Sweden’s historic neutrality during the Second World War and the Cold War was rightfully hailed by those defending the position of the Swedish government in its recent row with Israel, regarding the blood libel published by the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet where it had accused Israel of organ theft from dead Palestinians.
What they fail to realize is that in this case what is in the past stays in the past and the present is quite different. If during the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War, neutrality was an act of courage with moral credit attached, by the end of the Cold War it was a status symbol, a high up on the mountain position for Swedish politics from which to look down at the world. Removed from its crisises and challenges, a taking a stand neutrality became a do nothing neutrality. It was a neutrality that in order to avoid tension worked with tyrannies rather then facing them, but it used the aura of old times, when it was one of a handful of pioneers that opposed South Africa’s apartheid regime, to cloth these new associations with morality. So boxed in was Swedish politics in this newly defined neutrality that when the crisis did call, and thousands of Swedish nationals were stranded in the tsunami stricken shores of south east Asia, many wounded, many dead, all lost, its government didn’t move an inch, while the whole world around them rushed to the rescue.
That may seem unrelated to the topic at hand but that administrative inaction was also a moral inaction, since people’s lives were involved. And just as the tsunami killed a lot of innocent people so does Anti Semitism. One tremor can cause tidal waves of hate and destruction that will engulf the world several times before subsiding. Governments may had changed in Sweden between that disaster and now, but for the current government whose delegates set through a demented lecture of the world’s most famous anti Semite, reciting old conspiracy theories, the waters are just as calm as they were four years ago for its predecessors. Thus giving the evidence that Swedish politics is in a chronic crisis of moral leadership. As Israelis, and other non-Swedes there is little we can do a bout it. The main victims of this boxed in neutrality are the Swedish people and the Swedish state, whose neutrality is no longer a commodity this battered world needs.