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Storm over 'official' Jew tweets from Sweden

The Local · 12 Jun 2012, 15:39

Published: 12 Jun 2012 15:39 GMT+02:00

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This week, the “curator” of the @Sweden Twitter account, 27-year-old Swedish Sonja Abrahamsson (or Sonja "Hitler" Abrahamsson as she calls herself on her blog), has incensed people after her musings about Jewish people and their religion.

In her Curators biography, Abrahamsson describes herself as “a single and low educated mother”, going on to boast that “at least I don’t do drugs and prostitution”.

She has been at the helm of the official Twitter account since Monday as part of the Curators of Sweden project.

But on Tuesday afternoon, she had people around the world talking about her choice of words (copied below verbatim) in making an apparent appeal for answers about Jewish people.

“Whats the fuzz with jews. You can't even see if a person is a jew, unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can't be sure!?” she tweeted at 3pm on Monday to her 32,000 followers.

Just minutes afterwards, she continued her thoughts on the Twittersphere.

“In nazi German they even had to sew stars on their sleeves. If they didn't, they could never now who was a jew and who was not a jew.”

Later still, she referred to a colleague who is “part Jew, whatever that means” then added.

“Where I come from there is no jews. I guess its a religion. But why were the nazis talking about races? Was it a blood-thing (for them)?”

Soon after, and following what may have been a backlash from her followers, the 27-year-old claimed that she thought it was a good idea to ask when “so many well educated people all over the world can answer.”

“But no,” she continued. “Bad idea.”

As a final lament, she tweeted: “I just don't get why some people hates jews so much.”

When contacted by The Local, Lena Posner-Körösi, head of the Jewish community in Stockholm, had not yet seen the tweets herself, but was shocked to learn that someone would be allowed to say such things in the name of Sweden.

"If this person is supposed to be an ambassador for Sweden, this is not the way to do it. They really should do a quality check on these people beforehand,” she said.

The Jewish leader added that she found the whole episode "very strange".

Meanwhile, the response to the tweets has been astronomical, with hundreds coming through from Twitter users worldwide.

One complaint which warned Abrahamsson to choose her words more carefully got a quick response from Sweden's official voice on Twitter: “What words were wrong?”

Others have had clearer messages.

“The anti-semitic tweets from @Sweden are putting me off somewhat...” wrote @krsegal.

“Step away from the keyboard,” pleaded @wefail.

“Oh dear - I think there's been a bit of a #PR fail over at the @sweden camp,” wrote @campbell_katy.

Others were less forgiving.

“You're representing your country. Time for an apology,” wrote @mhopp7

However, some followers have embraced the tweets, with one follower (@KawaiiVixen) asking “What’s your personal twitter – you’re hilarious.”

The Swedish Institute’s media relations manager, Sergio Guimaraes, claims that while Abrahamsson’s intentions are hard to decipher, she is still an accurate representation of the variety of the Swedish society.

Story continues below…

“We understand that Sonja’s tweets may be seen by some as controversial, but from looking through these tweets we can’t make out if that was her intention,” he told The Local.

“Nowhere in her tweets has she said anything anti-Semitic. The whole point of the account is to show a varied picture of Swedish society, and this is made possible through the freedom of speech that Sonja has used.

In terms of carrying out more thorough background checks, Guimaraes explained that the road to the account is straightforward, and that as a rule, the Institute has very little contact with curators.

“We don’t do deep background checks. If someone nominates you, you are familiar with Twitter, and you have a few followers already, then you are good to go for @Sweden. Freedom of speech and what comes with it reflects Swedish society very well,” he told The Local.

Sweden's Twitter account has been dubbed by promoters as the most democratic Twitter account in the world and has spawned copycat accounts the world over.

The account has been active for nine months.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:50 June 12, 2012 by Migga
A totally media driven non story. Theres no storm except for the one The Local is trying to provoke.
17:27 June 12, 2012 by BigBilly
@Migga You're quite right. This is a non event.
17:32 June 12, 2012 by foxpur
The view of Sweden by other forms of media (including Twitter) is legitimate news. It's actually called a "Social Interest" story. It adds to the global view of what others see as "Swedish"
19:35 June 12, 2012 by SimonDMontfort
There is nothing "apparently offhand" about the comments at all. When posting on the internet, the poster takes full responsibility for anything said.

