It was a very serious meeting where the key issue was security for minorities. But we have a lot of work in front of us,” Abraham Cooper, one of the Wiesenthal centre representatives, said on leaving the meeting shortly after 11am.

In December the centre issued a travel warning urging Jews to exercise “extreme caution” when travelling in southern Sweden.

The statement followed reports of a series of incidents of apparent attacks against the Jewish community and cited “the outrageous remarks of Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu, who blames the Jewish community for failing to denounce Israel.”

While there have been no convictions for hate crimes against Jews in Malmö, local leaders have been scathing in their criticism of the mayor for his apparent nonchalance to their plight amid claims of widespread harassment.

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.

Jewish leaders have blamed activists on the far-left for being behind the harassment, complaining that they have no right to “use the Jews (in Malmö) as a punching bag for their disdain toward the policies of Israel.”

The team from the Simon Wiesenthal centre were previously in Sweden in December to convey their concerns to justice minister Beatrice Ask during a series of meetings in Stockholm.

One of the proposals presented by the centre is the formation of a form of hate crime police similar to that which exists in the US. Reepalu has reportedly expressed support for the initiative but has forwarded the suggestion to the minister for consideration.

“We wrote to Beatrice Ask already a couple of years ago but have not received a reply. Perhaps the Wiesenthal centre with its power and influence can draw a better response,” Reepalu said.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations at the centre, arrived in Malmö on Friday to visit Sweden’s third city and to get an understanding of the situation for themselves.

“A very interesting city. In some ways it is better that I thought, in some ways worse,” Cooper told news agency TT on his way to Malmö city hall for meetings with the mayor.

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Here’s PewDiePie’s message to critics after anti-Semitism controversy

Three days after Disney severed ties with PewDiePie over anti-Semitism accusations, the Swedish YouTube star posted a new video apologizing for the joke – and hitting back at his critics.

Here's PewDiePie's message to critics after anti-Semitism controversy
Felix Kjellberg, also known as PewDiePie. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is the world's highest paid YouTuber with more than 53 million subscribers and videos totalling more than 14 billion views, more than anybody else on the site.

But the 27-year-old's success was interrupted this week after Disney's Maker Studios, which had previously announced plans to put him in charge of his own YouTube network, told the Wall Street Journal it had decided to drop him following a series of videos containing jokes about Nazi imagery, including one of him paying two men to hold up a sign saying “Death to all Jews”.

PewDiePie had already responded to some of the criticism of that clip, saying he had intended to “show how crazy the modern world is”, but on Thursday he posted a new video calling the Wall Street Journal's article of him a “personal attack”.

“I'm still here, I'm still making videos. Nice try, Wall Street Journal. Try again, motherf***ers,” he says in the clip, kissing his middle finger.

However, he also apologizes: “I'm sorry for the words I used, as I know they offended people, and I admit that the joke itself went too far.”

News of Disney's decision to cut its ties with the star quickly grabbed global headlines this week, with some of his critics accusing him of acting like fascism is cool and normalizing racism and hate.

In response to the above tweet by author JK Rowling, PewDiePie says in the video: “A personal attack like this to portray me as anti-Semitic is doing no one a favour. You're targeting some Swedish guy that tries to be funny, most of the time it doesn't really go well. Very offensive, but he means well.”

“Is there any hate in what I do? No, there's not. Personally, I think they are the ones normalizing hatred. Because, there is actual hatred out there. There's actual issues. Instead of celebrating my show getting cancelled, why don't we focus on that?” he adds.

At the end of the video he appears to tear up thanking his fans for their support. “Finally, I want to give the warmest thanks to everyone who supported me. It's been incredible to see. Thank you, everyone in the YouTube community. It means a lot, thank you.”

A spokesperson for Dow Jones, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, said the company stood by its reporting.