Israel an "apartheid state"

Sweden Church at risk to call Israel for 'Apartheid'

Israel an apartheid state

Israel an "apartheid state"

Print +A -A

Sweden-Gaza post 

The Jewish Central Council asserted that the Swedish Church Council had effectively labeled Israel an "apartheid state," harming its reputation and relationships with Jewish organizations.


The decision also polarized the clergy, with many bishops condemning it as anti-Semitic.

The Church of Sweden's decision to call on ecumenical organizations around the world to investigate Israel as an "apartheid state" has been condemned by the country's leading Jewish organizations and senior members of the church.

The church's decision-making body, the General Synod, has commissioned its Central Board to investigate the "implementation of international law in Israel and Palestine, also from the perspective of the United Nations convention on apartheid and the definitions of apartheid in the Rome Statute."

The Jewish Central Council believes that the Church Council's characterization of Israel as a "apartheid state" has harmed relations between the church and Jewish congregations.


According to the church newspaper Kyrkans tidning, the Jewish Youth League called the decision "disgusting."
Aron Verständig, chairman of the Jewish Central Council, argued that the decision focuses solely on Israel, and that this is not the first time this has occurred.


"From what I've seen, the situation in other countries where Christians are persecuted has not been addressed." With your history as a European Lutheran church, you should be cautious about criticizing the Jewish state unilaterally," he argued.


Benjamin Blecher, chairman of the Jewish Youth League, called the decision "absurd."


"We believe it is absurd to investigate whether Israel is an apartheid state." "By saying that, one only fuels anti-Semitic notions about the power and malice of Jews in the world," he argued, implying that it only demonizes the Jewish state and does not help the Swedish Jewish population.

These opinions were shared even among the Swedish clergy.

Bishops Åke Bonnier and Sören Dalevi penned an opinion piece called “We are appalled by the Church Council's decision,” in which they emphasized that wholly 103 members chose to vote against.

Bishop of Stockholm Andreas Holmberg argued to the religious newspaper Dagen that there is a risk that the decision will contribute to anti-Jewish sentiments.

Pastor Patrik Pettersson went so far as to call it unacceptable for representatives of the country's leading political parties to have made “anti-Semitic thought models part of what the Church of Sweden claims to stand for”.

“The decision entails two immediate and devastating consequences for the Church of Sweden: the Church of Sweden's credibility as a partner in the Judeo-Christian religious dialogue in Sweden is destroyed and the Church of Sweden's opportunities to act in international contexts for Judeo-Christian religious dialogue and peace are nullified,” Petterson wrote in his opinion piece in Dagen, emphasizing that this decision “completely lacks parish support”.


Last but not least, the church’s head, Archbishop Antje Jackelén said she was personally opposed to the decision, adding that she herself wouldn't use that word in that context.


Nevertheless, the Church of Sweden, which has been active in the Middle East region for many years, publicly supports a two-state solution based on the armistice demarcation line before the 1967 Six-Day War, and has repeatedly called on Israel to end its “occupation of Palestine”.

Swedish-Israeli relations have in recent years been marred by several diplomatic spats. In 2009, a row erupted after the Swedish daily Aftonbladet claimed the Israel Defence Forces had engaged in organ harvesting from dead Palestinians. Israel called on the Swedish government to condemn the article as a “manifestation of anti-Semitism” and a modern “blood libel”, which the Swedish government refused, citing freedom of the press.

The then-newly elected Swedish government of Stefan Löfven announced in October 2014 that it would recognize Palestine as a state, emphasizing that the conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be resolved through a two-state solution. This sparked an Israeli backlash, with diplomats being recalled and visits being canceled.