Maybe the 'tweeter' should consider why the comments caused offence in the first place. Then - the 'tweeter' and other parts of the "variety of the Swedish society." could take some time to learn about Jews - wherever they are

Or does that require too much intelligence...?.
20:04 June 12, 2012 by Finnish guy
There was nothing offending about those tweets, but it seems that some people just like to get offended over nothing.
20:22 June 12, 2012 by NordicCrown
This person suggests that Jews cannot face bigotry because nobody can see who is Jewish, and so complaints from Jews about anti-Semitism are groundless

THAT is offensive, and her apology is an obvious lie.
20:42 June 12, 2012 by Trenatos
I think the school system wherever she grew up failed, seeing how little she knows about Jews, but there is no anti-semitism or hate-speech in those tweets.

Sweden has free speech, and the twitter account is meant to represent the varied views of Swedes, and it has and will continue to do so.

As a former writer put it, this is a non-story.
20:54 June 12, 2012 by strixy
Well, after reading about the astonishingly low standards of education in Sweden, Sonia's case does not surprise me. She is clearly a representation of an ignorant, arrogant and intellectually slothful generation.
21:21 June 12, 2012 by RobinHood
The poor lady seems to be more ignorant and confused about Jews, than deliberately anti-semetic, racist or rude. Sadly, she is a fair representative of Swedish society, and well deserves her place as curater.
23:07 June 12, 2012 by Migga
She is neither a representative of swedish society or it`s education system, she is a representative of herself. You both sound very bitter though about Sweden. You would do better if you complained somewhere else then towards some naive girl who grew up in a poor family and in an isolated village up north.
23:20 June 12, 2012 by Dr. Dillner
This lady is clueless. Why give her air time?
00:21 June 13, 2012 by Douglas Garner
Some folks just don't appreciate sarcasm.
01:18 June 13, 2012 by Svensksmith
Jews are the canary in the coal mine. That's why all the "fuzz".
02:06 June 13, 2012 by Grokh
her comments are not anti Jew they are anti intelligence.
02:38 June 13, 2012 by blue2012
Her surname is Abrahamsson.

The founder of Judaism is Abraham.

This woman does not see the connection between her last name and the founder of Judaism?
04:57 June 13, 2012 by Lavaux
In a lot of countries other than Israel male infants are routinely circumcised for health reasons, and in some they still are. Since Sonja attributes circumcised penises with Jews, there may be some innocence in her ignorance.
05:47 June 13, 2012 by Frobobbles
I don't understand the comments. Is it antisemitism to say that one can't see on every Jew that they are Jews? No. And nothing else she has written is antisemitic either. You are just plain wrong.
06:11 June 13, 2012 by curious_1
Sweden needs an official Twitter account like a fish needs a bicycle.
08:37 June 13, 2012 by luke123
It's not only her tweets about Jews that are 'off''. All her tweets where narcistic, self-congratulating. They are being printed in newpapers all over the world to show how how messed up Sweden is. It went viral.

Maybe it's part the new right-wing strategy to discourage immigration ?
10:08 June 13, 2012 by byke
Did she post in Yiddish? Since its an official swedish language ?
10:15 June 13, 2012 by Frank Arbach
Its beyond belief that some people posting here, see nothing wrong at all, in the provocative comments of this woman.

On the other hand, if they actually LIVE in a valueless, amoral country like Sweden, they're probably in the right place anyway.

I recommend a conducted tour of Auschwitz…..
11:51 June 13, 2012 by medicinem4n
Much ado about nothing. This is not antisemitism, it's ignorance. As evidenced by tweets like these: "Where I come from there is no jews. I guess its a religion. But why were the nazis talking about races? Was it a blood-thing (for them)?"

