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Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Another Year of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism in Norway

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel
Publication: Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism

No. 82

  • Again over this past year there were significant anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incidents in Norway. Among these were anti-Semitic television satire programs, an act of the Nazification of Israel by a Norwegian diplomat, physical attacks on a pro-Israeli demonstration, death threats against Jews and a desecration of a Jewish cemetery.
  • Publications by NGO Monitor reveal that the Labor-dominated Norwegian government is indirectly giving financial support to NGOs that demonize Israel. This Norwegian government’s attitude toward Israel is among the most negative in Europe.
  • A number of Norwegian Jews have said in various media that anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are on the rise in the country.
  • There are increasing indications that the number of extreme and sometimes violent anti-Semites among Muslim Norwegians may approach or even exceed the membership of the local Jewish community. Some of these Muslims participated in the largest riots in many years in Oslo in January 2009.

There are an estimated 1,300 Jews in Norway.[1] This means that for every ten thousand Norwegians, there are three Jews. The Jewish community constitutes a tiny fraction of West European Jewry. Norway’s overall population makes up slightly more than 1 percent of that of Western Europe.

The book Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews, which I edited, was published in August 2008.[2] (As it sold out rapidly, it is now available for free on the Jerusalem Center’s website.[3]) It analyzes anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attitudes at various levels in the Nordic countries. The book also indicates why Norway’s place in any history of postwar anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in Western Europe should be “disproportionately” larger than its population size or number of Jews seems to warrant.

The book also gives examples of some pioneering impacts of Jew- and/or Israel-hatred emanating from Norway. Proof keeps surfacing of the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attitudes mainly among parts of Norway’s elite and immigrant populations.

The future of the Jews worldwide as well as the state of Israel is threatened by a variety of forces. In increasingly uncertain times, details of the ongoing global anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli defamation and hostility should be documented. As events unfold, this will make it more difficult in future for those promoting hatred, their accomplices, and the bystanders to deny their role in the process of demonizing Israel and the Jews. Even in a country with a small population such as Norway there is a significant number of these.

In the new century there have been a number of physical, and verbal, anti-Semitic attacks against Jews in Norway. Norwegians often stress that much of this aggression is committed by Muslim immigrants who hold Norwegian citizenship, and that one should not hold Norwegian society responsible. This attitude has an underlying racist implication, as if some Muslims are second-class citizens whose personal responsibility for their acts is different from that of “real,” that is, ethnic Norwegians.

The main expression of anti-Semitism in the country, however, is through anti-Israelism. Various Norwegian media and others maintain that there is no link whatsoever between the two.[4] This position often stems from the fact that many people do not mind being called anti-Zionists but do not want to be labeled anti-Semites. While the two types of hatred are not totally identical, there is great overlap between them.[5] The fallacy that these two manifestations of irrational hatred are not similar is increasingly difficult to sustain given the overwhelming evidence of the link between anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, in Norway as almost anywhere else.[6]

The Jespersen Affair

In 2006, an anti-Semitic article by the author Jostein Gaarder in the daily Aftenposten drew much attention in the Jewish world to the many aspects of hatred of Israel and Jews in Norway. This was intensified by the large number of talkbacks to the article on Aftenposten‘s website, a substantial number of which supported Gaarder.

Toward the end of 2008, another scandal brought international attention to anti-Semitism in Norway. On 27 November, the comedian Otto Jespersen said in the Torsdagsklubben (Thursday Club) program on TV2, the country’s largest commercial station: “I would like to take the opportunity to remember all the billions of fleas and lice that lost their lives in German gas chambers, without having done anything wrong other than settling on persons of Jewish background.”

A day later, a Norwegian Jew named Kurt Valner, who had lost nine members of his family in German camps during World War II, reported Jespersen to the police for anti-Semitic statements.[7] A week later Jespersen, in his weekly television appearance, gave a “satiric” monologue of mixed anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli remarks. He concluded by wishing the Jews a happy Christmas. As an afterthought he added that this was not proper as the Jews had murdered Jesus.

Two years earlier, the same comedian had burned pages from the Old Testament on live television. Although there was criticism, the television company did not see a reason to terminate his employment. Jespersen then also explained that he would not burn the Koran, as he wanted to live longer than a week.[8]

Jespersen is not alone in ridiculing the suffering of Holocaust survivors or in making anti-Semitic remarks. Such individuals are often beyond help. More important, however, is the nature of the reactions to these remarks. The comedian Kjetil Hasselberg rebuked what he described as Jespersen’s bullying and called on Alf Hildrum, head of TV2, to remove Jespersen from the air.[9] Other comedians, such as Ørjan Burøe, argued that censoring Jespersen would contradict freedom of speech.[10] In an interview with TV2, the comedians Morten Ramm, Henrik Elvestad, and Jonas Rønning also expressed their support for Jespersen’s right to say what he wants on the air.[11]

