A political scandal is brewing in Sweden, posing a threat to the country’s Minister of Housing and its relations with Israel, after it was revealed that the Cabinet member, Memhet Kaplan, dined with leaders of extremist rightwing groups.
And in a video, published by SvD, Mr Kaplan made comments that now have critics accusing him of antisemitism.
The Swedish Green Party, Miljöpartiet (MP), which rules the country in cooperation with the Social Democrats, finds itself in crisis after damning revelations about Mehmet Kaplan, a Green Party member and Sweden’s Minister of Housing. Mr Kaplan showed a severe lack of good judgement, critics say, when he attended a dinner with leaders of rightwing extremist organizations last summer.
Mr Kaplan’s situation deteriorated on Sunday. In a video, shot in 2009 and published by SvD, Mr Kaplan compares Israel’s actions against Palestinians with the treatment of Jews in Hitler’s Germany.
In the video, Mr Kaplan is seen discussing the historic background of today’s islamophobic tendencies in Europe and elsewhere.
”There are similes to what many Jews have testified about,” Mr Kaplan says in the video.
He goes on by stating that ”Israelis treat Palestinians much in the same way as Jews were treated in Germany during the 1930s”.
The video was recorded on March 27, 2009, when Mr Kaplan was not part of the Swedish government. He was, however, a member of Parliament and held a seat on the board of the Green Party.
Joseph Anderson, a Green Party member and former priest, attended the meeting in 2009 where Mr Kaplan made the controversial comments about Israel and Nazi-Germany.
”I think it is proof of very bad judgement to bring this up,” Mr Anderson said to SvD.
”As a longtime Green Party member, I regret that he causes trouble for the party. In the rear mirror it seems that he gave support to those who support the wrong forces”.
Henrik Bachner, a historian and expert on antisemitism, adds to the criticism of Mr Kaplan.
”I think it’s an injudicious and silly way of discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Mr Bachner said to SvD.
A group on Facebook, ”We who want Mehmet Kaplan to resign”, had gathered 25,000 likes as of Sunday.
Mr Kaplan’s troubles began last Thursday when a photo surfaced that showed him attending a dinner with Ilhan Senturk, leader of the Turkish ultra-nationalistic organization Gray Wolves, and Barbaros Leyani, a former leader of a Swedish-Turkish organization. Mr Leylani was forced to resign after delivering a controversial speech in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, where he declared, among other things, that the “Armenian scum must be finished,” a reference to the latest conflict in Nagorno-Karabagh.
After the photo was published, Mr Kaplan stated that he had had no knowledge of rightwing extremists attending the event.
Regarding his comments on Israel in the video, Mr Kaplan sent a written comment to SvD in which he pointed out his longtime engagement against racism and antisemitism.
”It is regrettable if this is viewed as if I am trying to increase a conflict or diminish the pogroms and the persecution that Jews have been and are subject of to our day,” Mr Kaplan writes.
Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, said to SvD that he views Mr Kaplan’s comments as ”flat out antisemitism”.
”To compare us with Nazis when various attacks against Israel are occurring is illogical on an ideological level, but it is also antisemitism,” Mr Bachman told SvD.
The ambassador said he didn’t want to express an opinion on whether Mr Kaplan should resign, referring to it as a domestic matter.
”But it’s good that this has been revealed, and then it’s up to the government what to do”.