Israeli officials rebuke Sweden for approving Bible burning in front of embassy

Netanyahu calls decision 'shameful'; 'Permitting the defacement of sacred texts is not an exercise in freedom of expression, it is blatant incitement and an act of pure hate,' laments President Herzog; FM Cohen says lobbying to get book burning nixed

Israeli officials issued scathing criticism of Sweden on Friday following the Nordic country's approval of a local activist's plan to burn a Hebrew Bible in front of the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm, two and a half weeks after allowing another activist to burn the Quran in front of a major mosque in the Swedish capital, sparking immense anger toward Sweden in the Muslim world.
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"I strongly condemn the decision of the Swedish authorities to allow the burning of a Hebrew Bible in front of the Israeli Embassy in [Stockholm]," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted.
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Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(Photo: Reuters, Shutterstock, GPO)
"The State of Israel views this shameful decision as a grave offense against the holy of holies of the Jewish people. It is important to respect the sanctity of holy books across all religions."
President Isaac Herzog tweeted, "I unequivocally condemn the permission granted in Sweden to burn holy books. As the President of the State of Israel, I condemned the burning of the Quran, sacred to Muslims world over, and I am now heartbroken that the same fate awaits a Jewish Bible, the eternal book of the Jewish people.
Permitting the defacement of sacred texts is not an exercise in freedom of expression, it is blatant incitement and an act of pure hate. The whole world must join together in clearly condemning this repulsive act.”
Israel's Ambassador to Sweden Zvi Nevo Kulman said in a tweet, “I utterly condemn the burning of holy books sacred to any religion, as an act of hate and disrespect, that has nothing to do with freedom of expression.”
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פעיל במהלך הפגנה שבה הצית שרף קוראן מולך מסגד ב שטוקהולם שבדיה
פעיל במהלך הפגנה שבה הצית שרף קוראן מולך מסגד ב שטוקהולם שבדיה
A Swedish activist desecrates a Quran in front of mosque in Stockholm
(Photo: AFP)
The Israeli Foreign Ministry also joined in the condemnation. "Israel strongly condemns the intention to burn a Bible in front of the Israeli Embassy in Sweden. Burning holy books is an act of hatred and intolerance and has nothing to do with freedom of expression. We call on the authorities in Sweden to prevent the burning of holy books," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lior Haiat tweeted.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen instructed his ministry and Ambassador Kulman to take action to prevent the event.
"Burning a Torah scroll is a hate crime, a provocation and a severe affront to the Jewish people and the Jewish tradition. I call on the authorities in Sweden to prevent this disgraceful event and not allow the burning of a Torah scroll. I have instructed the Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman, and the Foreign Ministry to take all necessary measures to prevent this shameful event," said Minister Cohen.
Under the guidance of the foreign minister, Aliza Ben-Nun, head of the Diplomatic Corps, spoke with the Swedish ambassador to Israel and emphasized the severity with which Israel views the police approval for an attack on Jewish sacred texts.
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שר החוץ אלי כהן פגישה עם שר החוץ של יוון יורגוס יראפטריטיס באתונה
שר החוץ אלי כהן פגישה עם שר החוץ של יוון יורגוס יראפטריטיס באתונה
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen
(Photo: Reuters/Louiza Vradi)
Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef sent a letter addressed to Sweden's King Carl Gustaf XVI, urging him to intervene and put an end to the book burning.
"I write to you today with great concern and deep distress regarding an imminent event that has the potential to undermine the values of tolerance, respect, and religious freedom that we hold dear," he wrote. "I implore Your Majesty to intervene in this matter and prevent such an act from taking place.
I must emphasize that our protest is not confined solely to the burning of the Holy Bible. We also vehemently condemn the recent act of burning the Quran in front of a mosque. As people of faith, we firmly believe that two wrongs do not make a right. It is imperative that we uphold the principles of mutual respect and dignity, even in the face of disagreements or tensions between communities."
World Zionist Organization Chairman Yaakov Hagoel wrote: “Permission to burn the Hebrew Bible in front of the Israeli Embassy in Sweden is not freedom of expression but rather antisemitism. Eighty years since the cursed Holocaust, the signs we wanted to forget are once again reminding us to stand guard. I strongly condemn the burning of the Quran; it is not the way of the Jewish people. I call on the Swedish government to revoke this antisemitic decision to burn the Hebrew Bible.”