TV2 Takes No Action

Far more important was that TV2’s director backed Jespersen’s right to his “satire.” Hildrum was quoted as saying, “The claims that Jespersen has anti-Semitic sympathies are completely false. I don’t believe it. Otto Jespersen is trying to make a point in these monologues, and the text should be judged in context. It shouldn’t be taken in isolation.”[12]

The company’s attitude toward the anti-Semitic hate speech led to complaints by an Auschwitz survivor, Imre Hercz, the Jewish community  (Det Mosaiske Trossamfund or DMT), and the Norwegian Center against Antisemitism with the Pressens Faglige Utvalg (PFU), a media organization that deals with complaints against journalists and the media. At the end of February, the PFU unanimously decided to condemn Jespersen.[13] It was the first time ever that this body took such a decision regarding satire.

There were several reactions in the media to the Jespersen affair. Some claimed that his statements were legal, as if there were no ethical aspects to the matter. Approaching the issue in this way made it appear as one of “technicalities” rather than as yet another manifestation of the fundamental problem of whether there any limits to misbehavior among the country’s elites.

A few weeks later, four representatives of the Norwegian Lutheran Church-among them Ole Kvarme, the Bishop of Oslo-came out against the comedian. They said they could not accept that a vulnerable minority such as the Jews of Norway should be attacked. The church leaders added that when Jespersen denied that was the case, he just made things worse; and his monologue could stir anti-Semitism in Norway. The church leaders did not demand that texts such as Jespersen’s be banned; they said people should reflect on the possible consequences of their words and use their right to freedom of speech wisely.[14]

Jespersen’s statements and the limited reactions to them further strengthened the claims that discriminatory attitudes exist toward Jews and Israel among part of the Norwegian elite. It was one more example of how acts of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are being pioneered in Norway, in an overall atmosphere of indifference to such phenomena.

International Attention

Slowly the Jespersen affair started to get attention in Israel. The Jerusalem Post[15] and both the Hebrew and English editions of Haaretz[16] wrote about it. The outgoing Israeli ambassador in Oslo, Miriam Shomrat, was quoted as saying “Norway is not an anti-Semitic country, but the phenomenon [of anti-Semitism] is stronger there than in other Nordic countries.”[17]

Regarding Jespersen’s remarks, she added: “The danger in anti-Semitic phenomena has to be judged by the public reaction to such expressions by politicians and the media. To my regret I am still waiting for an adequate response.” She also said Norway’s foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre, in a private conversation, had strongly condemned Jespersen’s words and told her he intended to condemn them publicly as well.[18]

The Jespersen affair also received some attention outside of Israel. For instance, the Jewish Telegraph Agency devoted an article to it.[19] The CRIF, the umbrella body of French Jewish organizations, mentioned it on its website and circulated information to its mailing list.[20] On 12 December, Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote a letter about Jespersen’s remarks to Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, in which he observed, “two experts on freedom of expression remarked that these statements possibly violate the hate-speech provisions of the Council of Europe (COE), of which Norway is a member.”[21] The Simon Wiesenthal Center never received any reply from Stoltenberg or his office.[22]

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote a letter to Wegger Christian Strommen, the Norwegian ambassador to the United States. The letter noted that earlier in the year the ADL had already contacted the Norwegian government about problems of anti-Semitism in the country, and it called on the government “to make clear that such anti-Semitic hate speech has no place in Norwegian society.”[23]

Ben Cohen, an executive of the American Jewish Committee who monitors anti-Semitic developments around the globe, published a blog about the Jespersen affair in which he said it had been documented “that anti-Semitism, frequently blended with anti-Zionist tropes, is alarmingly prominent in Norway and the other Nordic countries.”[24]

There now seems to be a beginning of awareness in some Norwegian circles that the country’s image is becoming increasingly associated with anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incidents. One small anecdotic indicator of this occurred when Samuels met the ambassadors of four Nordic countries in Geneva. He gave them each a copy of Behind the Humanitarian Mask. Whereas the other diplomats just thanked him, the Norwegian ambassador looked at the cover and title and said, “This book spells trouble for us.”[25]

The so-called Jante Law concept (Janteloven) is a pillar of Norwegian culture. One of its major aspects is that one should never think one is better than somebody else. The 2006 Gaarder affair, the 2008 Jespersen “satire,” and a number of other anti-Semitic statements and incidents in Norway, however, are based on the flouting of this law. They are creating an increasingly negative image of Norway in Jewish circles abroad. It is now more and more understood that-given the combination of the Norwegian government’s attitudes, the anti-Israeli lobby, criminally inclined Muslims, and several other aspects of anti-Semitic behavior-developments in Norway should be monitored from abroad more frequently.

