LISA ABRAMOWICZ and DAVID FRANKFURTER
At a time when the world mourns the terrorist massacre in the Russian town of Beslan, the Swedish state agency for foreign aid, SIDA, is subsidizing a conference aimed at finding ways to fund Palestinian terrorism.
The “Palestinian Solidarity Conference”, scheduled to be held in the Gothenburg municipality Culture House starting September 7, culminates in a celebratory party on the night of September 11 – while the rest of the world finds other more sober ways of marking the anniversary of this turning point in the impact of terrorism.
One of the main conference agenda items is action to remove the PFLP, Hamas and other terrorist organisations from the EU’s terror list, so that these organizations can resume collecting money in Sweden and other European countries. Another agenda item is promoting a total boycott of Israel and other sanctions against the Jewish state. A third is developing strategies to explain the need for “armed resistance” (i.e. terrorism) in the struggle.
The conference is being organized by the Revolutionary Communist Youth, and the Proletären FF (Football Club), together with the Palestinian Progressive Youth Union (PPYU). The first two are associated with the most extremist and Stalinist of communist parties in Sweden. The PPYU ascribes to the most uncompromising Palestinian positions in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
So, what else is new? There are plenty extremists around. They hold conferences and demonstrate for all kinds of outrageous causes - all part of a democratic, open society.
True, but not every public outburst is deserving of government support. In fact, supporting these EU blacklisted terrorist organisations is illegal – something even recognised by the conference agenda. Notwithstanding this, the conference has been subsidized by the Swedish International Development Aid Agency, SIDA – which has donated over 5,000 Euro in support. SIDA has also given 16,000 Euro to conference co-organizer Proletären FF. When challenged, SIDA chose to ignore information about the conference objectives published by the organizers at www.rku.nu, and claimed that it is a “get-together for youth to be able to discuss Human Rights issues”.
The Gothenburg municipality’s response to challenges to their Culture House being used to promote undemocratic and illegal terrorist organizations was that they support “free speech”. Municipal platitudes about the rights to “free speech” of a conference to find ways to legitimise and raise funds for Palestinian terrorism is unlikely to comfort the family of Gothenburg native Noam Leibovich. Leibovich, a 22 year old who had moved from Gothenberg to Israel with his immediate family, was murdered earlier this year by a Palestinian suicide bomber as he was waiting at a Tel Aviv bus stop.
The Swedish aid minister, Carin Jämtin, has promised to investigate the matter. “There are rules concerning state support for organisations. We will now ask SIDA to report back to the government on how these rules have been implemented.” Legislators will raise the matter in Parliament next week. Political rhetoric, however, may not be enough. There is talk that unless swift action is taken, a case will be brought in the EU court against Sweden, for its role in subsidizing the support of terrorist organizations.
© Copyright Lisa Abramowicz and David Frankfurter 2004. All rights reserved
Lisa Abramowicz was Head of Section, Swedish Ministry of Education 1985-2001