Aug. 7, 2018
“What you each have in common,” said Per Ahlmark to a hall filled with several dozen of his friends from the Swedish Liberal Party, intelligentsia and media, invited to a January 2009 Stockholm conference celebrating his 70th birthday, “is that you are all defenders of democracy and freedom, enemies of totalitarianism and tyranny, and supporters of Israel. Of course, you also happen to be the only public figures in Sweden who think like this.”
When my friend Per passed away in June, at the age of 79, the free world lost an eminent writer, poet and pro-democracy activist, who served Sweden in the 1970s as deputy prime minister and head of its Liberal Party. The organization that I direct, United Nations Watch, lost its European co-chair; and Israel and the Jewish people lost one of their most devoted defenders.
“The best lack all conviction,” wrote Yeats, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” With Per Ahlmark, however, it was the exact opposite. Per stood out brilliantly for the passion of his convictions, and for his extraordinary courage. In a country that, in his words, “did next to nothing to contribute to the defeat of Nazism and Communism,” Per swam against the tide. In his charismatic presence, one immediately felt his sense of purpose and the force of his moral commitments; he was part Churchill, part prophet Jeremiah.
Over five decades, Per Ahlmark was a singular voice of moral clarity against not only tyrants and totalitarians who threatened life, liberty, and democracy, but also against their fellow travelers in Sweden and throughout the West.