The Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism (SCAA) has criticized the Social Democrats for inviting controversial British-Israeli musician and political commentator Gilad Atzmon to speak at a seminar on Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Afghanistan, which was held in Stockholm on March 18th.
Writing in newspaper Expressen on Thursday, SCAA chairman Jesper Svartvik urged the party to distance itself from the decision of its Christian organization, Broderskapsrörelsen, and the Workers' Educational Association (Arbetarnas Bildningsförbund - ABF) to bring Atzmon to the capital.
I am - to repeat - close to being an absolutist on free speech, even (indeed, particularly) for those of vile opinions. But that principle doesn't entail an obligation on the part of democratic organisations to extend a platform for the expression of vile opinions. I can't say how representative or influential is the social democratic organisation referred to (I'm close to Scandinavia, but not unfortunately to Swedish politics). But the type of argument quoted later in the article is very familiar to me indeed:
In a statement released to The Local, Ulf Carmesund, international secretary of the Christian Social Democrats, rejects the allegations made by SCAA.
"Gilad Atzmon is himself a Jew, and when the Swedish Committee Against Anti-Semitism starts calling Jews anti-Semites there is a risk that they undermine the term anti-Semite and do the fight against anti-Semitism a disservice," said Carmesund.
"Atzmon is critical of the state of Israel's politics and of Jewish organizations that support the state of Israel's politics in the name of all Jews. Atzmon belongs to that group of Jews that refuses to be associated with the Israeli occupation and the state of Israel's breaches of international law.
"He aims his criticism not at Jewishness but at the politics and ideology that lead to breaches of international law," he added.
Where do you start? Antisemitism is a diverse phenomenon that, as my readers will know well, tends to operate by insinuation: the word "Zionist" is often employed as a code word for "Jew" and "Jewish". Mr Carmesund is on the evidence of his public comment unlikely to have grasped this. It's fortunate therefore that Atzmon is too thick to operate by insinuation: he is open in his bigotry. I believe I reported on his singular political commentaries earlier than any other blogger, and must stress to anyone who doubts his virulence that Atzmon frankly asserts that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion accurately depicts the state of modern America. He also believes that the problem with Holocaust denial is that there isn't enough of it going on. He's a racist and an antisemite by any objective standards. It's not an elevated level on which to be politically active, but I take some pride in the fact that this disgusting man regards me as a natural enemy.
If any Swedish readers were minded to explain to this social democratic organisation what it's got itself into, I should be obliged.