Magnus Hellgren
Magnus HellgrenIsaac Harari/Flash 90

Sweden’s ambassador to Israel on Tuesday claimed there was a tendency in Israel to “demonize” his country and in particular foreign minister Margot Wallstrom.

In an interview with i24news, the ambassador, Magnus Hellgren, also insisted he doesn’t see the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic.

Relations between Israel and Sweden have been tense in recent years. Wallstrom in particular has come under fire for her harsh anti-Israel comments.

In 2014, then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman denounced Sweden’s decision to recognize the Palestinian Authority (PA) as "the State of Palestine", saying that “relations in the Middle East are a lot more complex than the self-assembly furniture of IKEA”.

Wallstrom later replied and said she would be “happy” to send Liberman some IKEA furniture “and he will also see that what you need to put that together is, first of all, a partner.”

Following that incident, Wallstrom accused Israel of being “extremely aggressive” and accused the Jewish state of “irritating its allies”.

In December of 2015, she attacked Israel again, claiming during a debate in parliament that Israel was “executing” without trial terrorists who carried out stabbing attacks in Israel.

Several weeks before that, the Swedish minister provoked a firestorm of criticism, when she appeared to blame the terrorist attacks in Paris on "Palestinian frustration" with Israel.

“Since our recognition [of Palestine] in 2014, my impression is that whatever my boss says is interpreted in a very negative way and a little bit twisted,” Hellgren told i24news, adding, “I don’t say it is completely wrong but I say there is a conscious decision to try to demonize Sweden” to discourage other states from adopting similar positions.

The Swedish envoy also made clear that his government rejects the BDS movement, stressing, “We don’t believe in trade boycotts or political boycotts in order to achieve political ends.”

However, when asked if he sees the movement as anti-Semitic, he answered “no” and, while stressing that he has little involvement with BDS activists, argued that “they would say this is a means to put an effort on Israel to end the occupation.”

He also defended regulations that label products as coming from Judea and Samaria, telling i24news that “we want the consumer to know that this a product from the settlements.”

Hellgren also denounced anti-Semitism, saying it “has shown its ugly face again and it’s quite worrying.”

Two synagogues in Sweden were firebombed last December, in Malmo and in Gothenburg, stoking fears of resurgent anti-Semitism.

Hellgren added that the Swedish government was working “really hard” on combating anti-Semitism, but that it would take time.