Hamsun and Moral Relativism

The Jespersen affair and some of the public reactions to it are indicative of the moral relativism among part of Norway’s elites. So is another matter, the honoring of the Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun.[26]

The New York Times wrote:

It’s all you would expect of a national jubilee: street theater, brass bands, exhibitions and commemorative coins. A statue is to be unveiled, and a $20 million architectural gem of a museum is under construction. Yet the honoree is not a war hero, nor even a patriot. It is the Norwegian novelist Knut Hamsun, who welcomed the brutal German occupation of Norway during World War II and gave his Nobel Prize in Literature as a gift to the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Hamsun later flew to meet Hitler at Hitler’s mountain lair in Bavaria.[27]

In February 2009, Norway’s Queen Sonja opened the “year-long, publicly financed commemoration of Hamsun’s 150th birthday called Hamsun 2009…the queen spent a highly specific half-hour with Hamsun family members at the National Library. Together they viewed the author’s handwritten manuscripts.”[28] There is more than one layer of significance to this act. First a Labor-dominated government rehabilitates an admirer of Hitler and the National Socialists. Second, the Queen participates in this, as if the royal family did not flee abroad when the Germans conquered their homeland in 1940. They would brutally abuse it.

The German Jewish author Max Tau, who fled before the war to Norway, tells how Hamsun-a former friend of his-was despised by many Norwegians when he showed his sympathy for Hitler-ruled Germany after its invasion of Norway. A friend of Tau, the medical head of a hospital, said to him, “Today I have burned all Hamsun’s books.” Others told him they would never read one more sentence written by Hamsun.[29]

The festivities in honor of Hamsun are one more example of a dubious morality, abundantly present, in Norway’s public discourse. For a few years there has been a Holocaust Center in Oslo; the exhibition memorializes the murder of a large part of Norway’s Jews and the Norwegian role in this process, as well as that of the resistance in helping Jews. In September 2008, a Jewish museum was also opened in Oslo by Crown Prince Haakon.[30] On the other hand, in 2009 a prominent Norwegian Nazi supporter is being lavishly honored and a museum is being established in his memory. Did a friendly Norwegian make a joke when telling me that this is because the country only has a few famous people?

Israel’s 2009 Gaza Campaign[31]

The reactions to Israel’s 2009 Gaza campaign included a variety of incidents. Kristin Halvorsen, the Norwegian finance minister and leader of the Left Socialist Party, was among those who participated in an anti-Israeli demonstration in Oslo in January. She was the only minister of a European country to take part in such a rally. It was mentioned that there were shouts of “Death to the Jews” at that gathering.[32]

After this rally some participants split off. Rocks and eggs were thrown at policemen when a smaller group refused to leave, after it was announced that the demonstration was over.[33] All this proved once again how anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism overlap. According to an Israeli daily, the Israeli embassy protested with the Norwegian government.[34]

A few months later the Jerusalem Post published unfounded accusations about what the minister had done at this gathering.[35] This led to a misleading reply by a spokesman of her party: “The minister took part in a manifestation for a ceasing of hostilities in Gaza. It lasted for about an hour, and was a dignified and peaceful event. It ended outside the Norwegian parliament.”[36]

Norway’s ambassador to Israel followed this up with a letter to the editor of the Jerusalem Post, in which he wrote: “The violent demonstration that later followed outside Israel’s embassy was carried out by fringe groups. Ms. Halvorsen strongly disapproves of violence and incitement to violence, and has said so repeatedly.”[37]

In another rally on 8 January, an estimated forty thousand people took part. In this so-called “peace demonstration” both Anne Sender, president of the DMT and Joav Melchior, rabbi of the Oslo Jewish community participated. Both left the meeting prematurely. Melchior was quoted as saying the speeches at this gathering were very one-sidedly pro-Palestinian except for the one by Bishop Kvarme.[38] At one meeting Melchior, who wears a kippa, was shouted at “Bloody Jew, go away” (“Jaevla jøde, gå bort”).[39]

A few months later, the Finnish blog Tundra Tabloids published a picture of Halvorsen at the “manifestation for a ceasing of hostilities.” It showed that someone standing very close to her was holding a sign that said “The greatest axis of evil-USA and Israel.”[40] Later the business daily Dagens Naeringsliv[41] and the daily Dagbladet also published the picture.[42] By not leaving such a gathering, Halvorsen must be considered as identifying with it. This demonstration was one among several in Norway where hatred of Israel and Jews came to the fore.

Whatever the declarations of Halvorsen, her party, or Norway’s ambassador to Israel, if one were to seek out the most anti-Israeli minister in West European governments, Halvorsen’s overall record-which includes calling for a consumer boycott of Israel-would make her a serious contender.

