Sweden, a "small, remote" Scandinavian country, has had more of an impact on Palestinian history (and human reality) than closer or greater powers throughout the world.
The impact has been consistently constructive, positive, and human-with a deep-seated tradition of fairness, justice, and peaceful intervention.
Unfortunately, three such Swedish champions had met with violent and untimely deaths, each a tragedy unto itself, but a national and global loss in the larger scheme of things.
The assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, UN Mediator on Palestine, in 1948 at the hands of the Israeli terrorist organization-the Stern Gang-began a lethal Swedish connection with Palestine.
An ardent champion of the underdog, particularly of the Jewish victims of the holocaust, and as a global humanitarian, Count Bernadotte was recruited on behalf of the UN to mediate among all parties to oversee the peaceful implementation of the Partition Resolution in Palestine. He was brutally murdered, shot at point blank, by three Jewish Stern Gang members in Jerusalem.
Palestine had lost its first Swedish champion.
In 1986, another human rights champion and a tireless campaigner on behalf of peace, justice, tolerance, and human dignity was senselessly murdered. The death of the then Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme deprived the world, Sweden, and Palestine of a courageous voice and an unrelenting force towards shaping a politics of moral and human integrity.
Olof Palme steadfastly opposed the racist apartheid regime in South Africa and consistently supported the ANC and other victims of that regime.
In Palestine, he sought recognition for the PLO and a validation for the peaceful resolution of the conflict through ending the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands. Palme firmly anchored his politics in international legality and UN resolutions, but also in a deeply-felt commitment to fairness and human decency.
Yesterday, a third tragedy befell Sweden, Europe, and the world in the brutal and also senseless murder of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.
She too had courageously reached out to the downtrodden and excluded. She gave voice to the silenced and spoke out on their behalf with conviction and integrity. She was never intimidated or silenced, and the brute exercise of power by the strong only added to the potency of her gentle yet unwavering message.
When the Olof Palme Foundation graciously offered me the peace award named after him, I felt that the Palestinian cause-as well as the cause of peace, justice, and humanity-was being granted renewed hope and vitality. Both Sten Anderssen and Pierre Schorri-two significant and globally recognized Swedish actors on behalf of peace and responsible politics-completed the tribute to the Palme legacy and also recognized in the promise of Anna Lindh renewed hope and promise.
She touched us all with her humility, intelligence, integrity, and valor. She dwarfed all who were too full of themselves to see the power of a woman, a sister, who quietly and gently neutralized their sense of misplaced power and domination. She dominated by refusing to control or to be manipulated. She radiated honesty and good humor, but never accepted to compromise with injustice or oppression. She was formidable in her simplicity.
Anna is one person who should not have been described in the past tense. She should have remained in the present also as a promise for the future. And her promise was-is-for a better future for humanity as a whole.
Anna’s passing is a personal loss, and I grieve for her along with her family and friends. Anna’s loss is a human tragedy, a promise dimmed before its time, an absence that will be felt in pain and with a real sense of deprivation.
Sweden has generously given the world, and has brutally taken back, yet another gift of love.