In an interview published last week in the liberal-leaning magazine, Reepalu alleged that the Sweden Democrats, a political party with a clear anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim line which has its roots in Sweden’s neo-Nazi movement, had “infiltrated” the Jewish community in Malmö to foster anti-Muslim sentiments.
While Reepalu later said he had “no basis” for the remarks, the interview riled Sweden’s Jewish community and prompted the Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities (Judiska centralrådet i Sverige – JC) to send a letter to Löfven blasting Reepalu’s “anti-Semitic” rhetoric.
Speaking with the TT news agency following the release of the Jewish community’s letter, Reepalu once again defended himself.
“I’ve never been an anti-Semite and never will be,” he said.
In response to the letter, Löfven and Social Democrat party secretary Carin Jämtin have agreed to meet with Jewish community leaders to discuss the comments and actions of the Malmö mayor, who has now also come in for criticism from his own party colleagues.
“I still have confidence in Ilmar, but these comments are extremely unfortunate. It doesn’t help that he says that he’s not an anti-Semite,” Heléne Fritzon, chair of the Social Demcrats’ party chair in Skåne to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
She explained that she has received a number of letters from party members expressing their disappointment.
Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, a Social Democrat and deputy chair of the Malmö municipal council, also expressed her frustration over Reepalu’s comments.
“His comments create mistrust. And damage relationships which we must now try and rebuild,” she told DN.
While some party colleagues are have expressed concerns of Reepalu’s statements, no prominent Social Democrats have openly called for him to be removed from office or formally disciplined over the issue.
“There have been statements that can give one cause for reflection. But on the whole, Ilmar is a good and worthy representative for social democracy,” Anna Johansson, Social Demcrat party chair in Gothenburg, told the paper.