Pro-Palestinian Aggression

Also on 8 January, about one thousand pro-Palestinian protestors tried to attack a pro-Israeli rally-of which the opposition Progress Party was one of the organizers-in front of the parliament building in Oslo. The protestors came armed with knives, baseball bats, and Molotov cocktails.[43] Reliable sources who prefer to remain anonymous told me that several parents who had come with their children to the pro-Israeli demonstration were afraid to go in through the one entrance that was open, in view of the threats of violence.

The police tried to prevent the pro-Palestinians from molesting supporters of Israel. Thereupon a number of them started attacking the police and smashed shop windows on a major Oslo street.[44] Six people were wounded, including five policemen. The twenty-six people arrested were of thirteen nationalities including Pakistani, Palestinian, Turkish, Moroccan, Iranian, Jordanian, Somali, Iraqi, and Afghan immigrants.[45] Johan Fredriksen, chief of staff of the Oslo police, remarked that “you have to go back to the early 1980s to find a similar situation in Norway.”[46]

This should have led Norwegians to ask themselves: in the future, will these people only riot in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Or is this an initial sign of much greater problems ahead for the general population? Time will give the inevitable answer.

Death Threats against Jensen

Since she addressed the pro-Israeli gathering in Oslo in January 2009, Siv Jensen, leader of the Progress Party, had to have fulltime bodyguards because of the death threats she received.[47] This was a sound decision as, a few months earlier, Justice Minister Knut Storberget had been attacked in the streets of Oslo and beaten so hard that he fell to the pavement. This occurred in the middle of the day. During the previous winter Per Sandberg, a senior politician in the Progress Party, had also been attacked in Oslo during the day.[48]

Regarding the rally where Jensen spoke, the Progress Party’s foreign policy adviser, Dr. Asle Toje, was quoted as saying: “I have never experienced this kind of hatred in Norway. There were people throwing stones at and spitting on rally-goers. Afterward, people carrying Israeli flags were randomly attacked in the streets.” He added that Norway used to be very pro-Israeli but has turned into one of the most anti-Israeli countries in Europe, both in government and in public opinion.[49] Toje commented that “Jensen was calling for the same things as Barack Obama. The difference is that she was doing it in Norway. The environment here is different.” Jensen had expressed support for Israel and called for a ceasefire agreement as well as for aid to be distributed in Gaza.[50]

The Chief Rabbi of Norway, Michael Melchior, told the Jerusalem Post that “on the Shabbat following the anti-Israel demonstrations, which were not so well-attended in the first place, the foreign minister [Støre] and the bishop of Oslo [Kvarme] together with other Norwegian leaders, came to Oslo’s synagogue to protest the anti-Semitic statements heard at some of the demonstrations.”[51]

This was a welcome gesture indeed. Yet the Norwegian government should ask itself what role its one-sided statements against Israel have played in stimulating the anti-Semitic events. There is a further aspect: a disproportional percentage of the threats and words of hatred uttered against Norwegian Jews come from Muslims. These are recent immigrants or their progeny. There are increasing indications that the extreme anti-Semites among Muslim Norwegians may approach or even exceed in numbers the membership of the local Jewish community. Is nobody responsible for having let these hate-mongers into the country? Asking this evident question is often considered politically incorrect in the prevailing climate of Norway’s public discourse.

Norwegian Government Negative toward Israel

Israel’s Gaza campaign was a reaction to many thousands of rockets fired from that territory at Israel over a long time. When Israel finally mounted a major response toward the end of December 2008, several European governments strongly backed Israel against the terrorists of Hamas, an organization whose charter states explicitly that all Jews should be murdered. Among the governments most supportive of Israel were those of Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.[52]

The Norwegian government’s position toward Israel during the Gaza campaign, however, was among the most negative in Europe. Pretending to serve the interests of the civilian Palestinian population that had elected the genocide-promoting Hamas authorities, the Norwegian attitude also greatly served those of the murderous rulers of Gaza.

Støre stated: “The Israeli ground offensive in Gaza constitutes a dramatic escalation of the conflict. Norway strongly condemns any form of warfare that causes severe civilian suffering, and calls on Israel to withdraw its forces immediately.” He added that “Gaza is the world’s most densely populated area, and the effects of a ground invasion on a long-suffering civilian population that has endured a strict closure regime for many years, and now many days of military attacks, will be extremely grave.”[53]

In his eagerness to condemn Israel, Støre repeated a frequently used fallacy. The Gaza Strip is far from being the world’s most densely populated area. Singapore, Hong Kong, and even the Tel Aviv metropolitan area are more crowded.[54] As is usually the case with Israel’s pseudohumanitarian critics, Støre did not suggest any practical alternative for Israel to protect its citizens against Hamas’ indiscriminate attacks.

