In the wake of terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen targeting Jews, a Swedish journalist felt it was appropriate to ask the Israeli ambassador, “Do the Jews themselves have any responsibility in the growing anti-Semitism that we see now?”
Israel’s Ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, was pleased to receive an invitation from Swedish public radio Sveriges to discuss anti-Semitism in Europe.
“It is not very common for the media to invite official representatives of Israel, people who can actually speak on behalf of the state,” Bachman told The Jewish Press.
“I went to the studio, knowing that the topics we would be discussing included the recent terrorist attacks in which Jews were targeted and killed in Paris and Copenhagen, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for Jews to make Aliyah,” Bachman explained.
The ambassador was interviewed by Helena Groll, who opened the conversation with a question regarding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public statements inviting Jews to move to Israel.
Bachman explained that his “job is not to convince the Jewish population to move to Israel. … People know that Aliyah [emigration of Jews from the Diaspora to the land of Israel] is an option that is valid, one that exists and is open to them at any time.”
But controversy erupted when Groll asked Bachman, “Do the Jews themselves have any responsibility in the growing anti-Semitism that we see now?”
The Israeli ambassador replied, “I reject this question completely.”
Groll continued to press the question, shouting over the ambassador, “Why?” in response to his position that “there is no place for such a question to be asked.”
As reported by The Jewish Press:
As Groll began talking over Bachman, demanding him to “tell me then, explore with me why is that a question of…” Bachman finally silenced her, by putting the situation in terms that she would be better able to understand.
He said, his voice becoming firmer and louder until Groll finally stopped talking: “To ask the question of whether a woman contributes to being raped is irrelevant altogether. I don’t think there is a provocation that the Jews are doing. They just exist.”
Bachman later explained, “I don’t think the journalist really had any idea that what she was asking was problematic. Her question was reflective of a particular view that is, unfortunately, widespread.”
Once the public heard the interview, an uproar ensued that has resulted in apologies from Swedish media and public officials.
Swedish parliamentarian Hanif Bali called the controversial question “disgusting and despicable,” posting on Facebook that “Jews bear responsibility for anti-Semitism is one of the oldest expressions of anti-Semitism. Public Service, yeah right.”
Sveriges radio published a public apology, stating they “unreservedly apologized for the question.”
Helena Groll called Bachman and apologized. The Israeli ambassador told The Jewish Press he “truly believed that she is now authentically, genuinely more aware of the situation and conscious of the dangers behind the kind of question she asked.”
Paul Miller is Executive Director of the Salomon Center. You can follow him @pauliespoint.