Let's start with some basic questions.
Raise your hands if you're familiar with the recent story about a Starbuck's coffee cup. You know, the red one. C'mon, keep them up. I'm counting. (Play along. Someday there'll be an app for this.)
Ah-ha. Quite a few of you, I see.
Now, how many of you are aware of the story about how the Swedish city of Umea marked the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht last week but didn't invite local Jews because city officials thought it too dangerous for them to attend?
Not many hands in the air this time, I see. I'm not surprised.
Last question: What does it say about the American news media that a silly non-story about a Starbucks' cup shows up everywhere, but a Judenrein Kristallnacht commemoration passes largely unreported?
I'd say a great deal. None of it good.
So I just said "last question," but here's one more. Why does it take a Paris massacre for journalists to pay close and continued attention to the individual dots that when connected lead to mass terrorist assaults?
Here's some background -- not on the cup. What's left to say? Let's talk about the incident in Umea.
The following is excerpted from The Daily Beast, one of the very few American news outlets to report the story, even if it did so with an incomplete and poorly edited story.
And when I say very few, I mean I found nothing in the nation's elite media (is the Beast now elite?) in an online search. If I missed something, please let me know in the comments section below. Of course the story received extensive coverage in Israel and in the U.S. Jewish press -- all available online.
Here's the excerpt. it's longish but telling.
When commemorating the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht with an anti-Nazism rally, you’d think perhaps the most obvious people to invite would be Jewish citizens. Not so for organizers in one Swedish city, where a Monday evening event will transpire without the presence of local Jews.
“Umeå Against Nazism” is set to take place in Umeå’s Town Hall Square, timed to the anniversary of the 1938 violent pogrom largely seen as the start of the Holocaust. The event’s organizer, Jan Hägglund, is a local lawmaker and member of the local [left-leaning] Workers’ Party [better known as the Social Democratic Workers' Party (SAP), Sweden's largest party].
The decision not to invite local Jews, he said, was because the rally could “be perceived as unwelcoming or unsafe situation for them.” According to [the centrist Swedish newspaper] Norrköping Tidningar, previous rallies have included Palestinian flags and banners where the Star of David was equated with the Nazi swastika. Another Workers’ Party official told The Jerusalem Post that, in the past, this rally has been “a narrow affair for ‘leftists.’”
The event’s Facebook page acknowledged Kristallnacht as the moment when ”Nazis stepped up the violence against the Jewish population in Germany.” Additionally, the page beckoned, “Knowledge of the Nazi extermination of millions of Jews and Roma must be kept alive.”
Noting that Nazi activists marched on Umeå for the first time since World War II two years ago, the page declared that “our rally should be seen as a defense of Umeå as a city of openness towards people with different culture, religion and sexual orientation. As well as support for those forced to flee from war and hopes for a future in Umeå..."
Critics see that latter statement as a hint that the event has ulterior political motives.
“How much clearer can the anti-Semitism of the left be?” one Facebook commenter wrote. Another person added that not including Jews for a Kristallnacht memorial is like only including whites to take part in a demonstration against South African apartheid.
An unsigned Norrköping Tidningar editorial railed against the decision: “What is the point of a rally against Nazism if the relatives of the victims aren’t invited?” Another local lawmaker, Anders Ågren of the Moderate Party, said he will not participate in the event, and will instead gather with the local Jewish Association to light candles and have a moment of silence.
Hägglund claimed to The Jerusalem Post that Jewish groups were indeed invited, but declined due to a prior engagement. Local Jewish leader Carrine Sjöberg replied that she only received a formal extension after the controversy hit local papers.
I understand that anti-Semitic incidents have become too-frequent occurrences in Europe and that reporting each one can seem tedious. I also understand that a great many people who sympathize with Palestinians, including journalists, conflate such stories with Israeli policies, diminishing their stand-alone news value.
Additionally, I know that Americans have a low tolerance for foreign stories -- except, perhaps when something like Paris occurs -- and that editors know that, too. And that the cup story, as contrived as it is, fits nicely into the Christmas cultural wars trope -- and doesn't that make it a dandy, easily slapped together, seasonally appropriate CONTROVERSY?
But let's not overlook Umea's context.
Which is: Europe's shifting demographics as a result of the massive immigration of Middle Eastern and African Muslims, who bring with them strong anti-Semitic, and even stronger anti-Israel, sentiments that produce a disdain, or much worse, for Jews and all things Jewish.
Sweden, virtually unsurpassed in its willingness to welcome immigrants fleeing war and poverty, and most generous with the government benefits it bestows upon them, is swamped with Muslim immigrants. The southern Swedish city of Malmö, Sweden's third largest, is now a third Muslim; anti-Semitic incidents are rampant and the city's Jewish population has dropped by half, to 1,000, in the past decade.
This Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) story lays it out.
Sweden was also the first Western European, EU nation to recognize Palestine as a full-fledged state. Click here for background. Sweden's foreign minister also found it pertinent to link the Paris attacks with the Palestinian cause this week.
It's no wonder that European Jewish groups, and American, are of two-minds when it comes to the plight of the immigrants. The heart demands action while the mind cautions against unintended consequences -- like Paris.
And yet what we get is stories about a cup. Ponder that. And then ponder this irony: The best-know (relatively speaking) rock band to come out of Umea is named Meshuggah -- "crazy" in both Yiddish and Hebrew.