A Hypocrite Minister

One can only wonder to what extent Støre is aware of the degree of his hypocrisy, while Norwegian troops are part of the NATO forces in Afghanistan. Concerning the Second Lebanon War in 2006, British author Frederic Forsyth had punctured similar expressions of European hypocrisy elsewhere, writing:

Certain of our politicians, seeking easy populism and the cheapest round of applause in modern history, have called the Israeli response “disproportionate.”… Why did the accusers not mention Serbia?… In 1999 five Nato air forces-US, British, French, Italian, and German-began to plaster Yugoslavia, effectively the tiny and defenseless province of Serbia. We were not at war with the Serbs, we had no reason to hate them, they had not attacked us and no Serbian rockets were falling on us.

But we practically bombed them back to the Stone Age. We took out every bridge we could see. We trashed their TV station, army barracks, airfields and motorways. We were not fighting for our lives and no terrorists were skulking among the civilian population but we hit apartment blocks and factories anyway. There were civilian casualties. We did not do it for 25 days but for 73. We bombed this little country economically back 30 years by converting its infrastructure into rubble…. In all those 73 days of bombing Serbia I never heard one British moralist use the word “disproportionate.”[55]

The same reasoning can be applied to Norway’s involvement in Afghanistan. Over the years, actions of the Allied Forces have caused substantial casualties among the Afghan civilian population. In a single day in May 2009, many tens of Afghan civilians were killed by NATO forces.[56] Norway shares responsibility for these deaths and injuries, as its troops are an integral part of NATO. Norwegian soldiers are present in Afghanistan even though not even one suicide attack has been committed by Afghans in Oslo, Bergen, Tromsö, Narvik, Larvik, or any other Norwegian city. Not a single rocket has been fired into these towns; no Afghan party, including the Taliban, has a program calling for all Norwegians to be murdered; nor are Afghan children educated to go to Norway and murder its citizens.

More Double Standards

There are many other examples of the double standards and hypocrisy in the Norwegian public debate and the statements of the current government. Støre keeps saying that Norway wants to be a leading political and economic partner in the field of giving humanitarian aid. In part this will be used to prevent humanitarian disasters.[57] Yet a government and a minister who proclaim such “noble” intentions, and also claim to be a pioneer of human rights, should long ago have been the first to bring Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-who calls for the destruction of Israel, which is tantamount to planned genocide-to trial by the International Court of Justice.

Norway was also no leader in exposing the profound perversity of the Durban II Conference in Geneva in April 2009. Canada was the first country to state that a so-called antiracist conference that contained a major component of extreme racism-in this case, anti-Semitism-should be boycotted. Several other countries then followed.

When Ahmadinejad, an inciter to genocide par excellence, spoke at the conference, all representatives of those EU countries that attended Durban II walked out. The Czech Republic thereafter decided to leave the conference. Støre, however, remained in the hall to listen to the Iranian president’s hate speech. He spoke after him and condemned his words, but this was a rather safe move as almost all other West Europeans had shown their disapproval in a much stronger way. The so-called Norwegian humanitarian leader was no more than a follower.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Harald Brackman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote:

Speaking immediately after Ahmadinejad, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, whose country financially and diplomatically has heavily invested in the fatally-flawed “Durban Process,” angrily denounced the Iranian president as “the odd man out” and declared that the UN would not be “hijacked by extremists.” Unfortunately, that declaration was akin to a captain promising to fight off pirates after his ship already was flying the Jolly Roger flag.[58] Ahmadinejad was the big winner-leaving Geneva with plenty of footage to feed state-controlled media and websites to help him in his re-election campaign and solidify his poll position with America and Israel-bashers throughout the Arab and Muslim world.[59]   

Radical Anti-Israelis

Two Norwegian doctors, Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse, entered Gaza during the war claiming that they wanted to provide medical assistance to Palestinians. They were extensively interviewed by the Norwegian and world press, making accusations against Israel. The CAMERA media-watch foundation pointed out that Gilbert is a radical Marxist and a member of a revolutionary socialist party in Norway. After 9/11, he had said he supported the terrorist attack on the United States.

CAMERA also mentioned that, according to the Norwegian daily Verdens Gang, the trip of the two doctors, of whom Gilbert is known as a radical anti-Israeli, was paid for by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.[60] NGO Monitor pointed out that Gilbert did not mention that Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, where the two doctors worked, had been used for military purposes.[61] A few months later the Israel Defense Forces revealed that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas executives took over an entire ward of the hospital during the war.[62]

In a country like Norway where the political leadership in power is very critical of the Israeli democracy while being relatively soft on its dictatorial opponents who have genocidal intentions, a state of mind is created that must lead to other phenomena of hatred of Israel. At the end of last year, the Israeli embassy protested against a comparison of the situation in Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto by the mayor of Tromsö, Arild Hausberg of the Labour Party. A few months earlier the Israeli embassy had already protested to Hausberg about an exhibition on Gaza in the town’s library.[63] In May this year, twenty-one staff members of the local university called for an academic boycott of Israeli academics.[64] Gilbert also teaches at that university. For these and various other reasons, Tromsö seems on its way to becoming a center of Israel-hatred in Norway.

