Poll results released this week in Sweden show a majority of Swedes reject anti-Jewish attitudes.
The poll was conducted by the Forum for Living History, a public body created by the government to raise awareness about the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and
other forms of racism and intolerance. 3,000 people between the ages of 16 and 75, took part in the poll that was conducted between March and May 2005.
The themes of the survey included questions on anti-Semitism related to Israel and the Holocaust respectively, anti-Semitic beliefs such as ideas of Jewish power, and the idea that anti-Semitism is the fault of the Jews themselves.
The study found that 59 percent of Swedes generally rejected anti-Semitic attitudes, while 36 percent were ambivalent and agreed with some anti-Semitic statements and rejected others or did not express a clear opinion.
Five percent displayed strongly anti-Semitic attitudes.
Results of the study
Overall, 26 percent partly or completely agreed with the statement that “Israel’s politics is based on Old Testament vengefulness (eye for an eye)." The same number partly or completely thought that “Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is reminiscent of the Nazi treatment of Jews."
However, only three percent agreed that “Israel has no right to exist." 14 percent thought there was truth in the statement that “Israeli policies engender hatred against Jews."
A total of 17 percent partly or completely agreed that “Jews think they are the only ones who have suffered”, while 14 percent believed that “The Jews have been exploiting the Nazi genocide on Jews (the Holocaust) for financial and political purposes."
Meanwhile, 26 percent of those questioned partially or wholly agreed that “Jews have great influence over the world economy”, 18 percent that “Jews have great influence on the media” and 17 percent that “the Jews are directing US foreign policy."
Those with higher education were more likely to reject anti-Semitic notions as opposed to those with less education, 70 percent versus 48 percent. However, the beliefs in Jewish power over media, finance or US foreign policy were equally widespread among all the respondents, irrespective of education.
Jews and Muslims in Sweden
Among Swedish Muslims, 39 percent displayed systematic anti-Semitic attitudes as opposed to five percent in the general Swedish population.
In order to compare attitudes toward other religious minorities, some questions in the poll were about Muslims, the largest religious minority in Sweden. There are 18,000 Jews in Sweden and 350,000 Muslims. The poll showed that the intolerant attitudes towards Muslims were higher than those towards Jews.
Two percent of Swedes supported discriminatory measures toward Jews. Only 2.9 percent of Swedes think that there are too many Jews in Sweden, while 24.1 percent feel there are too many Muslims. 6.7 percent also feel that “Muslims ought not be allowed to vote in political elections."
Prime Minister Goran Persson reacted to the findings of the poll on Tuesday to the Swedish-language daily Dagens Nyheter after a visit with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.
“I’ve been dealing with this issue for a long time, in many different forms, and I’m deeply engaged in the struggle against anti-Semitism. I am surprised at the figures but not that the problem exists.”
“I must say that I’m frightened and surprised at the answers, especially concerning the attitude to the issue of (a Jewish) prime minister. On the other hand, anti-Semitism exists in all societies, it regularly rears its ugly head and we must resist it and never be complacent.”
Prime Minister Persson initiated the creation of a series of International Holocaust Conferences that took place every January 2000-2004 in Stockholm, in connection with International Holocaust Day.
Lisa Abramowicz, chairperson of the Information Committee of the Jewish community in Stockholm, and secretary-general of Swedish Israel Information, told the European Jewish Press, “The results of the report are not surprising. We knew that anti-Semitism, the world’s oldest prejudice, still lives and thrives in Sweden.
“What is surprising is that so many ethnic Swedes are so unaware of their own prejudices. There is a widespread feeling among Swedes that unless they are members of right-wing extremist or neo-Nazi groups, they have no prejudices against other religious or ethnic groups,” she said.
“The existence of hatred towards Jews is a permanent threat towards democracy and human rights,” Jesper Svartvik, chairman of Swedish Committee against anti-Semitism, told the Forum for Living History in reaction to the poll.
“The great number of Muslims (39 percent, according to the poll) who have prejudices and feel hatred towards Jews is especially problematic. Here there is a great need for dialogue and communication.”
Jews have been living in Sweden since 1774 and are well integrated into Swedish society.