Academic journal article Jewish Political Studies Review

Prejudice and Demonization in the Swedish Middle East Debate during the 2006 Lebanon War

Academic journal article Jewish Political Studies Review

Prejudice and Demonization in the Swedish Middle East Debate during the 2006 Lebanon War

Article excerpt

Since the beginning of the new millennium increased anti-Semitism has been detected within the political Left in some European countries. It is often said to be most pronounced in the media, where criticism of Israel is sometimes tainted by anti-Jewish sentiments. An analysis of the contents of eight different newspapers of the Swedish Left, from mainstream Social Democratic to radical Marxist-Leninist, suggests that the situation in Sweden is no different. During the 2006 Lebanon War they all expressed a number of attitudes and notions of questionable nature, which may be roughly divided into three different groups. Firstly, many of the newspapers examined contained explanations of the fighting in the Middle East which involved conspiracies, and in one way or another alluded to notions with anti-Semitic or problematic anti-Zionist roots. In some cases the Jewish state was depicted as a tool of an oppressive Western world, and Israeli actions as part of an "American imperialist plot." In addition to those notions directly or indirectly linked to anti-Semitism, concepts of Jewish power exerted over governments and media were also to be found. At times, it was claimed that Jewish or pro-Israeli lobby groups totally control the American and/or Swedish public debates, or possess a tremendous influence on various governments. Last but not least, most of the newspapers examined also contained anti-Semitic concepts associating Israelis with Nazis, depicting Jews and the Jewish state as copies of their historical persecutors. Explicit or implicit allegations of "Israeli genocides" and modern-day versions of the Holocaust or Nazi war crimes were found in a majority of the newspapers. All these facts call for a serious self-examination of the Swedish Left.

In recent years numerous studies have shown that anti-Semitism is growing in some European countries and that its strongest foundation is within three groups: the extreme Right, Islamist circles, and parts of the Left. The increased appearance of, and tolerance toward, anti-Semitic attitudes and notions within the Left is often said to be visible primarily in the media. It has frequently been argued that events in the Middle East are what "trigger" (or rather revive latent) anti-Semitic attitudes and notions, which often find expression in otherwise legitimate criticism of the state of Israel.

This was the background to a study conducted by the author in the fall of 2007 at the Department of History of the University of Uppsala, Sweden. The aim of the research was to ascertain whether or not anti-Semitic attitudes and notions could be found in the reports and opinions expressed during the period of the war between Israel and Hizballah, and the fighting in Gaza, in the summer of 2006. This was done by analyzing the content of the Swedish newspapers Aftonbladet (Social Democrat), Arbetaren (Syndicalist), Broderskap (Social Democrat), Flamman (Socialist), Folket i Bild/Kulturfront (Socialist), Internationalen (Trotskyite), Proletären (Marxist-Leninist), and RiktpunKt (Marxist-Leninist) between 1 2 July 2006 and 2 1 August 2006. Of primary interest were the presence and nature, rather than frequency or changes over time, of any attitudes and notions expressed in these newspapers.

These eight newspapers were chosen because they cover a large proportion of the left-wing spectrum of Swedish politics. The two Social Democratic newspapers Áftonbladet and Broderskap are both closely linked to Sweden's biggest party in 2006, the thengoverning Swedish Workers Party (SAP), and therefore (unlike the rest of the newspapers) support an inner-parliamentary policy. Aftonbladet (majority-owned by Landsorganisationen, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation) is Sweden's biggest, and some would argue most influential, newspaper, while Broderskap is the body of the Christian Social Democratic Association of Sweden (SKSF). This dynamic makes an analysis of the content of these two newspapers in comparison to the remaining, more radical, and relatively small ones of even greater interest. …

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