Swedish group removes controversial W. Bank poster (JERUSALEM POST) By CNAAN LIPHSHIZ AND JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 03/19/12)
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THE HAGUE – The organizers of an art show in Sweden apologized on
Sunday for including an image depicting rifle-wielding rats eating up
parts of the West Bank.
The state-funded association behind the show removed the poster after
complaints by organizations combating anti-Semitism.
The poster was part of a Christian art exhibition organized by
Studieförbundet Bilda, a nongovernmental educational association
partly funded by the Swedish government.
The image, drawn by two Swedish pastors who visited the West Bank in
2011, was not yet displayed in the exhibition but was published
It was removed from the Internet following complaints by Jewish
individuals and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“The use of animalization in caricatures was a favorite propaganda
tactic of Nazis, later used by Soviet and Arab cartoonists to
dehumanize Jews,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
told The Jerusalem Post.
Magnus Stenberg, a spokesman for Studieförbundet Bilda, said the
exhibition had been organized by a local branch of the group.
“The organizers should have consulted the management ahead of
publication,” he told the Post.
Bilda has received the equivalent of just over 11.2 million euros
from the Swedish National Council of Adult Education, Stenberg said.
“As soon as we realized how one of the pictures could be understood
among our Jewish friends we asked the local branch to remove it,”
Stenberg said. The original intent, he added, was “to show how all
people are victims in the conflict,” but “it is very difficult to say
what the rats symbolize. You can’t tell if the rats are Israelis or
Palestinian leaders. The important thing is we are unhappy about the
image and we took it off.”
Stenberg said there was a need for more education on what are
acceptable and unacceptable statements about Israel to prevent the
reoccurrence of such incidents.
“It is ironic that an organization that deals with education makes
such mistakes,” he said. “We are very sorry for it and the lesson is
that some symbols are out of the question.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish
Congress, said Sweden had become “a center for anti-Semitism” and
that the government was ignoring the problem.
According to Dr. Mikael Tossaveinen, head of the Scandinavian desk at
Tel Aviv University’s Stephen Roth Institute for the research of anti-
Semitism, the phenomenon is not unusually prevalent in Swedish
Research shows that some 5 percent of the population can be
considered anti-Semitic, with another 20 percent harboring ambivalent
“Most Swedes know next to nothing about anti-Semitism, and so it
doesn’t surprise me that they don’t see the connection between the
imagery and Nazi propaganda,” Tossaveinen said. “This becomes extra
problematic when they come across anti-Israeli propaganda made in bad
faith by people who are anti-Semites.”
He added that Swedes “don’t understand the racist message” and thus
will spread the anti-Semitic art because they dislike Israel.
“Then they will be surprised when someone calls attention to the anti-
Semitism and interpret that as silencing their criticism of Israel,”
Tossaveinen said. “It’s quite tiresome and it happens remarkably
often in Sweden.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 03/19/12)
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