By Sami Halabi and Assaad Thebian
The central Sergels Torg square in Stockholm is not the place you would normally expect to hear the words “stop the blockcade,” or “boycott Israel;” or even “In our souls and with our blood we support you Palestine” in Arabic no less. But that is what happened as thousands of people descended on the square today in support of the “Freedom Flotilla”, the campaign that was a fast reaction after the Israeli commandos shot fire on the ship convoy trying to break Gaza siege.
Predominantly Palestinian and Turkish flags flew high above T-centralen square where people gathered over the rounded stairs to listen to speakers from different political parties stating their opinion about the Israeli firing on a civilian ship incident.
“This is something that Israel has been doing for a long time and it’s obvious that this is contrary to international law no matter how you view the conflict,” said Magnus Alfonson, a 25 year-old Swede who was leaning against the metro station walls. The sense of anger amongst the crowd was evident in the somber manner that they gazed upon the speakers who stood atop a staircase surrounded by those who adorned the traditional Palestinian Kufieh, or scarf.
At some point the crowd began to boo the speaker as a woman representing the central party grabbed the microphone and began to try to speak over the crowd, albeit illegibly due to the crowd’s roar. A woman carrying a Turkish flag was shouting in her face to step down since her party supports “children killers”. Johanna Wallin, an activist explained that the central party (previously the farmers’ party) is considered to be right more than center and they are known for their previous supporting opinions towards the state of Israel.
Sweden has had previous problems with Israel last year after a Swedish journalist alleged that Israel had stole Palestinians’ organs in the 1990s. Sweden, as well as Denmark and Greece summoned the Israeli ambassador earlier in the day for questioning over the fate of some 11 Swedish citizens that were on the boats that included one Swedish owned vessel carrying the nation’s flag along with that of Turkey.
“We want a clarification over what has happened,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told Sveriges Radio. “We know that there are Swedes on some of the ships and we want to know what has happened to them. There appears no reason to question media reports that a Turkish vessel has been boarded, that a fire fight occurred and that people have been killed”.
Famous Swedish author on one of the ships
One of those citizens is Swedish author Henning Mankell, one of the world’s best selling authors who sold around 30 million copies of his books (crime writings, children stories). Another important Swedish figure was Dror Feller, a Swedish Jew born in 1951 but refused to serve in the Israeli army in 1970 before he moved to Sweden to establish and head the The Jews Palestinian Peace Organization.
A third figure was Emile Sarsour, a dual Swedish Palestinian who was born in a Syrian refugee camp. His daughter Samaa Sarsour, a 26 year old activist and organizer of the protest received a phone call while at the demonstration from the Swedish foreign ministry telling her that the Swedish embassy in Israel had been denied access to her father and that he was at the Ber Sheva prison in Israel. She furthered that the official on the phone said the Israeli authorities had said that “maybe” they would gain access to her father the following day.
“It’s obvious that no matter where you stand on the issue, this is a crime against a non-violent organization,” said Daniel Free, a Jewish Swede also present at the protest. The crowd, blond haired Swedes and immigrant alike, all seemed to be in agreement when those words were spoken. “Israel must be brought to the international court of justice,” said Zaida Catalan, legal advisor for the local Green Party in the Swedish Parliament. This speech was received by a huge round of applause from the crowd before they were dispersed.
As for the Swedes still in prison, their fate remains unclear. While the iron bars barrackers are set like 600 meters away from the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm. And Samaa Sarsour tells people around her: “When I told my father I was scared for his life not to participate in the convoy, he answered that if he as a Palestinian could not do this; Who else would?” Another sign over the crowd had an ambiguous question: “Until when?” referring to Israel defiance of international and human laws.