The nationalist and right-wing political party, Sweden Democrats, announced on Wednesday that it wants to befriend Israel.
The party, which reportedly includes Nazis and neo-Nazis among its founding members, has been the second-largest party in the Swedish parliament since 2022.
Party chairperson, Richard Jomshof, who heads the Swedish parliament Justice Committee and Charlie Weimers, a member of the European Parliament, were part of a Sweden Democrats party delegation that visited Israel’s Knesset on Wednesday.
“Israel is the only true democracy in the region, and we like that,” Jomshof said during his visit and claimed his party is pro-Israel.
“We are pro-Israel, we would like to cooperate with Israel and we want to be friends,” he stated.
Weimers, who has spoken out in favor of Israel in the European Parliament several times in recent years, noted that the Sweden Democrats party has one of the most pro-Israel voting record in the European Parliament.
He acknowledged the apparent contradiction of his party's interest in relations with Israel.
“It is well known that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a policy not to meet with us Sweden Democrats,” Weimers wrote on Twitter. “This is only to be regretted, as it hinders the possibilities of a mutual exchange. At the same time, I am happy that members from both the government and the opposition were prepared to receive us in the Knesset.”
“To the journalist's question about how we view the policy of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the answer was simple: Our friendship with Israel remains regardless of what they think,” he continued.
While Israel’s Foreign Ministry has a policy of blacklisting groups with Nazi ties, an anonymous Israeli source told the Jerusalem Post that the nature of the party has changed significantly in recent years.
“The party was founded in 1988 by neo-Nazis but 15 years ago, young Swedes expelled the neo-Nazis and took over the party,” the Israeli source said. “The party is pro-Israel. The Swedish government cut 40% of its aid to the Palestinians thanks to the Swedish Democrats’ work.”
Jomshof also confirmed that the party is no longer what it used to be.
“We want to be judged by who we are today, a pro-Israel party,” Jomshof said. “A lot of parties have a difficult background, but we are a different party today.”
Despite the statements from party representatives, some are still not convinced.
In 2021, Haaretz ran an opinion piece that highlighted ongoing Nazi sympathies among some party members.
In 2014, a deputy parliamentary speaker and member of Sweden Democrats, Björn Söder, reportedly said that Jews could not be members of the Swedish nation and still maintain their Jewish identity. Several years later, he allegedly made a similar comment, stating that Jews could be citizens but they “are not Swedes.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen recently returned from a trip to Sweden, marking the first such visit by an Israeli foreign minister in over 20 years.
While Cohen did not meet with the Sweden Democrats party members during that trip, the delegation to Israel is viewed by some as more than just a coincidence.
Last week, Sweden Democrats party leader Jimmie Åkesson caused some controversy when he made a comment similar to Söder, but directed at fundamentalist Muslims, inferring that they would find it “difficult to be considered Swedish.”
“If you put the Muslim identity at the top, I find it difficult to see how you can have a fully Swedish identity,” Åkesson said.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.