While it was a quite ill-judged of her to use the official Sweden Twitter account for questions like these, I don't regard them as antisemitic.
11:56 June 13, 2012 by alecLoTh
It would be equally short-sighted to arrive at any conclusion on the summation of a few twitter posts - but if you look at her youtube posts, there are numerous about Hitler and Nazis. Meaning that this was not an 'itch', but rather a mindset a disposition and a perspective.
12:54 June 13, 2012 by Borilla
@migga - no matter how you twist it, the lady is a good example of the students turned out by the Swedish school system. Your reference to a "naive", ill-educated girl from a small northern village is a better example of the politically correct Stockholmers who view themselves as better than the naive ill-educated people from northern villages. Your position, on the one hand, in describing her as naive and ill-educated and, on the other hand, inviting those who criticize the system that educated her to go someplace else is confusing. Do you want a system that turns out "naive" ill-educated people to remain in place? And, yes, Swedish people are entitled to criticize apparent neo-nazis. That is a good thing to do. They didn't always do that did they?
13:59 June 13, 2012 by StockholmSam
Well, she was certainly right about one thing: she is "low educated."

Anyone who adopts the nickname "Hitler" on her blog and then tweets in the name of Sweden about Jews (thus revealing her complete ignorance of the Jewish dilemma) cannot be taken seriously and should not be given control of the account that is the face of Sweden for an online community as large as Twitter. This was a failure on the part of many people and it is certainly not a non-story.
15:58 June 13, 2012 by Migga
@ Borilla

I`m not twisting anything, I do give my opinion however. Also my description is based on her own describtion. Not one single person, from Stockholm or up north, can represent the schooling system. Sweden should have a system that lets everyone ascend and everyone should be allowed to criticize others. I like that and use it to call out those who think this one person reflects Sweden or Swedes.
17:13 June 13, 2012 by ajs42548
As a Jew (and a NY Jew on top of that), I see nothing offensive at all. She heard about the hatred of Jews in the world and was wondering why since you can't tell Jews from everyone else and they seem to be like everyone else. She just didn't know this since she never grew up around Jews. If anything she was naive but not anti semetic.
20:26 June 13, 2012 by guliver
Well, I do no think she was looking for racist comment , but she was certainly looking to stimulate the people to react on her comments and to illuminate her personality ?

Of course she "won" the other people attention,

I think the best answer to her words would be:"no comment.."

21:17 June 13, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
I don't see anything offensive in her tweets. Actually, she seems to be "pro-semetic" since she writes that there is no difference between Jews and anyone else.
04:10 June 14, 2012 by Garry Jones
I think she raised a very good point in a very bad way.

We are educated that Hitler perscuted and murdered 6 million Jews. We know this to be the truth, But did anyone ever explain what a Jew is? It's not as straightforward as it would first seem.

A man born Jewish in Germany in 1920 could have read up on other religions. In time he might come to renounce the Jewish faith and indeed even begin to hate and despise the Jewish religion. He might have converted and become a Johava, Buddist, Mormon or a believer of any one of number of other religions.

He may even adopt hatred for the Jews and wish them all dead. When Hitler started to round up the Jews and send them off to the Gas Chambers he might have partied all night long, happy that the Jews were being wiped out.

Then one night HIS door is kicked down by the SS and "HE" is shipped out on the next train to Bergen-Belsen. No amount of protesting is going to convince any German Nazi that this man is NOT Jewish. To all intents and purposes he isn't. He hates the Jews, he wants them all dead. He hates the religion and does not believe a word of it. He would never do any of the things that Hitler says Jews do and he is siding and agreeing with Hitler. None of these facts would help him and he would still be gased as a Jew.

So she does have a very valid point. When is a Jew a Jew?

The definition of who is a Jew varies according to whether it is being considered by Jews based on normative religious statutes, self-identification, or by non-Jews for other reasons. Because Jewish identity can include characteristics of an ethnicity, a religion, and citizenship, the definition of who is a Jew has varied, depending on whether a religious, sociological, or ethnic aspect was being considered. The issue has given rise to legal controversy, especially in Israel, but also outside of Israel. There have been court cases in Israel since 1962 which have had to address the question.

So I fully understand the issue at stake here. How do you define a Jew and can someone born Jewish become non-Jewish?

