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March 11, 2014 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Vasa Real, a central Stockholm high school with special classes for Jewish pupils was covered in Nazi graffiti on Monday morning, leaving a parent in tears and fearing the rise of fascism in Europe.

The central Stockholm high school has more than 800 pupils from grades five to nine, when the children are between 11 and 15. At high-school level, there are three classes with Jewish children who study the Swedish curriculum but also study Hebrew and Jewish studies, according to the Vasa Real website.

On Tuesday, students were met with a different bunch of symbols put up by neighbours, friends, and local politicians. (sorry in Swedish, but the photos tell the story.)
posted by three blind mice (43 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for posting this. It's nice to see the second picture.

I've learned many things in life, but one big one is that some people really really really hate Jewish people. A high ranking WTF.
posted by josher71 at 7:28 AM on March 11 [10 favorites]


People like to blame their crappy lives on others. The more Other the better. Maybe if they spent less time terrorizing children they wouldn't suck so badly?
posted by 1adam12 at 7:32 AM on March 11


If history continues for another couple centuries, I wonder what we will think of post-WWII Europe. Did efforts like de-Nazification work, in the long historical view? Or does it only look that way on the timescale of decades, with the intervening cause of the Cold War and Europe's status as US client?
posted by grobstein at 7:37 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


While this and other attacks on Jewish people in Europe are lamentable, it is rather too soon and too much to suggest that somehow denazification is being undone.
posted by Thing at 7:40 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I've learned many things in life, but one big one is that some people really really really hate Jewish people

Possibly unhelpful to muddle up why people hate Jewish people in Sweden, as opposed to Hungary or Ukraine though.

I get the impression* in some places like Sweden (and in the UK) hating Jew is a particularly unpleasant and sometimes violent form of trolling - a nice soft victim group and predictable why-oh-why response from the liberals right wing extremists also hate. It's not, for want of a better term, necessarily hating Jews for a reason** and the same people might just as well hate some other group. Whereas in Hungary I got the impression that antisemitism was a continuation of Jews=commies with the the complexities of nationalists (Nazis) v federalists (be it the USSR or EU) that have gone on for a century or so, antisemitism was more embedded and complex, and considerably more threatening.


* And happy to be corrected if wrong
** I appreciate the point may be moot for victims

posted by MuffinMan at 7:44 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I think that's about right, MuffinMan. Certainly in the UK, most overt anti-semites have never actually met a jew. They do it because of the lineage to the Nazis, rather than because they believe jews have some impact on the quality of their lives.

(Aside from the whole cabal thing, but I'm never sure how seriously they mean that, either. Americans always seem much bigger on that whole Illuminati/One World Government conspiracy type thing than our kooks are.)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:58 AM on March 11


It's not, for want of a better term, necessarily hating Jews for a reason...

I think that while, yeah, the antisemitism situation in Hungary is much more complex than many other places, it's not as simple as "we picked the Jews out of the rest" in other places in Europe. Jews are, within the logic of antisemitism, stateless and lacking in loyalty to anyone but themselves. In countries where ethnicity and nationality are very much intertwined -- Scandinavia is a particularly good example -- being a Jew is practically treason if you're of a particular sort of hateful and nationalistic bent.

Antisemitism has a lot more in common with antiziganism than it does with, for instance, Islamophobia. To the Islamophobe, the presence of Muslims signifies an invasion. They're a hostile force bent on a violent takeover who want to make Allah the state God and impose Sharia law on everyone (or whatever.)

On the other hand, the driving fear of antisemitism is closer to fear of infestation. The antisemite isn't worried the Jews will topple the government, put a Rabbi in the king's throne and make everyone pray to Adonai and follow Halakha. Rather, the fear is that the Jews will infiltrate the banks and the media and so on, and live off the hard labor of everyone else.

