Jewish Children Exposed to ‘Widespread Antisemitism’ in Schools in Malmo, Sweden, New Study Concludes

Stortorget in Malmö, Sweden. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The small number of Jewish children attending public schools in the Swedish city of Malmo experience “widespread antisemitism,” according to a new study published by the municipal authorities this week.

Fourteen Jewish children and 26 teachers were interviewed for the report, titled “Schoolyard racism, exclusion and conspiracy theories.” Speaking about the study’s conclusions to Swedish national television, Sarah Wettergren — chair of the Malmo Council’s primary school committee — stated that “we now have it in black and white that antisemitism is widespread in our schools.”

Located in southern Sweden, Malmo has long been a flashpoint for antisemitism in Sweden and Europe more broadly. Much of the aggression faced by the city’s Jewish community — which has shrunk by half to around 1,000 people over the last decade, in large part because of antisemitism — is tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with some members of the city’s Muslim communities expressing their hatred of Israel and Zionism through attacks on local Jews.

One of the key problems identified by the report concerns the jokes and derogatory remarks the Jewish schoolchildren are exposed to.

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“Jokes are what you encounter. It’s everything from ‘stingy Jew’ to ‘I’ll gas you.’ I have had friends who also joked about it, and it actually feels terrible that they take such liberties and what you do then is to normalize racist language. There is an active ignorance in those jokes,” one of the students interviewed for the report said.

The prevalence of Middle Eastern conflicts in Malmo’s daily culture has meant that Jews in the city have identified certain schools that should be avoided.

“Jews stay away from certain schools, because they do not feel safe there,” said another student. “There is such a thing as lists of schools that are okay for Jews and those that are not. In fact, in the case of high schools, most of them are blacklisted. You know with Israel/Palestine, you know that you will [get] s*** at those schools, and that’s too bad.”

Many teachers feel unable to deal with the strength of feeling around the Palestinian issue, according to the study. “I have worked in schools where teacher colleagues have said ‘do not talk about Israel/Palestine here because it will only be difficult,” said one of the teacher’s interviewed. “But it only gets difficult because you know nothing about the conflict and that it is emotional for yourself.”

The study also examined the role played by conspiracy theories in boosting antisemitic feeling.

“Conspiratorial thinking is linked to a limited understanding and knowledge of the world around us,” the study’s author — Mirjam Katzin, the City of Malmo’s coordinator against antisemitism — wrote in the 94-page report.

“Most conspiracy theories have an antisemitic basis, but that it not always obvious to the uninitiated,” Katzin observed.

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