One of the internationally publicized anti-Semitic incidents concerned Trine Lilleng, a first secretary in the Norwegian embassy in Saudi Arabia. She sent an email from her account in which she juxtaposed pictures of slain children in Gaza with “photos of Holocaust victims in seemingly correlating situations.”Aftenposten printed some of these juxtapositions. [65] If one analyzes these pictures, one sees that they concern very different situations.

Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial institute, came out with a strong condemnation of Lilleng. Its spokesman said:

That a Norwegian Foreign Ministry official is disseminating such distortions is appalling and smacks of anti-Semitism…. Instead of working toward understanding, she is fanning the flames of hatred…. There is no comparison between the systematic plan, based on a murderous ideology, to murder every single Jewish person, everywhere, and a long political and military conflict between two peoples…. Coming on the heels of other examples of anti-Semitic incitement, it raises red flags as to what is apparently happening in Norway.

The spokesman added that such “manipulative abuse” of the Holocaust inevitably leads to violence.[66]

Morten Hoglund, a member of parliament from the Progress Party, connected this incident to the Stoltenberg government’s attitude. He said the email could only be sent because of the “unrestrained verbal aggression against Israel and an uneven approach by the Norwegian government, which made the diplomat feel comfortable enough to send this hateful mail.” The Christian People’s Party filed a critical query with the ministry on the matter.[67]

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, wrote an answer to Lilleng’s email, saying:

You’ve been in Riyadh since 2007. If you’re so anguished by human rights violations, perhaps you could have begun by devoting some of your attention-and email blasts-to what surrounds you. Or were your eyes diplomatically shut?

Have you failed to notice the many legal executions, including beheadings, going on in your assigned country? Have you ignored the often abysmal treatment of foreign workers, many from Asia, who also happen to be disproportionately counted among the victims of Saudi capital punishment? Have you neglected the gender apartheid that surrounds you? Did you ever look out of your car to notice that Saudi women are proscribed from driving, and that’s hardly the worst of it?[68]

When Støre came to Israel a few weeks later he was interviewed by the daily Maariv. He mentioned that Lilleng was no longer in Riyadh. The interviewer should have clarified whether she was still employed by the ministry. During the interview Støre returned to his frequent accusations that Israel acted disproportionately and that one has to talk to Hamas.[69]

The Anti-Jewish Environment

The Jespersen affair and subsequent incidents also brought out another aspect of the problematic reality for Jews in Norway. Sender mentioned hearing that Jewish children had been harassed in schools as a result of Jespersen’s performance.[70] For several years, Sender’s approach has been to advise Jews to keep a low profile. In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, she told the few Norwegian Jews who usually wear a kippa not to do so in certain neighborhoods.[71]

Collecting such public statements over the years from various Jews and non-Jews affords a glimpse of a reality that is far from the idyllic image that Norway wants to project. It is not that Norwegian Jews are often discriminated against, but that from time to time they are under serious threat in the public domain.

Valner had told the daily Aftenbladet in November 2008 that he saw signs that anti-Semitism was spreading in Norwegian society.[72] During the Gaza campaign, Pessy Hollander was quoted inAftenposten saying that he knew of many people in the Norwegian Jewish community who were afraid, as there had been death threats as well. An Orthodox family he knows no longer dares to go to the synagogue because they stand out as Jews in the street.[73]

A few months later, Hollander published an article in which he said he was an average Israeli who had now lived in Oslo for twenty-seven years. He wrote that during those years “I have experienced increasing hatred and aggression toward my homeland.” Hollander mentioned in particular the role of former Norwegian Prime Minister Kåre Willoch-a leading anti-Israeli-in this development.[74]

In 2006, the young Israeli poet Tali Cohen said to Aftenposten before returning home that every day during her year in Norway she had been confronted with her religion. She was being told by the media not to stress that she was a Jew. Cohen told the paper that she had noticed a “mood of hatred” in the country.[75]

Rolf Kirschner, a former chairman of the DMT, said that he remembers his childhood years in Oslo in the 1950s in a positive light and without any problems of being a Jew. He had walked around wearing a Star of David and no one had reacted negatively. Kirschner added, however: “I now notice a different attitude, I think that it’s not only connected to Israel’s war in Gaza but, instead, ill winds that are more visible now than before are to blame. Norway has received larger groups of immigrants than the Jews ever were. This affects the majority society and, hence, us.”[76]

