Sunday, July 11, 2010

Swedish students show good sense

This was sent to me by a reader of the blog, who was naturally rejoicing that good news came out of Sweden. I have a soft spot for the Scandinavian countries so I am a little less surprised. Well, no. As it happens, I am astonished.

To start with we have the usual and unutterably tedious story of Swedish dockworkers deciding to boycott Israeli ships, in protest against the treatment of the one ship of the Gaza flotilla that refused to obey international rules and was raided after Israeli servicemen who boarded it were attacked.
Bjoern Borg, the union's chairman, said they were calling for an international investigation into the May 31 raid and added Israel's recent easing of its Gaza blockade was insufficient.

"We don't think it is far-reaching enough," he said. "We want them to lift the blockade".

Borg said stevedores in the southwestern port of Gothenburg had already refused to handle about a dozen containers containing cargo from Israel or goods destined for it.

However, officials said they expected the boycott to have a minimal impact on Swedish-Israeli trade, which accounts for 0.2 per cent of the Nordic country's
total imports and exports.

The goods most likely to be affected will be fruit, vegetables, spices and skin care products on their way from Israel to Swedish shops.
So, not only is this blockade of very little significance, though some Swedish shoppers might be somewhat annoyed, it also demonstrates the sublime indifference of Swedish (and other Western) trade unionists to the facts of life. The truth is that there is only one country in the Middle East that has free trade unions with all the rights Mr Bjoern Borg and his members take for granted, and that is Israel. Hamas does not believe in having trade unions and yet the Swedish stevedores support them.

However, the story does not end there as the Wall Street Journal writes.
That Sweden's dockworkers' union staged a week-long protest against Israel in the wake of the Turkish flotilla incident is hardly surprising. But the response of a 2,500-strong student union that supports Sweden's leading Moderate Party is worth noting. Last month, the student union showed Israel some welcome support by offering to load and unload Israeli cargo themselves. The students slammed the longshoremen in a press release and declared that "It is Hamas's fault that people are suffering in Gaza, not Israel's."

Their statement contains more clarity on Palestinian-Israeli relations than most anything we've heard lately from Europe's grown-ups. Stockholm has been particularly vociferous in denouncing Israel's efforts to defend itself, with Swedish Foreign Minister and Moderate Party elder statesman Carl Bildt having called for an investigation into Israel, and telling the Swedish press that Israel's Palestinian policy is "catastrophic" and "leads to one problem after another." All of which is pro-Israel compared to statements from Mr. Bildt's colleagues on the left.

Gustaf Dymov, 24, who chairs the contrarian student union, stressed in a phone interview that the offer to scab on the boycotting dockworkers was almost entirely for show—but then, so was the "boycott" itself, since very little cargo actually passes between Israel and Sweden by sea. Mr. Dymov says that's what outrages him the most: "It's very obvious [the dockworkers] did this not out of a will to support the Palestinians but to show hatred toward Israel."
Mr Dymov may not have much of a future in politics but is shaping up to be a very fine person, indeed, one who understands what freedom is about.

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