Hate crimes force Jews out of Malmo

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Jewish groups say anti-Semitic attacks increased in several European countries following the Gaza war, notably the Netherlands and France.

Across the narrow Oresund Strait, Jews in Copenhagen say they have also felt a rise in Muslim anti-Semitism but are less worried, said Yitzchok Loewenthal of the Jewish International Organization in the Danish capital.

“The fundamental difference is that here in Copenhagen, Jews feel that the police, state and authorities take the issue very seriously and are on top of the situation, while in Malmo the Jewish community feel unsafe because the political will is not there,” he said.

Malmo’s Jews say they feel little support from Mayor Ilmar Reepalu, a left-winger who told a Swedish newspaper in January he thought the anti-Semitism was coming from extreme-right groups. He also drew criticism for blaming Malmo Jews for not distancing themselves from the Israeli campaign in Gaza.

“Instead they choose to hold a demonstration … which can send the wrong signals,” Mr. Reepalu was quoted as saying by Skanska Dagbladet.

Jewish leaders sensed a blame-the-victim attitude. Mr. Reepalu has since spoken out against anti-Semitism and claims the media twisted his comments.

In an interview aired by Danish broadcaster TV2 this month, Mr. Reepalu said he was being misrepresented by “the Israeli lobby who aren’t interested in what I say and believe.”

Mr. Reepalu didn’t respond to repeated requests for an interview with the Associated Press.

The city recently appointed an anti-hate-crimes coordinator, Bjorn Lagerback, who said Mr. Reepalu has sent a letter to the city’s 20,000 employees denouncing all attacks against minorities in Malmo, though without specifically mentioning Jews.

Asked whether Jews were particularly targeted by hate crimes in Malmo, Mr. Lagerback said anti-Semitism had become “more explicit.” He added that “we also have discrimination against women who wear a hijab. They are also exposed to various kinds of insults.”

Mosque leader Mr. Becirov spoke similarly, saying he feels “great sympathy for the Jewish community” and knows what it’s going through because “the Muslim community, too, is exposed to Islamophobia.”

He listed a range of incidents, including an anthrax letter sent to him after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, and several arson attacks against his mosque.

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