Having said that her uneducated words on this subject are just plain stupid. That's one bird that aint ever getting a Jelly Baby from me.
09:14 June 14, 2012 by lungfish
Gary Jones, thanks for your post. I think this is a serious question and one that is typically disallowed on grounds of political correctness, but of whose politics? As you say, 'Jewishness' can mean:

- a specific religion

- a specific citizenship

- an ethnic identity, but which one? There are many enthnicities falling under a title of Jewish

- a race, by some definition of a race

- a symbolic and rhetorical construct serving various political purposes

The racial characterisation is the one that makes the least sense, since there is indeed no 'Jew gene' and the collection of people falling under the heading cannot be equated with any specific genome. And it is actually racist to claim there there is any genetic basis to Jewishness.

Religions and citizenships can be rather arbitrarily assigned or chosen or not, without any genetic foundations. Ethnicity is also a kind of symbolic and rhetorical construct. Who benefits from it and how? Certainly Hitler used the construct to his advantage. Who benefits from it these days?
09:24 June 14, 2012 by comentatir
Lena Posner-Körösi, head of the Jewish community in Stockholm suggests that "They really should do a QUALITY CHECK ON THESE PEOPLE beforehand"

Yeah the girl one story but the statement above is news!! How do you do a quality check on people?
10:47 June 14, 2012 by mnphoto87
What kind of person would use this outlet to say such things?

A sheltered, poorly educated person with a family or community with racist / Nationalist tendencies.

I don't think she is trying to be Anti-Semitic, it's more that she is parroting sentiments absorbed from her surroundings while at the same time questioning her own frustration of the philosophical contradictions between what she knows and what her environment has manifested in her own mind.
21:38 June 14, 2012 by alecLoTh
@ Garry Jones

One can only be born Jewish if his mother is herself Jewish in custom and faith.

You cannot 'opt in' to Jewishness (strictest sense), your mother has to be Jewish. If your dad was a Jew and your mom not - then you're not either.

That still dosent decide who/what exactly is a Jew, but at least clearly defines how it is 'passed on'.

The case of Polish Jew professor Norman Finkelstein is also worth inspecting. He was fired from his job for accusing Israel of illegal occupation of the west bank. He also has been barred from entering Israel - the 1st and only Jew to have this done to him despite the fact that both his parents and all his family died in Auschwitz.
23:43 June 14, 2012 by Parade
Sweden is a wonderful country with a fabulous world wide reputation. I think this women was asking questions born of ignorance and rather than her receiving replies she is attacked. How is one supposed to be enlightened when one fears asking questions?
17:01 June 15, 2012 by tadchem
I have known many ignorant people in my life, but none so flagrant about it.
17:18 June 15, 2012 by Mbenzi
I can't see anything anti-semitic in what she wrote.

She started by saying that she is low-educated, and she asked questions. She apparently knew about traditions of circumcision but knew enough to state that you can't be sure. And that is very correct.

She is so right about that you can't see if somebody is a jew, what is wrong about that?

The entire thing seems to be that she cannot understand why jews are so hated by some, and that is a very healthy viewpoint, e.g. often asked by children with no biases. Anti-semitic? No, not at all.

Now, in everyday talk we use the word "jew" in more than one way. The most general is to talk about the citizens of Israel, while most often counting in jews in diaspora. There is also another definition, referring to religion (btw, all christian and muslim religions are also originating from Abraham).

I understand two of the reasons why jews are hated by some, picked up by nazis as a populistic mean of gaining popularity from other people's anger.

One reason is religious - if somebody claims to be "chosen", that means that I am not. And that generates anger with opponents.

But the more important reason is the cultural tradition of being united and support each other, resulting in that jews perform much better in society, in business, science and art, than average people. And that creates envy, from people who did not do so well. This feeling of unity is a type of tribalism that is illegal if it is misused to reach public offices and the alike, but very impressive in other areas. A lot of societies build on the principles of supporting each other with contacts and whatever, e.g. every school alumni. Not to mention the Linkedin and similar websites. Then we like it very much. And every country has slogans referring to strength through unity.

But as soon as it is a cultural tradition from a religious or ethnic group - then we call it racism!

And their success creates hatred less successful among people.

I understand the reasons for the hatred, but I don't accept it.

Those jews did still not get their positions for free, they had to work hard for them. But they are encouraged and supported by culture and tradition, to work hard for a position in banking, science or whatever.

