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Swedish PM: 'Sweden has an anti-Semitism problem'

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Swedish PM: 'Sweden has an anti-Semitism problem'
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. Photo: Alexander Larsson Vierth/TT
14:03 CET+01:00
Swedish society has an anti-Semitism problem, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told press in Paris, where he is participating in a climate meet to mark the anniversary of the 2015 Paris agreement.

"We need to see it clearly. In Malmö we see it, and in Gothenburg. It is up to us to both counteract and prevent this," he said, referring to a weekend which saw anti-Semitic slogans chanted at a demonstration in Malmö and a Molotov cocktail attack on a Gothenburg synagogue.

"We need to be really clear that such anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews has no place in our society. This shouldn't have any place," Löfven said, in comments which expanded on an earlier statement in which he said he was "terribly upset" by the weekend's events and called for "a tolerant and open society where everyone feels safe".

On Tuesday, he also emphasized the need to learn lessons from history.

"In the government, for example, we have made the decision to give money for remembrance trips for school classes. More school students must see this firsthand and be in Auschwitz, for example, or another [former] concentration camps to really understand what happened," the Swedish PM said.

"We should listen to the generation which experienced this themselves. We should never, ever allow this again. We have work to do in schools, civil society, businesses, and in the workplace. We should of course protect those who feel threatened and under pressure here and now, but above all we must gradually make sure that this form of expression is never actually uttered," he continued.

READ ALSO: 'All forms of anti-Semitic expression are unacceptable': Muslim and Jewish leaders react to anti-Semitic attacks in Sweden

When asked by the TT newswire if harsher punishments were necessary, he said: "That might be needed. But we should remember that it isn't legal to say just about anything against different ethnic groups, so there are laws. But I won't rule out [the possibility that] they might need to be strengthened. But just as important is prevention. Young people need to have more knowledge about that."

Several other European countries have experienced anti-Semitic elements as a reaction to US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last week, so it is possible that the issue will be discussed at an EU meeting in Brussels this week.

"It is not on the agenda, but when we meet and talk, we take up current questions and major problems. And this is clearly a problem," explained Löfven.

"We cannot accept growing anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews, not in Sweden nor in any other country. We know what this once led to and we must never go there again," he said.

Willy Silberstein, former chairperson with the Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism, told Expressen TV that the series of incidents in Sweden could be related to Trump's announcement. "When the USA decides to move the embassy to Jerusalem, that results, in the sick world we live in, in consequences for Jews living in Sweden. Swedish citizens become part of the conflict," Silberstein said.

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