In March 2009, the psychologist Berit Reisel, who is the chair of the Holocaust Center, was quoted as saying at a meeting that the Jews in Norway are worried by the seemingly growing anti-Semitism: “We are a small group… and because of threats from extreme environments we have to go through checkpoints to go to the synagogue, the kindergarten, and the old-age home.”[77]

At that meeting, the Islamist Jew-hater Mohammed Ali Chisthi also spoke and made anti-Semitic remarks. The organizer of this dialogue gathering, liberal parliamentarian Abid Q. Raja, knew what Chisthi was going to say and afterward defended his decision to let him speak. A picture in Aftenpostencaptured Crown Prince Haakon on the front row listening attentively to Chisthi.[78]

As the royal family is involved in the Hamsun commemorations, the remarks of Jo Benkow-perhaps Norway’s best-known Jewish citizen and a former president of its parliament-should be regarded as rather critical in its context. He was quoted saying: “Hamsun wrote great novels, but they are completely overshadowed by his behavior as a Hitler lackey…. At least for my generation, it’s outrageous to give more honors. He won the Nobel Prize in 1920. That should be enough.”[79]

The Feeling of Safety Is Gone

A few months after the Gaza war, a Jewish mother sent these reflections to the country’s largest daily,Verdens Gang:

In a democratic country like Norway where human rights are constantly on the agenda, I always believed that we Jews would be safe. I am an optimist by nature, and I have never allowed myself to be frightened by those who warn that history may repeat itself. After this winter’s Middle East events, however, I no longer feel so safe and sure. The hatred against Jews throughout the world, and even here in Norway, has frightened me.

It has been expressed through demonstrations, headlines in the media, and by some politicians. I am equally amazed and shocked at the indifference that has been shown.

…Even some members of our congregation have received threats of death and the security in and around the synagogue has been strengthened.

…This was a tough time for all of us and especially for our children who by now have become youngsters. Much of the security that they previously felt was gone, and they experience the situation as very taxing.

Some months have now passed since the Gaza war, and the situation is apparently now quiet. Nevertheless, my trust and confidence in those who rule this country is no longer what it was. I sincerely hope, however, that those will be proven wrong who believe that history may repeat itself.[80]

Most of the above remarks were collected from newspapers over the past few months. They are in line with several earlier statements quoted in Behind the Humanitarian Mask. Should they all be considered false or quotes out of context? In Finland, where the Jewish community is in the same order of magnitude, one could not find a similar series of remarks.

Further research would probably have yielded additional quotes expressing the anxiety of various members of the Jewish community for their future. One cannot belittle these remarks by saying that the major outbursts of insults and threats usually last for short periods. In view of the excessively positive image that many Norwegians have of their own country, they should wonder what these feelings of members of the tiny Jewish minority tell about their society at large and its lack of introspection.

More Perceptions

Finn Jarle Saele, editor of the Bergen newspaper Norge Idag, has accused the Norwegian press of major bias. As he put it, the “Norwegian press must take primary responsibility for the word Jew having become an insult again.”[81]

When a Jewish museum was opened in Oslo in 2008, its director Sidsel Levin mentioned yet another aspect: “In other countries, Jewish culture is a natural part of the country’s culture…. That hasn’t been the case in Norway.”[82] This sheds yet further light on the country’s environment for Jews.

Sometimes isolated remarks also shed light on how realities are perceived. An American Jewish woman, Tamar Davis Larsen, who had been married to a non-Jewish Norwegian, received her PhD in May 2009. A few sentences in it are devoted to how, when living in Norway, she was invited by a television program to share her views as a foreign woman citizen. Davis Larsen writes: “It was my husband at the time who had a greater reluctance for me to participate in this program. He was concerned that my Jewish background (which is a great anomaly in Norway) would make me a target of violence.”[83]

Occasionally exaggerations, too, provide interesting insights. When I was interviewed in Prague by a non-Jewish Czech radio journalist, she told me that she sends Czech newspapers to a conational living in Norway. That person commented to her that, given the ideological one-sidedness of the Norwegian press, when she reads Czech papers it reminds her of when she used to receive the underground Samizdat press in communist Czechoslovakia.[84]

Willoch Crosses the Line

The aforementioned former leader of the Conservative Party, Kåre Willoch, is a consistently one-sided critic of Israel. His analyses of the Arab-Israeli conflict usually end up with the conclusion that Israel is to blame.[85]

Willoch insists that he is merely criticizing Israel, and rejects any accusations of being anti-Semitic. However, in a radio interview, when asked what he thought of the chances for advancing peace in the Middle East with the new administration of Barack Obama, Willoch said he was not optimistic. To substantiate this pessimism he pointed to the fact that Obama had appointed a Jew, Rahm Emanuel, as his chief of staff.[86]

Cultural journalist Mona Levin responded that with this statement Willoch had crossed a line, and that his words would lead to increasing anti-Semitism. She added that, as a former top-level politician, he knows the importance of words and needs to understand that he is responsible for the opinions he creates.[87] In an interview, Marty and Elin Bashevkin, a Jewish couple living in Oslo supported Levin’s view on Willoch.[88]

Hypocrisy and arrogance among Norwegian politicians are indeed not limited to those supporting the government. Erna Solberg is the current leader of the Conservative Party. In an interview to the Oslo dailyDagsavisen, she said that if Israel makes concessions to the Palestinians it will “reap goodwill from them.”