And, obviously, there are plenty of antisemites that hate Jews because they're just hateful shits and that's who they picked to torment over whomever else. But a lot of it has less to do with either raw xenophobia or straight-up "Heil Hitler" Nazism than it does with a very long-standing tradition of antisemitism that you will find in basically every single European country.
posted by griphus at 8:11 AM on March 11 [26 favorites]


From NY Books's review of David Nirenberg's new and timely Anti-Judaism:
His argument is that a certain view of Judaism lies deep in the structure of Western civilization and has helped its intellectuals and polemicists explain Christian heresies, political tyrannies, medieval plagues, capitalist crises, and revolutionary movements. Anti-Judaism is and has long been one of the most powerful theoretical systems “for making sense of the world.” No doubt, Jews sometimes act out the roles that anti-Judaism assigns them—but so do the members of all the other national and religious groups, and in much greater numbers. The theory does not depend on the behavior of “real” Jews.
Consider Anders Behring Breivik. These deluded, vicious people aren't trolling, they're trying to save the world.
posted by mbrock at 8:11 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


People like to blame their crappy lives on others. The more Other the better. Maybe if they spent less time terrorizing children they wouldn't suck so badly?

Yes, but that would mean having to work, try harder, and take responsibility for their own shortcomings and they couldn't possibly do that because that takes both humility and courage...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:24 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this post. I'll return to this picture of school entrance covered with hearts whenever I feel I'm sliding into thinking that one man contribution can't possibly change antything.
posted by hat_eater at 8:33 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


The Math That Predicts Uprisings. Sweden, yes, Sweden, has very high food prices right now. And that's you need to know (according this).
posted by stbalbach at 8:58 AM on March 11


These deluded, vicious people aren't trolling, they're trying to save the world.

Well, some of them are. But until you catch the particular individuals responsible for this you can't really know for sure. I think there are certainly some cases of actions like this which are motivated more by the knowledge that this is an easy way to provoke a response than by any very deep ideological commitment to antisemitism per se. That is, I think there's a certain class of bully who just sees this kind of thing as an attractively soft target (and one likely to attract wide notoriety) not a part of any kind of moral crusade.
posted by yoink at 9:02 AM on March 11


Sadly, it seems as though somebody has also been breaking windows at a Malmo synagogue over the last few weeks. It's the kind of "low level" incident which happens too often in many countries, but needs to be taken seriously before the perpetrator becomes inboldened to try something bigger.
posted by Thing at 9:04 AM on March 11


Members of a Swedish far right political party attacked people who were returning from an International Women's Day celebration in Malmö and one of the people attacked, a campaigner against homophobia in football, remains in a critical condition.
posted by Kattullus at 9:07 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Also re: [UK antisemites] do it because of the lineage to the Nazis, rather than because they believe jews have some impact on the quality of their lives.

For the UK specifically, there has been that same sort of never-actually-seen-a-Jew antisemitism around long before Hitler (I mean for that matter, Hitler was riding and exacerbating out the long-standing European antisemitism in his part of the world but anyway...)

Most tellingly, it was even around at the time between the Expulsion of the Jews in the 13th century and the resettlement in the 17th. Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, featuring "the extreme cruelty of Shylock the Jew towards the said Merchant" was written at a time when there had not been any significant English-domiciled Jewish population for ~300 years.
posted by griphus at 9:40 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Ugh. I always think Nazi graffiti is particularly nasty. Fucking cowards.

Also, one can always find a historical basis for this kind of bs...but in the end, the person who actually did it is just a piece of shit coward.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:58 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


There's been enough cases of this sort of thing where the perpetrators ended up being a member of the group that was attacked, that my first instinct is to think it's likely students of the school painted the graffiti.
posted by Sophont at 9:59 AM on March 11


There's been enough cases

What? You linked to one, in an entirely different country.
posted by jessamyn at 10:00 AM on March 11 [9 favorites]


There's been enough cases of this sort of thing where the perpetrators ended up being a member of the group that was attacked, that my first instinct is to think it's likely students of the school painted the graffiti.

If my first instinct was to blame the victim, I might have a tiny little bit more to back it up.

In other news, whoever is responsible for the second picture needs to have a fantastic year.
posted by Mooski at 10:03 AM on March 11


...it's likely students of the school painted the graffiti.

