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Embattled minister's comments on Israel resurface

Updated måndag 18 april 2016 kl 12.15
Published måndag 18 april 2016 kl 10.34
Opposition calls for PM to speak out on Kaplan
(3:03 min)
Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman / SvD / TT
Housing Minister Mehmet Kaplan. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman / SvD / TT.

Housing Minister, Mehmet Kaplan (Green Party), faced a fresh round of criticism for comments he made several years ago, likening Israel to the Nazis.

Only last week it was revealed that Kaplan was at a celebration last summer that was also attended by the Swedish leader of the Turkish nationalist extremist group, the Grey Wolves. The news prompted Prime Minister Stefan Löfven (Social Democrat) to say that it was "to be deeply regretted" that the minister had been in their company.

But over the weekend Kaplan was exposed to a new bout of criticism. The newspaper Svenska Dagbladet turned up a statement Kaplan had made in 2009, recorded on video, in which he claimed during a meeting that "Israelis treat Palestinians much in the same way as Jews were treated in Germany during the 1930s." The meeting, which was held in Fittja, south of Stockholm, and which concerned Islamophobia, was broadcast by a local TV station Somali Star TV on Öppna kanalen.

The Foreign Minister Margot Wallström (Social Democrat) told TT and Swedish Radio in Luxembourg that she strongly distanced herself from Kaplan's statement.

In a written statement Center party leader Annie Lööf questioned whether Kaplan can remain in government, and Tomas Tobé, party secretary of the conservative Moderates, the largest opposition party, demanded that the Prime Minister clarify whether he still has confidence in Kaplan.

On Swedish Television's Agenda program, Mona Sahlin, the government's national coordinator against violent extremism, and former leader of the Social Democrats, said of the recent revelations around Kaplan, "I think that this is extremely serious and has become even more serious."

In a written statement to the Svenska Dagbladet, Kaplan expressed regret for his statement, if it had been understand as if he had wanted to escalate a conflict or diminish the persecution that Jews had been subject to. He clarified, "I showed, among other things, pictures of how Palestinian businesses had been closed and marked. My point was that Islamophobia and anti-Semitism can take extremely similar, nasty expressions."

According to the the European Parliament's working group against anti-Semitism, comparing Israel's policy with the Nazis may be anti-Semitic, and Israel's ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, told SVD that Kaplan's statement was outright anti-Semitism.

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