Sweden causing harm by trying to be nice

I wrote late last year about how it is necessary to judge policies not by their intentions but by their outcomes. The (relatively) new Swedish Government is finding that out the hard way – adopting policies of no doubt noble intention which are actually causing considerable harm.

(Relatively) new Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom intervened several times in recent weeks on the topic of Israel’s “extrajudicial killings”. What she said was absolutely justified. However, it has seen her banned from Israel, and that is a serious problem – Sweden has traditionally been seen as a neutral broker in moving the Israel-Palestine process forward, but has now succeeded in removing itself from that role. This is all for the sake of a few words which, while justified, were actually never going to help move things forward. They drew and inevitable response from Israel which will result in more damage than good.

Of course, more well known is Sweden’s ludicrous immigration policy. It was no doubt a policy of fine intention for Sweden to throw its doors open to refugees from across the Middle East and North Africa. However, the outcome has been vast pressure on Sweden’s public services, huge difficulties at the borders of the European Union as people seek passage through, and most of all that refugees have arrived in the “promised land” with no realistic prospect of building a career there. News that police have been covering up prosecutions for crimes, most notably sex attacks, committed by refugees from Afghanistan, is just a subset of this tendency – it is well intentioned to try to stop news of such things spreading fear among the broader population, but in the end it makes this far worse when the news does spread.

To be very clear, this very blog will show that I have been opposed to Israel’s current government’s warmongering, and supportive of accepting more refugees than we are in Northern Ireland. However, going too far, even with good intentions, can have negative and even dangerous consequences.

Countries like Sweden, which have not always been in position to provide moral leadership but may feel justified in doing so now, need to do better than naively pursuing policies whose negative practical consequences anyone can foresee. Europe’s response to the Middle East in general is an incoherent mess, but while we have a duty to get this right morally, we also have a duty to get it right practically. To fail in the latter is to contribute to worsening the problem, not solving it.


One thought on “Sweden causing harm by trying to be nice

  1. Hi Ian, In the past I would have sympathized with your comment, but time and the world has moved on. There is no Middle East Peace Process and Padraig O’Malley (a well known peacemaker who has spent some years exploring the possibilities for progress) has concluded in his new book that the prospect of a 2-State Solution is a ‘delusion’. The US Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, has just spoken out in much the same terms as the Swedish Foreign Minister, and Brazil has just refused to accept Israel’s nomination of an Ambassador to their country. The idea that to create peace one must always either stand neutrally and silent in the middle or criticize both sides in the same tone, is a mistake which dogged the Alliance Party for many years. When I became Leader I took a different line and pointed my critical remarks to where I believed the problem was at any one time, rather than trying to create a pretence of equivalence where it did not exist. I agree that one must try to be ‘practically’ as well as ‘morally’ right, but on this I don’t share your analysis (or that of the current British Government) of what is the practically wise intervention at this time. Ever, John A

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