The number of these sorts of incidents may as well be a rounding error when considering the whole sum of this sort of vandalism.

I mean, it may very well be some asshole kids trying to get a rise out of people -- this sort of thing happened in my building in my neighborhood and I know for close-enough-to-a-fact that the shitheads who did it are probably not goosestepping in victory -- and not some sort of coordinated antisemitic attack by a united front of pogromists, but the chances of it being one of the 11-15-year-olds from the school is the opposite of "likely."
posted by griphus at 10:08 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Yes, but that would mean having to work, try harder, and take responsibility for their own shortcomings and they couldn't possibly do that because that takes both humility and courage...

Now that's interesting. That sounds very much like a Republican talking about poor people, and I have to wonder, what would we think of these people if they found a less obnoxious outlet for their frustration than anti-semitism?

Because I suspect a large portion of metafilter would agree that there really is a shadowy conspiracy moving in ways too subtle for them to really understand, that transfers wealth from their pockets to its members and makes it nigh impossible for them to better themselves. We just see it as capture of economic and political institutions by a socio-economic elite. And hell, there really are a lot of Jews in the finance world and in that elite. The important point isn't their Jewishness - that's not why they're in the elite and it's stupid and evil to attack Jews for being Jewish, but we're talking about people without the capacity to understand more subtle factors and about all they can see is a bunch of rich Jews and themselves never seeming to catch a break.

So I wonder, is it a question of, "there, but for a handful of IQ points go we?" Or, if instead of spraying swastikas all over the place, these guys had set up camp outside the Bank of Sweden and demanded social and economic change, would we say something like that above quote about them?
posted by Naberius at 10:10 AM on March 11


Or, if instead of spraying swastikas all over the place, these guys had set up camp outside the Bank of Sweden and demanded social and economic change, would we say something like that above quote about them?

Ugh, not the threadsit, but that's not an appropriate comparison. The guys who spraypaint swastikas on school are the equivalent of black bloc shitheads who bust up a Starbucks in protest of capitalism. They're simply venting frustration in an egotistical manner, so that they can point at the damage they did and say "you know who put the fear into those bastards? That was us" to whomever it is they want to show off to. Maybe they think they're fighting the good fight against the ravages of unfettered capitalism but they're doing literally nothing useful to anyone but themselves.

The guys who set up camp and demand social change are equivalent (in the sort of Justice League/Legion of Doom way) of the guys who live in compounds in the woods, stocking up on rifles and self-publishing copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to hand out
posted by griphus at 10:20 AM on March 11


It's an interesting thought, and I think you're right -- it's not completely about the "Jews" in that sense. But it never is completely about the scapegoat, and whoever the painters are, they decided to go there.

Most people with humility and courage don't pick on scapegoats, no matter how they do on standardized tests, so I feel the [original] characterization is correct. Boiling it down to "IQ points" feels patronizing in a way -- like all they needed was an extra math course to not be a shitty human being.
posted by smidgen at 10:31 AM on March 11


Well, sort of, but not entirely. The distinction I'm trying to tease out is not one of in which direction they point their rage, but how nuanced is their understanding of what it is they're mad about.

I like your black bloc comparision - that makes sense to me. So okay, people who think the problem is Amerikkkan Kapitalism can be dumbasses too. But the protocols-pushing survivalists aren't really any more nuanced in their understanding of the world around them than the swastika sprayers - they've just been more organized and ambitious in their response to it. They still have the same dumb idea that the problem is all the Jews. I suspect that anti-semitism can't really survive once you look more in depth into the sources of your perceived oppression because you eventually figure out that Jewishness really doesn't have anything to do with it. It's at best a red herring.

But mostly I was just intrigued by that quote saying it's their own fault they're poor and that they're marginalized losers because of their own character flaws. That's pretty much the opposite of the view of the poor and marginalized I usually see on MetaFilter, and a view that gets knocked down pretty hard when someone like Newt Gingrich tries to float it.

