Cast Lead from the Swedish Sidelines
One wouldn’t risk exaggerating if one were to say that the media and chattering classes in Sweden aren’t exactly overly supportive of Israel. However, it’s not true either that the Swedes are all against us. The media reactions to the current crisis in Gaza and Operation Cast Lead is a case in point. Sometimes these reactions are encouraging, sometimes annoying — and sometimes hilarious in their mind-boggling stupidity.
On the day after the launching of the operation, the well-known Mid East expert Ulf Bjereld was interviewed in one of the country’s most prestigeous morning papers. He tries to explain and analyze what’s going on, and despite the gravity of the situation it’s hard to miss the unintended black humor in which the article is steeped. Professor Bjereld expressed surprise at the timing of the attack: “that the attack came today was a very big surprise”. That’s funny, since the morning before the attack the headlines here spoke of an “imminent attack”. But apparently, one doesn’t have to read the Israeli press to be considered a Mid East expert in Sweden.
As could be imagined, the press commentaries to Operation Cast Lead in the leftwing Swedish press have ranged from being critical to indignant to outraged. One of the best illustrations is an op-ed by Olle Svenning in Aftonbladet, who — true to form — poured his wrath over Israel criticizing Israel’s “barbarian methods of war”. Obviously, Mr Svenning failed to note that Hamas systematically abuses the civilian Palestinian population as human shields in their attacks on Israel. Likewise, he ignores the fact that Hamas’ rockets are aimed at indiscriminately shelling Israeli civilans.
Dagens Nyheter vacillates as usual, trying to keep its back covered in a rather characteristic op-ed.
There are quite a few supportive comments in the Swedish press. Sydsvenska Dagbladet carried a piece a few days ago, with an eloquent ending well worth quoting:
“In the long run, no state can tolerate almost daily attacks with rockets and grenades against its civilian population without reacting and acting — in the end by military means. Israel is no exception. But for some reason it’s expected to be.”
An interesting new development in the Swedish public discourse is the new site Newsmill. Here, people can make their views on current topics known, and many central players in the duck pond of Swedish opinion quack here. By risking to overstrech an analogy, one is tempted to say that the opening of Newsmill has in many ways cracked open a breathing whole in the ice of consensus that tends to freeze over said pond.
For instance, the Center Party Member of Parliament Fredrick Federley supports Israel’s right to defend itself, and the Liberal Fredrik Malm encourages the Palestinians to learn from the Kurds in northern Iraq and focus on building their own society instead of concentrating on destroying its neighbor’s.
On the other hand, Andreas Malm has an almost surreal article on Newsmill, where he actually calls on Swedes to follow Iran’s lead, and support Hamas. Yes, he really does mention Iran as an example to emulate. Yes, really. Ulf Bjereld — remember the Mid East “expert” with the brilliant analysis quoted above? — has also made his opinion known on Newsmill. He’s glad that the Swedish Social Democratic Party, of whose governing body he’s a member, is increasingly distancing itself from Israel again, and aligning itself with the Palestinian struggle.
As a response to Bjereld, Sten-Gunnar Hedin asks how come Swedish Social Democrats and other leftists actually supports Hamas, an organization that fights against everything that the progressive European Left claims to stand up for in terms of universal human rights, women’s emancipation, gay rights, secularism and so forth.
An interesting question, indeed.
To wrap up, let’s just return to our “expert”, Professor Bjereld, who was so completely surprised by the timing of the launch of operation Cast Lead — despite the fact that it was all but announced in the papers in advance. In his insightful analysis of the situation, he doesn’t hesitate to make a forcast, saying that he doesn’t believe in any Israeli ground incursions.