NEW YORK – In response to concerns from the World Jewish Congress over the proliferation of neo-Nazi marches in Sweden, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has laid out a number of practical steps to be taken by his government to curb these demonstrations and increase protection of the local Jewish community.
In a letter to World Jewish Congress CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer dated 18 May, Prime Minister Löfven decried the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) and its “despicable” recent marches in the cities of Kungälv and Ludvika and underscored that “it is a disgrace that the scum of history is rearing its ugly head today again.”
Löfven was reacting to a letter sent by Singer on 1 May, in which the WJC CEO called on the Swedish government to ban the neo-Nazi group and to engage in a series of measures to increase protection for the Jewish community.
Swedish criminal law already effectively prohibits all forms of racist expression, Löfven said, but noted that further legislative action might BE need to address the threats posed by organized groups. As such, Löfven wrote, the Swedish government will therefore “shortly appoint a government inquiry to look into a ban on racist organizations and the criminalization of participation in such organizations.”
Löfven added that his government “recognize(s) that fundamental to this issue is ensuring that hate crime is highlighted and punished, and that physical security is improved,” and as such has tasked its defense research agency to survey online extremist propaganda to “strengthen the ability of society as a whole to fight it.”
The Swedish prime minister also addressed Singer’s concern regarding the need for further Holocaust education to this regard, noting that the government was engaging in a number of educational initiatives and programming and “improving the conditions” for remembrance visits to Holocaust memorials for schools and others.
Furthermore, Löfven wrote, the Swedish government was allocating greater resources for the prevention of foreign and domestic terrorism, and its police force has established democracy and hate crime groups in key regions.
Responding to Singer’s appeal to take concrete steps to protect the community, including further alleviating the financial burden of security, Löfven noted that his government is “doubling state support” to strengthen security at faith-based facilities, and “broadening the support to include non-confessional Jewish associations” and “making more tools available” including facilitating the use of surveillance cameras.
The Swedish government will also “continue implementing the national plan adopted in 2016 to combat racism and hate crime(s), which include measures against antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes, Löfven wrote.
The government hopes that the upcoming international conference on Holocaust remembrance, set to take place in Sweden in 2020 with active involvement and support by the WJC, will serve not only as an “important forum for broad dialogue” on these issues, but also “represent a global stance against antisemitism at this crucial time,” the prime minister wrote.
“Jewish life is an integral part of Swedish society,” Löfven concluded. “Wherever and whenever it is threatened or challenges, it will be defended. Of this, I assure you, there is no doubt.”