On preview: Smidgen, I'll cop to the IQ points phrasing being lazy. The difference is more one of ability to look deeper and see how the gears and pulleys of the machine are working instead of just seeing the results and screaming bloody murder.
posted by Naberius at 10:32 AM on March 11


... that my first instinct is to think it's likely students of the school painted the graffiti.

There's an old adage from the medical profession:
“When you hear hoof beats in the hallway, think horses, not zebras.” In other words, most times the obvious answer is the correct answer.
You, my friend, are a zebra-looker. You will be wrong 99 out of 100 times. The one time out of 100 that you are right? You will think that it excuses the 99 times you are wrong. So you will still manage to be wrong about that, even though you were right about the single zebra.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:33 AM on March 11 [8 favorites]


If history continues for another couple centuries, I wonder what we will think of post-WWII Europe. Did efforts like de-Nazification work, in the long historical view? Or does it only look that way on the timescale of decades, with the intervening cause of the Cold War and Europe's status as US client?

One cannot generalize about anti-Semitism in Europe as exclusively neo-Nazi. While there is certainly a very active neo-Nazi movement in Europe, including Sweden, not all cases of vandalism and violence against Jewish targets are always connected to neo-Nazis, even when Nazi symbols are being used (such as swastika graffiti etc.).

There is a fair amount of immigration to Europe from countries where the anti-Semitism has political roots post-WWII, such as f.ex. North Africa. There have been many cases, for example in France, where Jewish cemeteries and synagogues were vandalized and covered with Nazi graffiti, but the perpetrators were not neo-Nazis.

In this case odds are (I think pretty overwhelmingly) that these are in fact neo-Nazis, but until it is confirmed, let us keep in mind that neo-Nazis are not the only possible suspects.
posted by VikingSword at 10:46 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


But mostly I was just intrigued by that quote saying it's their own fault they're poor and that they're marginalized losers because of their own character flaws. That's pretty much the opposite of the view of the poor and marginalized I usually see on MetaFilter, and a view that gets knocked down pretty hard when someone like Newt Gingrich tries to float it.

Bigotry is a character flaw, whereas poverty isn't a character flaw. Saying that bigots are marginalized losers because of their flawed characters is fundamentally different from saying that poor people are marginalized losers because of their flawed characters -- in the former instance (i.e., bigotry), you have proof of the person's flawed character through his own actions/words and in the latter instance (i.e., poverty), you don't.

Anyway, I don't think saying that if [whatever] group would just go get some money they'd stop being bigots holds much water regardless. There's some overlap between bigots and poor people, but bigots =/= poor people. There are plenty of rich, unmarginalized bigots, too. I don't think it was a lack of money that led to plantation owners' racism, for example.

By the way: fantastic comments, griphus! Thank you so much. I flagged one of them "fantastic" btw (the first one, which I couldn't favorite enough besides).
posted by rue72 at 11:38 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I mean, it may very well be some asshole kids trying to get a rise out of people -- this sort of thing happened in my building in my neighborhood and I know for close-enough-to-a-fact that the shitheads who did it are probably not goosestepping in victory -- and not some sort of coordinated antisemitic attack by a united front of pogromists, but the chances of it being one of the 11-15-year-olds from the school is the opposite of "likely."

It's also halfway through the second semester (or whatever they're called there), about when some history class might be getting to WWII. Teenagers can be jerks.
posted by rhizome at 11:39 AM on March 11


Speaking of antisemitism in Europe, this article in the NYT yesterday about Dieudonné M’bala M’bala was interesting (also previously)
posted by rosswald at 12:26 PM on March 11


Find whoever did this; put them in a public pillory with bread and water for two days. Jail them for two years. Then, expel them from the country.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:31 PM on March 11


my first instinct is to think it's likely students of the school painted the graffiti.

