Thursday, September 07, 2017

07-Sep-17: A deplorable Swedish reaction when terror intersects with antisemitism

Over at Israel National News, they currently feature a powerful op ed penned by Marianne Ahrne, a notable figure in Scandinavia's film and television industry as well as a successful writer.

The angry views this cultured person shares with her audience about where her country, Sweden, is heading are framed by reference to a film she helped bring into existence. (We played a small role in it too.)

In a passionate expose ["Television, terror and Swedish funding", Israel National News, September 6, 2017], Marianne shares views that stem from both personal experience and a sense of betrayal of her country's heritage and values. It's the kind of anguish we hear more and more from European friends.

Here's a lengthy extract:
Funding terrorism is illegal in Sweden. But Sweden’s government is doing just that. 
Of the $100 million contributed annually by Sweden to the Palestinian Authority, an uncontrollable percentage goes towards salaries for convicted terrorists and allowances to the families of suicide bombers. The more people the terrorist kills, the more money the PA pays to him or her. In this way, many terrorists earn far more while locked up in Israeli prison cells than the average Palestinian worker does. 
Some $355 million of the PA´s budget is currently used for this purpose. 
Swedes like to pretend that their foreign aid money is ear-marked for humanitarian purposes only and gladly go on about it. But this is nothing more than words - and they are ”blowing in the wind”. 
If the government of Sweden does not halt its funding to the PA until they stop rewarding their terrorists, then nothing will change. Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s president, will continue saying ”yes, yes” in English and ”no, no” in Arabic - while continuing to cash in. Our government is of course aware of Abbas’ double-talk and knows where at least part of  the Swedish foreign aid money ends up. So either it accepts that it is sponsoring terrorism or it is in denial about the facts. I don´t know which is worse. 
But I do know “Palestine” has become the darling pet of our government. And Israel its black sheep.
How would Swedes react, I wonder, if a school in Stockholm were to be named after Rakhmat Akilov, the terrorist who drove a lorry into the crowd on Stockholm’s Drottninggatan in April. Not even Margot Wallström, our country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister, would view that as a clever move.
But the Palestinians are constantly naming schools, arenas, streets and squares after their terrorists, while stubbornly terming them ‘martyrs’. And those who plan terror attacks while preferring not to be blown up themselves can go on to become TV stars. 
Not long ago there was a celebration (yes, a celebration!) of the suicide bombing of Jerusalem’s Sbarro pizzeria where fifteen Israelis, eight of them children, were murdered and 130 injured. In Gaza and Lebanon, crowds went out onto the streets, cheering and handing out candies in honor of the massacre. The PA later honoured the suicide bomber with a military funeral...
The Sbarro suicide bomber was blown to pieces in the explosion. But Ahlam Tamimi, the woman who planned the attack and brought him to the site, is alive and, until recently, had a TV show of her own where she encouraged viewers on to more acts of terrorism.
Tamimi was one of the 1,027 terrorists liberated in exchange for a captive IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit, in 2011. Following her release, Palestinian TV broadcast an interview recorded with her while she was still in an Israeli prison. It shows her [YouTube] expressing delight on learning that more children had been murdered in Sbarro than she knew about at the time.
It turns my stomach to think that, indirectly at least, the Swedish government and Swedish funding from ordinary Swedish taxpayers sponsor her and the likes of her.
The reason I have been looking into the case of Tamimi a little more closely is that Arnold Roth, the father of Malki, one of those children murdered in the pizzeria, takes part in a documentary film “Watching the Moon at Night” made by the noted Swedish film-makers Bo Persson and Joanna Helander. I approved the funding of their film while working as a commissioner at the Swedish Film Institute.
Since then, I have followed its destiny, seeing it praised at festivals and by several of the foremost global experts in the fields that it tackles - terrorism and anti-Semitism. But Sveriges Television (SVT), our country’s national public TV broadcaster, has, for some obscure reason and despite the fact it originally signed on to co-produce it, refused to screen it. And continues to refuse.
More than 1,300 people have signed a petition demanding the film be broadcast by SVT. But no... with the passage of time and after having followed all the ups and downs, I have come to believe that SVT’s refusal to show the film is,  sadly, connected to the fact that among the Spanish, British, Irish, Swedish and Algerian victims of terrorism sympathetically interviewed in the film, there are also a couple of Israelis. 
Such is the depth of Swedish hatred and prejudice against Israel.  And let it be noted that this is no longer a rare response from those on Sweden’s left. 
That the left is over-represented on the documentary board at Swedish Television is an open secret. It probably explains why the management at SVT has no problem showing Oliver Stone´s uncritical portrait of Putin but will not countenance the screening of “Watching the Moon at Night” in which critics of the Russian regime speak up. Men and women, please note, like Anna Politkovskaja who put their lives at risk by their civil courage.
Well, Oliver Stone might be a side-track. But everything is connected.
Feeding the Palestinian Authority with large servings of Swedish funding without demanding a total stop to the unconscionable paying of salaries to terrorists while at the same time refusing to acknowledge Israeli victims of terror – these are two sides of the same coin.
There is a name for this. The name is anti-Semitism.
Marianne Ahrne, who published this, is a serious observer of Swedish affairs. A distinguished figure - writer, director, film-maker - in Sweden's cultural life, she was honored in 1980 with the Esselte Prize for Literature and with numerous additional prizes for her film work. And, which is relevant to what has happened, she served as a film commissioner at the Swedish Film Institute.

Marianne Ahrne [Image Source]
It doesn't take much effort for people with a deep respect for the open sharing and discussion of important ideas to share her fury. What's at work here is a brazen betrayal of principles. Sveriges Television, Sweden's dominant television network, is thwarting - silencing is a better word - the screening of an important, thoughtful film that happens to have been created by some of the most admirable minds at work in that country.

The scandal is hardly a secret but it has gotten scant media attention. We exposed it in several earlier posts of our own: "13-Jan-15: Terrorism: watching its victims, trying to understand their experiences"; "28-Mar-16: Upcoming premiere screenings (NYC, Washington) of an important documentary on terrorism and antisemitism"; and "22-Jul-16: Heavy-handed Swedish efforts to silence an important documentary on terrorism and antisemitism".

Creative camerawork and the poetry of Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska are part of this exquisitely rendered cinematic essay. Filmed in six countries, "Watching the Moon at Night" focuses on the victims' experiences and juxtaposes them against the views of world experts in this field. The late French writer and philosopher André Glucksmann, the late historian of the Holocaust, Robert S. Wistrich, and the eminent historian Walter Laqueur are among its featured expert voices.

Sweden-based Kino Koszyk produced the film, which was directed and written by Joanna Helander and Bo Persson. Among its other voices are those of Dan Alon, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril, Lars Bergander, Juliette and Bronek Bergman, Vladimir Bukovsky, Guillaume Denoix de Saint Marc, Michael Gallagher, Konstanty Gebert, André Glucksmann, Ramin Jahanbegloo, Zuhdi Jasser, Anthony Julius, Cherifa Kheddar, Sergei Kovalev, Rapahel Mafouta, Arnold Roth, Clara Rojas, Hannah Rosenthal, Esther Saez-Gonzales, Anne Serner, Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, Robert S. Wistrich, Lidia Yusopova. Wisława Szymborska, the Polish poet who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996 makes a very moving appearance.

You can see the film's trailer here. There is additional info and several reviews at the film's official website.

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