False antisemitic claims of Swedish media control gain traction amid the Israel-Hamas war

False antisemitic claims of Swedish media control gain traction amid the Israel-Hamas war

By: siri christiansen&
November 3 2023

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False antisemitic claims of Swedish media control gain traction amid the Israel-Hamas war

Source: TikTok

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, several videos have emerged on social media, including TikTok and X (formerly Twitter), claiming that Swedish media is silencing pro-Palestinian voices because it is run by Zionists and Jews. 

Swedish dailies Sydsvenskan and Helsingborgs Dagblad found a viral video warning that all major Swedish news outlets are “owned by Jewish families.” The video had over 200,000 views and 13,000 likes as of 11 October 2023, according to Sydsvenskan, which cites comments such as “Just so you know, Jews control the world, not just the news.”

Logically Facts found a similar TikTok post about the Swedish media group Bonnier, which is owned by a Swedish family of German-Jewish heritage, captioned, “Check who provides the news, and you will know why they never speak for Muslims and Arabs. They are Zionists and Islamophobic.” Such claims have also been found on X, here and here.

A TikTok video featuring a screenshot of the Bonnier family’s Wikipedia page with caption. (Source: TikTok)

The claim was fuelled when comedian Filip Dikmen was fired as the presenter of the popular music and fundraising show Musikhjälpen, allegedly for discussing the Israel-Palestine conflict on social media, where he has referred to Israel as “perpetrators,” Palestinians as “victims,” and the attack on Gaza as “a genocide.”

This led Swedish TikTok creator and entrepreneur Joseph Avraham Said to make a series of TikTok videos claiming that the General Secretary of Radiohjälpen, Kristina Henschen, is a Zionist and personally responsible for kicking Filip Dikmen off the show. 

To back this claim, Said said that the General Secretary’s mother, Helena Henschen, “wrote books about the Jews’ rights in Europe” and that her great-grandfather, Folke Henschen, wrote a book that “built Israel’s care system.” He added in the caption: “This is the answer to why this particular conflict [between Israel and Hamas] is being silenced. You’re welcome. They are Israelians.”

In another video, Said said that Kristina Henschen is a member of the Jewish congregation in Stockholm, which he believes has legitimized the invasion of Gaza by holding a digital meeting with the international spokesperson for Israel’s Defence Force. The most popular video in the series posted on 30 October 2023, has amassed over 169,000 views and over 12,000 likes as of 3 November. Archived versions of the TikTok videos can be found here, here, here, and here.

TikTok video claiming that Kristina Henschen’s family is Israeli. (Source: TikTok)

Shortly after the claim regarding Kristina Henschen went viral, the Swedish podcast “Högt i tak” brought up the topic of celebrities speaking about the Israel-Hamas war, said that Jews own “everything” and that those posting about Palestine on social media get “shadowbanned.” After being criticized for spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories, the podcast episode has since been removed, and the influencer duo has apologized publicly.

Old antisemitic tropes as modern conspiracy fodder

The idea that Jews control the media is an antisemitic trope codified in the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a falsified 19th-century publication presented as minutes from a secret rabbinical conference on how to control the world. The plot of the “Protocols” has been reworked from a 1797 version that targeted the Freemasons, not the Jews, which further proves that such a “secret rabbinical conference” has never taken place.

In modern times, this trope is often rehashed in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict to assert that Zionists are using their control of the media to withhold information about Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. However, as the Anti-Defamation League points out, the presence of Jewish individuals in leadership positions in media companies is not evidence that these particular individuals exercise a Jewish or Zionist agenda.

Posts on X claiming that “Jewish media like Bonnier” have done everything they can to destroy the lives of Swedes speaking up against Israel’s attacks on Hamas and that Bonnier and the influential Swedish Wallenberg family are “cartel Jews that buy up everything and everyone.” (Source: X)

While it is true that Kristina Henschen and the Bonnier family have Jewish heritage, these claims falsely assume that people of Jewish heritage are Zionists and drastically overstate their editorial influence in a conspiratorial way.

A spokesperson for Sveriges Radio, the public service radio broadcaster that co-produces Musikhjälpen, told Logically Facts that decisions regarding the hiring and firing of Musikhälpen’s presenters are taken by the responsible publisher of the show and not by Radiohjälpen’s General Secretary. Musikhjälpen’s responsible publisher, Anna-Karin Larsson, has also refuted the claim that Dikmer was let go because of pro-Palestinian social media posts.

A TikTok video falsely identifying Kristina Henschen as responsible for dropping Dikmen from the entertainment show Musikhjälpen, with comments calling for a boycott of the show. (Source: TikTok)

“Radiohjälpen, which is a humanitarian fundraising organization, has no involvement in this,” Sveriges Radio’s spokesperson told Logically Facts. “It is an unfounded personal attack, spread with clear allusions to conspiracy theories about a person's background. So there are certainly antisemitic links to the statement.”

They added that Kristina Henschen has received several threats as a result of the accusations and has now deactivated her social media accounts.

Unfounded claims concerning Swedish media figures 

Joseph Avraham Said told Logically Facts he “never claimed that Kristina Henschen dropped Filip Dikmen because she is Jewish or belongs to a Jewish family,” but because “her family has strong connections to Zionism.” This claim is, besides being irrelevant to Dikmen’s departure, unfounded. 

Logically Facts did not find any evidence that Folke Henschen, Kristina Henschen’s great-grandfather, was a Zionist – on the contrary, he was a known Nazi supporter during Hitler’s reign and wore a swastika. Similarly, it would be misleading to claim that the author and designer Helena Henschen, Kristina Henschen’s mother, “wrote books about Jews’ rights in Europe,” given that this was never a core focus during her diverse, multidisciplinary career.

Said also stated he is planning to file a lawsuit against Swedish newspaper ETC, which first broke the story, for presenting him as antisemitic. He added that he has Jewish roots and supported Israel himself until he converted to Islam. 

Several TikTok videos have pointed to managers or owners with Jewish heritage within the Swedish media industry to claim that the media is controlled by a Zionist, pro-Israel agenda. While these people do have Jewish heritage, it is not sufficient to prove they are Zionists, and the idea that Jews or Zionists control the media is an antisemitic canard. 

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