I'd say that your linking only to one single instance of this says much more about your instincts than the incident itself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:00 PM on March 11


Find whoever did this; put them in a public pillory with bread and water for two days. Jail them for two years. Then, expel them from the country

Are you that tough on all acts of vandalism or just ones that are evidence of thoughtcrimes? Why spend money on rehabilitation if you're just going to expel them?
posted by codswallop at 1:51 PM on March 11


Are you that tough on all acts of vandalism or just ones that are evidence of thoughtcrimes

That's a very biased way of wording "leaving anti-Semitic graffiti on a school that is known for having Jewish students".
posted by jeather at 2:35 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I thought it very straightforward.
posted by codswallop at 2:38 PM on March 11


... just ones that are evidence of thoughtcrimes ...

Ah, that's the axe you're grinding. The law should only deal in actions, not the state of mind at the time of the action? The whole distinction between degrees of murder is based on the state of mind of the person doing the killing - are we supposed to get rid of that.

The whole fake-naïveté "What? You're telling me those particular marks have more meaning than 'John loves Susie'? Who knew?" just makes you a border-line troll. Why not just go whole-hog solipsism? "Your honor, all my client Mr. Jones did was make some pencil marks on a sheet of paper. The fact that Mr. Smith took that to mean that he was offering to pay him for murdering his wife isn't my clients fault".
posted by benito.strauss at 2:53 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


There's been a number of neonazi incidents in Sweden lately, starting with an organized attack by some 30 neonazis on an anti-racism rally in December, in Kärrtorp outside Stockholm (a rally that in itself was a protest against the increasing amounts of nazi and racist graffiti in the area). This was followed by a large anti-racist demonstration that drew some 15-20,000 people, but also lots of reports about nazi grafitti targeting among other things mosques and minority churches.

And then the attack that Kattullus wrote about where several people were stabbed after a feminist manifestation on the International Women's Day, including a young football fan and activist, Showan, who's still fighting for his life in the ICU. The latter has led to a huge outpouring of sympathy and support from football teams and fans around the world, under the tag #kämpashowan (fight, showan!) (*)

There's definitely a consensus that neonazis have become a lot more active lately, even if some are trying to downplay the threat (**) and plenty of media, including public service, often seem to fall into some kind of "both sides are extremists, amiright?" trap. I'm not that worried about the bigger picture around these groups, for a bunch of reasons that this textbox isn't big enough for, but that's of course not much consolation for the people who run into them :/

*) the guys in front of the mural are excellent swedish rappers timbuktu and supreme from looptroop, but that's another post. if you prefer footballers over hip hop artists, here's Malmö FF's squad in the same location.

**) because you know, there's also the militant leftists and the islamist youth that's gone to syria and may come back and the animal activists to worry about and keeping track of all those nonnazis is hard enough if you have a binary worldview.
posted by effbot at 3:20 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Again and again I am surprised by fellow middle-class Europeans who turn out to be anti-semitic. I cannot understand what or why.

Swedish neo-nazis are a thing in itself, and on a superficial level, they have nothing to do with librarians having weird superstitions. But for every librarian or teacher or nurse or doctor I meet who is an anti semite, I am reminded that their timid reflections legitimize ignorant violence.
I have friends who are anti-semites and who refer to Israel as an explanation (and me as an exemption). When I ask how that makes sense, since I am not an Israeli, and I do not agree with Israeli politics, they talk around it. But nothing changes. They continue to hate the "Jews", as if that was even a category they knew what was. They continue to like and respect every single actual Jew they know.

I've quoted this before on the blue but will repeat: My brother married a wonderful woman, and I was really happy. While telling this to a (middle distance) gentile family member, I mentioned my sister in law is from a very prominent Jewish family (hey, I'm proud of her). Gentile family member responded, honestly surprised, "can Jews be prominent??" This is about ten years ago.

When I tell this story to Arab Europeans, they get it right away, but unfortunately, there is a lot of playing European Arabs and Jews against each other, even while it makes no sense, and in every day practice there is no drama. Jews and Arabs in Europe share the same frustration with European nationalism. But both the Arab nations and Israel want a drama building.
posted by mumimor at 4:26 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


Again and again I am surprised by fellow middle-class Europeans who turn out to be anti-semitic. I cannot understand what or why.

