A letter to the Swedish Media

I love Sweden. My friend Ann, who’s like a sister to me, lives in Stockholm, and I visit her often. I admire many things in Sweden, which I would like Israel to embrace, mostly your tolerance and acceptance of different cultures, the way you combine free economy with care for the less fortunate. I admire the fact that you have a Ministry for the sole purpose of giving financial aid to poor countries – SIDA.

One thing I cannot comprehend is the Swedish media. None of the above is applicable when Israel is concerned. In fact, when it comes to Israel, the Swedish Media turns into a dogmatic, self-righteous crusader, fueled by ego and zero compassion.

There are 7 million citizens in Israel, Jews, Arabs, and other minorities, a colorful vibrant tapestry of religions, cultures, opinions and feelings. True, we have our fanatics, as do our neighbors. We have ego motivated, loud mouth politicians, so do our neighbors. But between the poles live good honest people, trying to share a life in a highly volatile area, creating, building and working towards a better place.

A social change can occur only when a critical mass is accumulated. While the politicians play their games, the economic and social relations with Palestinian companies, schools and other good people are being woven. It took England, France, Holland and Spain 400 years to stop fighting. I hope it takes far less here… but when you put a seed in the ground, you do not expect a tree in a fortnight.

7 million people, creative entrepreneurships, nothing in the Swedish media. All of us categorized superficially as aggressive, blood thirsty human rights destroyers. Like in a bad Western, we are always the ”bad guys”, the Palestinians are always the ”good guys”. Strangely enough, almost no reference to the fact that our southern cities are constantly bombed by Hamas, no discussion of the fact that the millions of dollars given to the Palestinians by your government, were used to buy weapons and found their way to the private bank accounts of Hamas leaders (but this is more of an internal issue and does not really concern me).

Aggressive actions manifest out of fear and pain and both Jews and Arabs carry a lot of it in their collective memory. It is easy to hold high morals, noble sentiments, while living a quiet life, but in that split second, when one sits in the shelter, waiting for the missile to fall, all noble sentiments fly away, replaced by fear, followed by anger. And yet, we collect ourselves again and again, and go back to rebuilding our lives, our mutual relations. It takes time and patience, but slowly the seeds are planted.

Compassion, that’s all we ask of you. You have every right, a duty in fact, to criticize, to report the many injustices that take place in this region, but be fair. Show our colors, our fears, our pain, our frustration, the good and the bad. And be compassionate. You cannot judge someone until you stand in his place. If you want to take part in transforming our Middle East into haven, if you want to be the voice of Human Rights and free society, be compassionate, be fair. We will listen.

Iris Toister

Read this letter in Swedish.

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