Some 1,200 people attended a pro-Israel rally in Stockholm Sunday, which was organised by Zionist blogger and Swedish Jew Annika Rothstein, in conjunction with several pro-Israel organisations.
The protest, which was publicised in advance through social media, local student oranisations, the United Israel Appeal and the World Zionist Organisation (WZO), was the first event of its kind in seven years, and the largest and most centrally-held to date.
Despite nearby counter-protests from pro-Palestinian groups, attendees of the peaceful rally heard addresses by pro-Israel activists and joined together for a rousing chorus of Israeli national anthem Hatikva.
Last month, several hundred members of the Swedish Jewish community, alongside non Jews alike, marched on the southern city of Malmo to protest at the rise of anti-Semitism in Sweden in recent years. The similarly peaceful rally was organised by the Swedissh Committee Agaisnt Anti-Semitism.
Sweden has seen a surge in hate crimes since Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2009, which has led to criticisms of the government’s mechanism for handling anti-Semitic incidents.
Last year, in response to an open letter by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre calling on the administration to establish public funds to help the Jewish community to set up security measures for communal facilities, the government allocated four million kroner ($621,000, €440,000) of its 2012 budget to protect the Jewish community.
Announcing the initiative, Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag issued a statement saying “public funds are needed in the form of a one-off sum to increase security and reduce the vulnerability of the Jewish minority in society”, adding that “anti-Semitic remarks and other negative treatment based on racial assumptions is never acceptable in a democratic society”.
The government revealed studies showing that “while tolerance is increasing in society, anti-Semitic views have not decreased at the same rate”. “Some Jews in Sweden choose not to reveal that they belong to the Jewish minority out of fear,” it added. Sweden was one of five EU countries cited by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in June as having developed enough mechanisms to monitor anti-Semitic crime, as a result of a decade-long EU-commissioned report.
According to the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, there are some 20,000 Jews living in Sweden, predominantly in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo. Most Swedish Jews are descendants of pre-war refugees and Holocaust survivors.