“Peaceful” Sweden stocks up on Israeli weapons

Civil defense worker touches arm protruding from under rubble

A Palestinian rescue worker touches a body found in the wreckage of a residential building in Gaza City’s al-Wihda street, which Israel bombed on 16 May 2021, killing more than 40 people in their homes.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Last week, Jenny Ohlsson, Sweden’s international development minister, paid a visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank.

While in Hebron, she posed for a photo-op with Palestinian children, and claimed that they had asked her the “toughest question” she had faced all week.

“Why are not all countries and people treated equally in global affairs when it comes to attention and support?” the children asked, she said in a tweet.

“I replied it’s a fair question and promised to fight that tendency. Always,” Ohlsson said. She added that she would “raise their concern when I can. Voilà!”

The answer to the question isn’t difficult: Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis and others are treated differently by Sweden than, say, Ukrainians, because Sweden, like the rest of Europe, is a vassal of the United States. They do more or less as they are told.

There is also a strong dose of racism in their foreign policies: White lives are just more valuable to them.

Ohlsson’s promise to raise the children’s “concern” is moreover an evasion and an attempt to cover up Sweden’s direct complicity in the Israeli apartheid regime’s occupation, persecution, colonization and killing of Palestinians.

This complicity includes Sweden’s booming purchases of Israeli weapons and recent decision to offer a home to a notorious Israeli arms maker.

While Ohlsson was in Palestine, Israeli occupation forces killed 16-year-old Sanad Abu Atiya during a raid on Jenin.

According to an eyewitness, Sanad was fatally shot as he tried to render aid to Yazid al-Saadi, a 22-year-old who had just been shot in the back of the head by the Israeli attackers.

This latest killing of a Palestinian child elicited no comment, let alone outrage or condemnation, from Ohlsson, or any other European official, as far as this writer could determine.

Sadly, that tacit approval for Israeli crimes is the norm.

Sweden rewards Gaza massacre

In May, Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip for 11 days, killing more than 250 Palestinians, among them almost 70 children.

Multiple generations of more than a dozen families were wiped out in Israeli attacks like the al-Wihda street massacre on 16 May 2021.

That particular Israeli bombardment of residential buildings in Gaza City killed more than 40 Palestinians in their homes, almost half of them children.

Although the so-called international community – the United States and its Euro-Atlantic clients – continued to support Israel as it targeted civilian infrastructure and killed civilians, there was a global outpouring of solidarity with Palestinians.
Israel, as it habitually does, announced it would refuse to cooperate with an independent war crimes probe ordered by the UN Human Rights Council.

Not satisfied with doing nothing as Israel once again slaughtered defenseless civilians in a besieged, occupied territory, some countries made sure to reward Israel and perhaps incentivize future massacres.

Within months, the UK and the Netherlands both signed accords with Israel to increase military cooperation.

Sweden too, which markets itself as a champion of human rights and peace – it even claims to have a “feminist foreign policy” – got in on the act.

Soon after the latest mass slaughter in Gaza, the Nordic nation was bragging that it was warming up its ties with the apartheid state.

But Swedish ministers did not trumpet one particular development.

In June 2021 – not even two months after the Gaza massacre – Sweden allowed Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s biggest arms manufacturers, to open a Swedish branch.

“Sweden is an important market for Elbit Systems and a cornerstone for further expansion in Europe,” Haim Delmar, the chair of Elbit Systems Sweden, stated.

The weapons deals quickly followed. In January, the Swedish navy signed a $27 million contract with Elbit for “combat management systems.”

Last month, the Swedish army signed another $27 million contract with the Israeli company, this time to purchase 120mm tank shells.

“I believe that this selection by Sweden underscores the growing recognition by Western armies of the unique quality of our portfolio of products,” Elbit’s Yehuda Vered said.

Palestinians in Gaza can testify to the horrifically destructive effects of Elbit’s “products” – which are routinely tested on them.

It is notable that Sweden is offering Elbit Systems a new base just as direct action protests in the UK are forcing the Israeli company to shut down facilities there.

Ironically, the Swedish government pension fund has since 2010 barred investments in Elbit Systems because it makes equipment that is used by Israel to “violate international law.”

Booming weapons trade

Although it markets itself as a force for peace, Sweden is the world’s 13th biggest arms exporter, according to the latest data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Indeed, according to SIPRI, countries in North America and Europe accounted for 87 percent of the world’s arms exports in 2017-21.

In that period Israel was the world’s 10th biggest arms exporter. From its new base in Sweden, Elbit will perhaps be able to expand that market share even more.

Sweden’s ostensibly left-wing Social Democratic government has been pushing for the harshest possible sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

It has also sent vast quantities of weapons to Ukraine to fight Russia.

Russia “will be held responsible for its brutal and international law-violating aggression against Ukraine,” Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde declared.

Meanwhile, Stockholm is ensuring that Israel is rewarded for its brutal, decades-long and international-law violating aggression in Palestine.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.