This remark raises at least three questions. Was the interviewer so ignorant as not to ask Solberg: “How can you say this? When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and dismantled the Jewish settlements there, the goodwill it got in return expressed itself in thousands of rockets that rained down on Israel from Gaza.” As to the politician herself: “In view of this reality, how did Solberg, a leader of a mainstream Norwegian party, dare to make such a statement about Israel without referring to the criminal response of the Palestinians to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza?”[89] The third question concerns the fact that while Solberg mentioned the terrorist character of Hamas, she only spoke about Israel’s responsibility to act. Does she think Palestinians do not have responsibility for their acts, or did the interviewer delete any remarks of hers about that?

The Government Promotes Anti-Israeli Activities

In March 2009, NGO Monitor published a report titled “Norwegian Government Funds Fuel Mid-East Conflict.” It showed how government funds are funneled to “extreme NGOs that demonize Israel.”

The report gives details of how, under the false pretense of “development aid,” the Norwegian government donates substantial sums to politicized NGOs that operate in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Gaza. Some of these NGOs are involved in anti-Israeli boycott campaigns. During the Gaza war, a number of these NGOs misrepresented international humanitarian law to delegitimize Israeli measures of self-defense.[90]

In October 2008, Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch met parliamentarians of the Christian People’s Party and the Progress Party in Oslo. He explained how Fatah and Hamas use children’s television to glorify suicide bombers and encourage children to become terrorists. He pointed out that much Norwegian aid is channeled to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls Fatah’s children’s television station.

A few weeks earlier, Støre, in answer to a parliamentary question from Ingebrigt Sørfon of the Christian People’s Party, said that such features on children’s television are not common. The clips Marcus showed challenged Støre’s statement.[91] Even if there had been only one PA children’s program calling for murder, a Norwegian minister who pretends to be a humanitarian should not have belittled its importance. Støre’s attitude in this matter is a further indication of the profound hypocrisy of the Stoltenberg government.

Reactions to Behind the Humanitarian Mask

During the first three months after Behind the Humanitarian Mask was published, there was hardly any interest in the book in the Nordic countries. At the end of November 2008, a brief symposium on the book in Jerusalem led to an article in Dagsavisen.[92] The same paper later published an opinion on anti-Semitism in Norway from Odd-Bjørn Fure, director of the Holocaust Center in Oslo.[93]

Fure claimed that criticism of Israel is permitted, something nobody contests. He made a number of very critical remarks about the country. Yet Fure remained silent about the genocidal anti-Semitic elements in the Muslim world that have existed for a long time and that have greatly increased in power in recent years. Although the main promoters of the mass murder of Jews are Ahmadinejad’s Iran, Hamas, and Hizballah, there are many other Muslims who share their views. These attitudes should have reminded the head of a Holocaust institute of their similarity to Nazi ideology. One can but wonder why he failed to mention this in such a context.

What was most surprising in the reactions to the book was the absence of an attempt to contradict the many facts cited in it. Reactions were mainly of a very general nature. Some claimed that the book was an effort to divert attention from Israel’s actions in the conflict with Palestinians. This implies that it is normal that many Norwegians frequently criticize Israel. These Norwegians will justify this by saying Israel is evil for many reasons.

However, if an Israeli, which happens rarely, investigates what is behind Norway’s humanitarian mask, this is considered not only politically incorrect but even distinctly abnormal by such people. It is seen as breaking a taboo if the widespread hypocrisy and arrogance of part of the Norwegian elite is documented with footnotes. It becomes unbearable if an Israeli indicates that prominent Norwegians including senior officials are evil, because they finance or support people who incite to hatred and mass murder and educate their children to become murderers.

To take this argument further, several reactions to the book may well be based on an attitude that Norwegians should not be criticized under any circumstances by Israelis. This reflects a rather racist mentality. Or did these people have something different in mind? Did they think, out of false patriotism, that Norwegians should not be criticized as they and their country are perfect, an example to the rest of humanity and thus without need for introspection?

The Aftenposten Anti-Israeli Debate

When Knut Olav Åmås reviewed Behind the Humanitarian Mask in Aftenposten, he pointed out that it was surprising that, with all the criticism of Israel, there were few opposing voices in Norway.[94] He identified this as one of the key factors setting Norway apart from most other European countries.

Shortly thereafter, