How’s this for a spiteful poke in the eye?
The neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NRM) is planning a march, with the approval of the local police, that will pass near the main synagogue in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city. And when will they be doing that, you might wonder?
Why on Yom Kippur, of course, the holiest day on the Jewish liturgical calendar, which this year begins on Friday evening, Sept. 29, with the haunting Kol Nidre recitation. (Yom Kippur is part of the Jewish High Holy Days, also referred to as the High Holidays, which begin with this week’s celebration of Rosh Hashanah.)
Poke, poke, poke -- ouch!
Sweden, as I'm sure most readers know, is hardly the only Western European nation where anti-Semitism -- defined as hatred of Jews as a group or Judaism as a religion, for whatever the reason -- has become an increasing public issue of late.
The U.K.’s Mirror, for example, last month ran a piece saying one in three British Jews is considering leaving the nation because of anti-Semitism. Reporting survey results, the paper said only 59 percent of the nation’s 270,000 Jews still feel comfortable living in Britain.
In Germany, the head of the growing right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-European Union Alternative for Germany party said just the other day that rather than continuing to lament his nation's instigation of the Holocaust, Germans should instead be "proud of the achievements of German soldiers in two world wars."
Additionally, the head of the European Jewish Congress earlier this year said anti-Semitism is becoming increasingly more openly expressed across Western Europe.
Dr [Moshe] Kantor said: “It is truly disturbing that in living memory of the Holocaust, today in Europe we have a situation where the far right in gaining popularity in every major country on the continent. It is once more becoming acceptable in polite circles to openly make anti-Semitic, xenophobic and bigoted remarks, all under the cloak of national patriotism. ...
Dr Kantor stressed that it was not just the far right which was fueling anti-Semitism. “The Jewish community in Europe is under attack from the far right, the far left and radical Islamists. As ever, the only common cause between these groups is hatred of Jews,” he said.
I've written here before about anti-Semitism in Sweden and the lack of attention it has received from the international press.
Well guess what. So far, the international press has also paid little attention to the planned Gothenburg march.
But wait. As much as I believe that a society’s shadow side should be journalistically exposed, a part of me also thinks that maybe its a good thing the march, as of the start of this week, is being largely ignored.
After all, marches such as this one are organized with the publicity they generally draw in mind. The more radical the marchers, the more antagonizing and threatening they appear, the more press coverage they tend to attract.
Why give the marchers the exposure they crave? Why alert their still-closeted followers that they are not alone, that it's okay to come out publicly? Why help them recruit?
This is a difficult call to make.
The journalist part of me believes unequivocally that threatening episodes such as this march cannot be ignored; that they're legitimate news that demand coverage. My non-journalist side, however, keeps whispering that we all might be better served by denying neo-Nazis the public platform they seek.
It’s an increasingly intriguing choice. Though we know that given journalism’s inbred competitiveness, coverage -- even excessive coverage -- will just about always win out.
Which is why I expected that by now the march would have received more coverage.
After all, the march has an obvious High Holy Days news hook. Moreover, it's been denounced by the Swedish prime minister.
So far, however, my internet searches have located only minimal advance coverage. And most of what I have found, unsurprisingly, has appeared in Israeli and diaspora Jewish outlets. Here’s one such story, published by The Times of Israel.
Outside that interested demographic, I found that only Newsweek, and the parochial Christianity Today had posted stories at week’s start, and both settled for easy rewrites of Swedish media reports.
This past Sunday, the NRM staged what might be called a warm-up march through central Gothenburg, which is apparently some distance from the synagogue they’ll march near on Yom Kippur.
Sunday’s march was apparently small, attracting only about 50 neo-Nazis. Who can say how many will turn out for the more symbolic Yom Kippur march?
Click here to read how the warm up was covered by The Local, an English-language, digital news operation that publishes in nine Western European nations, including the Scandinavian countries.
For more on anti-Semitism in Sweden, click here to access The Local’s past coverage of the issue (including stories on efforts to counter anti-Semitism in Sweden).
Unfortunately, there is much there to be read.