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תנ"ך
תנ"ך
(Photo: Shutterstock)
Robert Singer, Center for Jewish Impact Chairman: “I unequivocally condemn the decision to approve such an appalling act of burning a bible, let alone any religious text. This is not an example of freedom of expression but an act of legitimizing pure incitement and racism. Swedish authorities must act immediately to prevent this incident and denounce it once and for all.”
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites: "I am shocked and horrified after the legal discussion surrounding the desire of an individual who labels himself a 'social activist' to set fire to the sacred Jewish scriptures as a symbol of Swedish freedom of expression, following his act of desecrating Islamic sanctities by cruelly burning the Quran.
"In the face of these heinous acts, the Swedish authorities stand weakly, murmuring empty words about freedom that are diminished in the face of such terrible actions - both those committed and those yet to come. This is not what freedom looks like; this is what the loss of a moral compass looks like.
I call upon the Swedish authorities and all those who hold dear the freedom of expression - it is not too late. I am not pleading for the sake of the sacred scriptures. They have been burned countless times by enemies of the Jews, yet no force in the world could destroy them. I am asking for your sake, for the sake of your souls and your culture. Extinguish the fire."
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עמיחי שיקלי בכנס AJC
עמיחי שיקלי בכנס AJC
Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli
(Photo: Moti Kimchi)
Last week, Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism Minister Amichai Chikli appealed to Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in a letter, requesting that he intervene to prevent the burning of the Bible, which he equated to Nazi book burnings.
"As you may know, other than being the source and the root of Judaism and the Jewish people, the bible has served as an example of some of humanity’s most core values, such as peoplehood, justice, truth, kindness, compassion, equality and peace among the nations and much more. The bible teaches us, as a core value, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves," he wrote.
"It is for this reason it is so disheartening to see that burning Torahs, and the human and Jewish core values it represents, in European capitals has not rescinded. Rather, the reasoning has changed. It began with an antisemitism and the burning of Torahs in 1930s Germany, and now it has been replaced by 'freedom of expression'. History, though, has taught us differently. As the great writer Heinrich Heine once wrote, 'those who burn books will in the end burn people'.
Therefore, I urge the Government of Sweden to take swift action and prevent this outrageous hatefilled initiative from taking place. Such bigotry has no place amongst the liberal democracies of the world, especially in Sweden which prides itself on its dedication to protecting its minorities’ rights."
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ראש ממשלת שבדיה אולף קריסטרסון אחרי ש טורקיה הסכימה לאשר את צירוף שבדיה ל נאט"ו פסגה וילנה ליטא
ראש ממשלת שבדיה אולף קריסטרסון אחרי ש טורקיה הסכימה לאשר את צירוף שבדיה ל נאט"ו פסגה וילנה ליטא
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson
(Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman)
However, the government did not intervene in the matter and Kristersson himself declared before the Quran burning incident that he would leave the decisions regarding such matters to the law enforcement authorities.
Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billström responded to Chikli, assuring him that the Swedish government strongly rejects all acts of antisemitism and of its commitment to combating antisemitism.
"First, let me assure you that the Swedish Government strongly rejects all antisemitic acts. Sweden is committed to combat antisemitism, as shown recently during our Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). We were proud to host the International Malmö Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism in October 2021. Throughout these efforts we have worked in close partnership with Israel," he wrote.
ISRAELI, JEWISH LEADERS CONDEMN SWEDEN OVER APPROVAL OF PUBLIC TORAH BURNING
(ILTV)

However, he added that freedom of expression is a constitutional right and that decisions regarding such acts are deferred to local law enforcement authorities.
"In Sweden, there is a constitutional right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom to demonstrate. Decisions to allow for demonstrations are taken independently by the Policy Authority.
The Swedish Government deeply regrets when extremists and provocateurs try to sow division in our society, even when they are exercising constitutionally protected acts. The Government fully understands that people of various faiths are deeply offended by burning of Holy Books."
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