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Sweden’s ‘Big Brother’ catches contestants confessing Jew hatred

(JTA) – Two contestants were kicked off a Swedish reality show after having a conversation in which one said she hates Jews. The comments, made during a live airing of the popular show “Big Brother,” drew a swift response from the network airing the show, as well as wide media coverage in Sweden. Jewish community leaders also responded with concern, noting a rise in antisemitism across the Scandinavian country. “We have unfortunately recently seen increased antisemitism in Sweden, with a fair number of serious incidents just in the last few years,” the president of the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities told the Jewish news site Expressen. “I think that when a person on such a big show as ‘Big Brother,’ which many young people are watching, says something like this, it legitimizes antisemitism.”

The comments came during the fourth day of taping of this season of the show, in which participants are brought together to live under constant surveillance, with their conversations streamed to viewers. Kim Kamal, 21, could be heard complaining to fellow contestant Isabel Pereira, 24, about his former boss. Then he said, “She was a Jew, so I get it.” “I hate Jews,” Pereira responded. She was asked to leave the show shortly thereafter; Kamal was told to do so the following day. Pereira later apologized in an Instagram post. 

Meanwhile, Swedish news reported that Sami Jakobsson, 25, had expressed support for neo-Nazi ideas on social media. Jacobsson, who rose to fame after being on a different Swedish reality show, responded that he had previously held far-right views but that he no longer did so.

The fact that three out of the 13 participants of the popular reality TV show’s contestants this year have been involved in controversies around antisemitism prompted Kristofer Ahlström, a columnist in Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden’s biggest newspapers, to ask whether attacking Jews has become a fashionable way to “stir the pot.”

Sweden’s Jewish community numbers about 20,000 and has faced a range of challenges in recent years – from the rise of antisemitism that at times has turned violent to policy proposals to ban circumcision and the import of kosher meat that community members say make their lives difficult or impossible. A recent government report found that there were 280 antsemitic hate crimes in the country in 2018, the highest on record since at least 2006, when data was first collected. 

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