09 February '17..
On Saturday night, my house guests and I sat down to watch the news, and in between reports from Syria and updates on the local snowfall, there was a segment on cancer care filmed in a hospital in the Gaza Strip.
The moment I saw the map on the screen, I knew what to expect. Seventy children will die this year, the solemn journalist said, because Israel won't give their families travel passes to the West Bank to receive treatment. The camera panned to a boy and his mother weeping in a rundown treatment room. For almost 10 minutes, the reporter, who represented Swedish state media, made no reference to terrorism emanating from Gaza or the security risks involved in unlimited movement between it and Israel. He did have time to use the term "heartbreaking" no fewer than three times when referring to the fate of the people in Gaza.
Yes, those sick children would break anyone's heart, but any journalist worth his salt would have interviewed Israeli representatives, too, or at least explained how Hamas and Fatah have chosen to spend their significant funds since 2005 and why they insist on prioritizing mortars over medicine.
I was watching the news with two Jews and one Greek Christian, and out of all of us, it was my Greek friend who had the strongest reaction. Imagine anyone making a segment like this about Greece, he said. Imagine someone from Swedish state TV being allowed to take clear sides in the conflict between Greece and Turkey without public outrage and loss of funds. It wouldn't happen, and it doesn't. But it happens to the Jews every week of every year and we have come to expect it as regularly as the setting of the sun.
It's sad but it's also more than that. It is a sign that the Jewish minority in Sweden has lost faith in its government along with any hope for change. The fabric of any society can be ripped if the trust between a government and its citizens is broken. If the people start doubting that the state has their back, they won't have its back when it matters, and at that point they go from being a people in one land to some people in a place.
Every day I watch the news and see another country turning against me, making me the enemy in a place I call my home. I no longer trust my government or its emissaries to protect me or my own and the journalist employed to tell the truth prefer to tell stories, skewed for political gain.
We Jews helped build Sweden, and we have been an integral part of it for almost 300 years, yet we are treated like strangers in this land and enemies of it when it suits the majority. It is not only immoral but also deeply disloyal, and should worry non-Jewish Swedes, as well, as we are the symptom of a greater flaw in a country searching for its soul.
During the war, Sweden switched sides based on political expediency, and hid behind false neutrality to fill coffers and strike shady deals. Not much has changed, and the country still plays all teams and takes all sides, yet somehow we Jews end up on the losing side of any and all political and societal considerations. Watching that news segment, I realized that Sweden has created a perfect cycle, where it criticizes, demonizes and ostracizes the Jews until we find ourselves so far removed from Swedish society that the stereotype of us as the other eventually comes true.
We're so used to this treatment -- the lies and distortions and constant barrage of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish reporting -- that we've gotten too desensitized to feel the outrage it deserves. Watching that report from Gaza alongside a non-Jew, seeing his shock and comparing his reality to mine, made me see how bad it has become and what anomalies I refer to as my normal. My friend's reaction was healthy; it came from someone who feels part of this country and expects change when he demands it. That is citizenship, and that is belonging, and I'm beginning to think that as a Jew, I never truly had either.
Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a political adviser and writer on the Middle East, religious affairs and global anti-Semitism. Twitter @truthandfiction.
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