The only anti-something at all I can see, is when we talk about groups of people in stereotypes. But it is not "politically correct" so say anything at all, sometimes. Because people don't hear what you say - they hear what they BELIEVE that you say. And that is often different from what you say.

So instead of hating, maybe people should form their own groups of mutual support.

Hrm... "Lefthanded Gays of Berlin"? Nah, maybe not so clever...
17:41 June 15, 2012 by Danish Voice
I grew up in Sweden, and left, when I was 20. Like this woman, Sonja, I grew up in a place, where there were no Jews.

Coming from a religous family, Jews to me were prophets, kings and ancient heroes of Israel.

In spite of being born in the war, there was no information at school about the Nazis, the death camps or about the new state Israel for that matter.

Sweden have apparently chosen to keep their children/youngs in the dark about the henious crimes against the Jews and Sweden's own role in it.

Sonja knows very little or nothing about the Jewish people, and therefore doesn't understand, what anti-Semitism is.

Like other people of her generation, she has been subjected to heavey anti-Israeli propaganda both at school and through the media.

Anti-Semitism is not her errand at all, and shaming her for not having the knowledge is preposterous.
18:28 June 15, 2012 by guliver
Danish Voice

Thanks for your words,I do agree with your comment,

But one should not be upset from Sonja comments,

maybe as you post she really does not know much about Jews ,and if she watch TV she can not have a nice image of Israel......

any way I do not blame her and I did not get the impresion she wish to express a racist opinion.

I sent my love to many ,many good people in Scandinavia who saved the Jews from their death in the 2 WW, one of them was my fother ,those ,who risk their life and the life of their families ,they are the heroes on earth and in heaven.

18:33 June 16, 2012 by Just_Kidding
On the question of being Jewish, I like Richard Feynmans approach:

"Though raised Jewish and born to Ashkenazi parents, Feynman himself was not only atheist, but distanced himself from being labelled Jewish even on ethnic grounds. He routinely refused to be included in lists or books that classified people by race. He asked to not be included in Tina Levitan's, The Laureates: Jewish Winners of the Nobel Prize, writing, "To select, for approbation the peculiar elements that come from some supposedly Jewish heredity is to open the door to all kinds of nonsense on racial theory," and adding "…at thirteen I was not only converted to other religious views but I also stopped believing that the Jewish people are in any way 'the chosen people'". from wikipedia
10:33 June 17, 2012 by rufus.t.firefly
The woman is ignorant and proud of it and, clearly, intending to be provocative. It is hard to be here in Sweden and know nothing of the violence against Jews in Malmö, as well as the official tolerance and encouragement of all forms of Jew baiting. Her particular approach is a favorite form of provocation among Swedes as it carries with it "plausible deniability".

I am glad to see this has been picked up and satirized in the American media. That's about the treatment it deserves.
01:57 June 18, 2012 by alecLoTh
She has many youtube posts about Hitler, her middle name is Hitler, according to herself on her own blog- she knows exactly what she is talking about , then trying to play 'blonde' when put on the spot.
21:44 June 19, 2012 by mcarroll1
Stupid story about a very dim though very beautiful young woman. I dont think anyone should give this much airtime. Still.... like to see a bit more of Sonja if we didnt have to listen to her. Models like her should be seen and not heard.
01:32 June 23, 2012 by juliecanter
We too have freedom of speech, but the US wouldn't make the face of the nation a moron or a bigot. That takes Chutzpah. Need some legacy? www.chutzpahmag.com
00:58 June 24, 2012 by yuri_nahl
If she had said something about the Palestinians there would not be an article here.
14:22 June 24, 2012 by salalah
Sonja is a Jew. She is looking for a partner and cannot distinguish a jew on the street...
12:43 July 28, 2012 by FatherJon
I think most of the backlash against Jews these days emanates from the whole Zionist propaganda move favouring Israel.

We're sick of the nightly stories on TV where it's all about the bloody holocaust, thus favouring public supprt for the Jewish state where local Palestinians were forced from their lands to make way for European and American Jews. It's still happening today!

People react in their own ways, not always civil, but they often have a silent position to express.
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