Swedish lawmaker: Jews must assimilate to become true Swedes

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The party secretary of the far-right Sweden Democrats party said Jews cannot be “true Swedes” if they continue to identify as Jews.

Bjorn Soder said in an interview this week with the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter that minority groups such as Jews, Kurds and Sami, or Laplanders, must “assimilate in order to become Swedish.”

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“We are for an inclusive society where everybody who wants to can fit in. We have an open Swedishness which also includes people with foreign roots,” Soder said. “But you have to adapt to the Swedish and assimilate in order to become Swedish.

“I think that most people with Jewish origin who have become Swedes leave their Jewish identity behind. But if they don’t it doesn’t have to be an issue.” He noted that “Sami and Jews have lived in Sweden for a long time.”

Willy Silberstein, chairman of the Swedish Committee Against anti-Semitism, responded to the interview in the English-language Swedish news website TheLocal.se.

“I am Jewish and born in Sweden. I am just as much Swedish as Bjorn Soder,” he said. “There is an us and them mentality which I think is a characteristic of the party.”

Silberstein added, “We should remember that the Sweden Democrats come from Nazi organizations.”

The Sweden Democrats became the third largest party in the country during last September’s election.

In September 2013, Soder submitted a motion to the Swedish Parliament that would ban circumcision on males under the age of 18, including Jewish and Muslim ritual circumcision.

Also this week, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman refused a request to meet next month with his Swedish counterpart when she visits Israel in response to the decision in October by the country’s Parliament to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state.