The JC: Row breaks out in Sweden over whether to deport Gothenburg synagogue attacker

Sweden’s Migration Agency believes the 22-year-old Palestinian man has no guaranteed right to remain even though a court overturned his deportation order.

A Palestinian man who helped attack a Gothenburg synagogue has no guaranteed right to remain in Sweden despite a recent court ruling apparently preventing his deportation, according to the state-run Migration Agency.

A Migrationsverket spokesperson told Swedish media that the agency did not believe expelling the man would go against the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from expelling asylum seekers to a territory in which they would be in likely danger of persecution or discrimination.

There was outrage from Israeli diplomats and Sweden’s Jewish community a fortnight ago after the Court of Appeal for Western Sweden overturned a district court’s deportation order for the man, saying he may be the target of reprisals from Israel were he to return to Gaza.

The 22-year-old Palestinian was sentenced to two years in prison in June, along with one other Palestinian and a Syrian, after being found guilty of firebombing the synagogue on December 9, 2017, while a group of Jewish youths held a Chanukah celebration in the premises.

Around ten masked men reportedly participated in the attack, which took place during a weekend of protests with antisemitic overtones following US President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In an op-ed in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, the presidents of the Jewish Community of Gothenburg and of Sweden’s Jewish Central Council wrote that the court had “rewarded a hate crime” and had, in effect, encouraged others to commit similar crimes as the ruling suggests it may improve one’s chances of staying in Sweden.

The court ruling sends a signal to Jews in Sweden, the two community representatives added, that they are now less safe in the country.

The Palestinian man’s asylum application had been rejected in 2016 by the Swedish Migration Agency and a deportation order was approved.

However, he then received a temporary, one-year residence permit after the Migration Agency ruled that it was, for the time being, not possible to expel individuals to Gaza since the Egyptian border was often closed.

But on September 12, the appeal court reversed the deportation decision in a move that was described as “political” by Swedish commentators.

It said the synagogue attack could be considered “a serious political crime directed at other Jews”, and not just at those in direct danger during the firebombing.

But the court’s judgement also referenced the insecure situation in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as Israel’s “potential interest in the case”, as reasons to suspect the man’s basic human rights cannot be guaranteed were he to be expelled.

The ruling prompted Israel’s ambassador to Sweden, Ilan Ben-Dov, to write on his Facebook page: “In its conclusions, the court has shown blatant ignorance regarding Israel’s independent judiciary that has gained international reputation.

“It also excuses, and therefore legitimises, the actions of a violent anti-Semite as acceptable political criticism by stating that his hostility is not towards Jews in general but due to his vengeful attitude towards Israel.”