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söndag 8 mars 2009

Sweden wins match but loses credibility

Sweden’s economy is in the doldrums. It’s a fate Sweden shares with many other nations in what is turning into the worst financial crisis in decades.

However, two industries are doing very well indeed:

1. Hate dissemination. The extreme left, the extreme right and the more violent Islamist movements are allied to what the Swedes, with comical euphemism, refer to as “autonomous groups” – a synonym for anarchists, violent saboteurs of civilised society. It’s an unholy alliance that is raking in the profits in Sweden. The political profits.

2. Transport. A handful of Jews from Israel arrived in Sweden to play tennis in the Davis Cup tournament, and a thousand police officers and several scores of police vehicles had to be transported down to the southern Swedish city of Malmö to protect the Jews. Why? Because this handful of Jewish tennis players also attracted about 6000 violent demonstrators from all over Sweden and northern Europe, particularly nearby Denmark, all of whom required transport to Malmö.

So what were the demonstrations in Malmö about on Saturday 7 March? Well, they certainly weren’t about human rights abuses in Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Syria, the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, Fatah’s West Bank, Lebanon, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Russia, Burma.

The demonstrations were against the enormity of allowing a handful of Jews onto Swedish soil to play tennis. Because the police, in particularly unsportsmanlike fashion, erected barricades and refused to let the demonstrators tear the Jewish tennis players limb from limb, the mob turned its attention on the hapless officers. Sitting inside their vehicles, the police were subjected to what could only have been a truly terrifying rampage as fireworks, granite cobblestones, even bicycles, were hurled at them and the rioters started tearing the vehicles apart.
A police officer under attack draws his weapon.
You don't need to understand Swedish - the images speak clearly.

I spoke before and after the tennis match with police officers, civilian security guards, passersby, fans of both the Swedish and the Israeli teams, and representatives of the Israeli team. Everyone expressed their disapproval of the demonstrators’ goals, their methods and the damage they caused to Sweden’s and in particular Malmö’s reputation.

I met a number of very pleasant police officers from my home town of Gothenburg, about a 3-hour drive away. They all said the police were thoroughly prepared and that nothing would disrupt the match. They were right – because they themselves bore the brunt of the attack by the rioters.
From Swedish TV news, Rapport March 7, 2009
You don't need to understand Swedish - the images speak clearly.

All the police and functionaries I spoke with noted that Sweden’s reputation, economy and sports industry and the city of Malmö’s future as a host of international events have taken a severe beating – just like the city itself.

The Israeli team members expressed their astonishment over the situation. One player said that they travel the world playing tennis, including the Middle East, but that nowhere have they ever encountered the sort of hatred and naked anti-Semitism that they witnessed in Sweden.

Another player said that one might have an opinion on the policies of countries such as China, Russia, Dubai, Turkey, countries about which there is some controversy regarding human-rights issues and political freedom, but that one leaves politics behind when the time comes to play tennis.

Another team member who understands Arabic pointed out that the protests did not appear to be political in nature but instead racist. He did not understand how Sweden, previously a renowned beacon of freedom and democracy, could accept being taken hostage by what looked like race riots.

Violence against the police. The police were apparently under instruction to do nothing to “provoke” even more violence while under attack. It appears that the only major action taken by the police was to drive a few police vans forward a few metres, sirens blaring, and to use the mounted police to single out the worst offenders. According to information the police took about a hundred rioters into temporary custody, releasing them at a remote location away from the centre of the city.

Click on this link to watch a video of what unfolded and to read another first-hand account of what happened.

That was yesterday. Tomorrow perhaps it will not be the police who are targeted, perhaps it will be the civilians who will feel the full weight of the rioters’ rage.

Hopefully if that happens the police will respond more robustly.

After the match I chatted with a few Swedish tennis fans, young enthusiasts in their early 20s. One of them was immensely upset over Sweden’s loss. Not quite sure if I’d misunderstood what he said, I pointed out that Sweden had in fact won the doubles match. “Yeah well, we won the match but we lost everything else,” he said, pointing to what looked like a war zone beyond the crowd control barricades, the hundreds of police in riot gear, the dozens of civilian security personnel and the scores of police vehicles. “We’re supposed to call this winning?” he asked. “Sweden lost big-time. Tennis lost its reputation. And as for this damned city, I’m never setting my foot here again.”

A functionary standing nearby nodded without saying a word. The battle-weary police nearby looked like all they wanted to do was to go back home to their families in faraway towns and cities like Stockholm, Gothenburg and points further afield. A few of them undoubtedly came locally, from Malmö. I felt most sorry for them – it’s never pleasant hearing your home-town being trashed in public.

Malmö, March 2009. The losers’ city while the Swedish Davis Cup players enjoyed a keenly-contested victory.

But it is difficult to talk about victory on a day like this. How could Sweden lose in such a spectacular way? The answers are to be found in the left-wing politicians who fired up the 6000-strong demonstrators, turning them into rioters.

Swedish politicians Lars Ohly and Per Gahrton are the flip side of an increasingly fragile Swedish democracy. Populists who know how to use words to inflame a crowd on the day the country’s Davis Cup team won but the nation lost.


Swedish articles:
Syd, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, Ab, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, SvD, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, DN, 2, 3, GP, Expressen, Dala, NWT, VF, Barometern, BLT, DT,

English articles:
Haaretz, Ynet, 2, 3, IHT, AP, YahooNews, METimes, JPost, 2, AFP, Eurosport, Reuters, NYdailynews

Bloggers, some in English, others in Swedish:
Adania, FiM, MXp, I Mitt Sverige, TedEkeroth, IM, IM, IM

Etiketter: , , , , ,

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upplagd av Ilya Meyer