The deputy speaker of the Swedish parliament caused an outrage by suggesting that Jews living in Sweden should ditch their identity if they wish to be considered Swedes.
The claim by Bjorn Soder, of the Sweden Democrats party, was made in an interview with a Swedish newspaper, according to the International Business Times.
In the interview, Soder said that "most Jewish people in Sweden left behind" their racial identity in order to assimilate.
He further said that it would be a problem if there were too many people in Sweden “who belong to other nations” and had non-Swedish identities. Paying immigrants to go home would also help to avoid “foreign enclaves” and instead “create a society with a common identity”, he said, according to remarks quoted by The Guardian.
The leader of Sweden’s Jewish community condemned the remarks as “good old rightwing anti-Semitism”, saying that the comments conveyed a message that Jews were untrustworthy and could not be considered real Swedes, “exactly like in 1930s Germany” from which her grandfather had fled.
Lena Posner Körösi, president of the Official Council of Jewish Communities in Sweden, was quoted by The Guardian as having said the remarks showed “the mask is slipping” from the face of Sweden Democrats to reveal the essence of what they stand for.
“I am appalled that Sweden’s third largest party can express itself in this way about Jews and other minorities,” she said. “We have to take them really seriously. This not a small group of fanatics you can dismiss.”
Soder claimed in response the remarks were taken out of context.
“Those who know me when it comes to Jews know I have long had a very strong commitment to both the state of Israel and the Jewish people,” he told Swedish Radio.
There has been a sharp rise in anti-Semitism throughout Europe in recent months, particularly during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last summer.
The Swedish government recently officially recognized the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the "state of Palestine", leading Israel to recall its ambassador, as well as to a string of quips between the two countries.
On Thursday it was reported that Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Liberman is boycotting any meeting with the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallstrom, over Sweden’s recognition of “Palestine” as well as over a similar move on Wednesday in the European Parliament.