Two contestants were kicked off the popular reality TV show ‘Big Brother’ in Sweden after having a conversation disparaging Jews while a third remains on the show despite previous social media posts expressing support for neo-Nazi ideas. The controversial remarks, which took place during a live airing of the show, have drawn significant media attention in Sweden.
The controversy began when one contestant, Kim Kamal, complained to fellow contestant Isabel Pereira, about his former boss saying, “she was a Jew, so I get it.” Pereira laughed and responded saying “I hate Jews.” Following her remarks, Pereira was asked to leave the show, while Kamal was told to leave the show the following day. Pereira apologized for the incident in an Instagram post, writing that her comments were “a careless joke” and are “completely unacceptable.”
Following the incident, the President of the WJC-affiliated Swedish Jewish Central Council, Aron Verständig, expressed concern about the impact such a remark could have, saying that “when a person on such a big show as ‘Big Brother,’ which many young people are watching, says something like this, it legitimizes antisemitism.”
A third participant, Sami Jakobsson, who remains on the show, has posted on social media expressing support for Nneo-Nazi ideas, including pictures of his tattoos with Nazi imagery, according to the Swedish news site Nyheter 24. Jakobsson defended himself by saying that he no longer agreed with his own posts.
The controversy comes amid a volatile and difficult time for the Jewish community in Sweden. Last spring, the government of Sweden published a report finding more than 280 antisemitic hate crimes in the country over the course of 2018, the highest since such data was first collected in 2006. In November, there was a string antisemitic attacks in Scandinavia, prompting WJC President Ronald S. Lauder to call for “deliberate and targeted action,” to fight against antisemitism.
Last month, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven published an op-ed in Israel’s Yedioth Aharonoth, pledging to fight antisemitism and endorsing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism with guiding examples. The announcement was praised by President Lauder as “an important step forward as we strive to address this global epidemic.”
In October 2020, the government of Sweden will host the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism. The conference, which is expected to draw world leaders and officials, will mark 20 years since the Stockholm Declaration, the founding document of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and continues to serve as an ongoing affirmation of each IHRA member country’s commitment to shared principles.