A lot of people haven't really come to terms with anti-Semitism, probably as a consequence of the Holocaust. If you define anti-Semitism as being "what the Nazis did" then there's not much incentive to reflect on structural and social anti-Semitism: is it rounding Jews up and shipping them off to be murdered? No? Well, then.

I think it's undeniable that the USA has severe problems with race, but at least people are able to talk about it: you can have a reasonable discussion about whether stop-and-frisk laws are racist, or why comedians in blackface are really not OK. In contrast, describing something as anti-Semitic is so heavily charged that it's ruled out of normal discourse; the accusation is felt to be so serious that it can hardly ever be made in good faith.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:24 PM on March 11 [4 favorites]


In contrast, describing something as anti-Semitic is so heavily charged that it's ruled out of normal discourse

That's not my experience.

Among people or institutions for whom the accusation of anti-semitism is damaging, the charge is used. It can sometimes be overused, particularly where (Jewish) defenders of Israel elide criticism of Israel with anti-semitism. An obvious example I can think of is the ongoing hasbara campaigns to cement the idea that certain news sources are institutionally anti-semitic.

Among people for whom the accusation is not damaging, it doesn't really matter. They just flat out deny it or give a wink or a nudge to their supporters. They see themselves as the real victims. Jews aren't a vulnerable group because they rule the country, media etc etc.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:31 AM on March 12


MuffinMan, that's actually an example of what I'm talking about: you're asserting that certain allegations of institutional anti-Semitism cannot possibly be taken seriously. Surely if someone said that (e.g.) the New York Times was biased against women, or gays, or African-Americans, reasonable people would at least consider the basis for the allegation; and even if they rejected the allegation they would not infer that it was inspired by some cabal of feminists, or queer theorists, or the NAACP; they particularly wouldn't infer that it was an attempt to silence anyone. Furthermore, even if they did believe the allegation had been made by a feminist/queer theorist/NAACP cabal it wouldn't absolve them from considering the substance of the allegation.

This implication of bad faith regarding allegations of anti-Semitism is what sociologist David Hirsh calls The Livingstone Formulation. He doesn't really address why that rhetorical technique is effective, but I think it's for the reason I gave earlier: we treat anti-Semitism with so much mock gravitas that we are willing to believe almost anything rather than accept that its actual presence. Perversely, and despite the fact that most of us see examples of racism and sexism every day, we find it easier to believe in an underhanded Jewish cabal than that a person or institution may speak or act in a biased way against Jews.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:41 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


you're asserting that certain allegations of institutional anti-Semitism cannot possibly be taken seriously.

No, I'm not. I'm saying that the allegations are taken seriously, should be taken seriously, but that some of the accusations are at best contentious and at worst of dubious merit.

More specifically, the problem area is where the claim is made of something or someone being antisemitic because of how they view or present information on Israel - i.e. where politics and antisemitism collide.

For that reason, I don't think the treatment of gays or African Americans is directly analogous. Similarly, I don't think allegations of antisemitism aside from the issue of Israel are anywhere near as problematic: most times, in my experience, the antisemitism is .. just plain old antisemitism.

Finally, I'm not doubting that people do criticise Israel because they are antisemitic.

This implication of bad faith regarding allegations of anti-Semitism is what sociologist David Hirsh calls The Livingstone Formulation

Sure. And to continue the ourobouros, delegitimising the questioning of whether [some] allegations of antisemitism are made for political reasons (I would hesitate to use the term bad faith, because I don't think it is strictly that) is itself a rhetorical formulation.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:12 AM on March 12


No, I'm not. I'm saying that the allegations are taken seriously, should be taken seriously, but that some of the accusations are at best contentious and at worst of dubious merit.

What does this have to do with the linked article?
posted by Wordwoman at 8:40 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]


As a short followup to my earlier comment, there's a big anti-racism demonstration in Malmö right now after the nazi stabbings last week. Also, the Malmö FF supporters paid tribute to Showan during yesterday's game (he woke up yesterday after a week in medically-induced coma), after first having been refused to do so since violent stabbings are political, and football and politics don't mix, etc.
posted by effbot at 10:11 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]


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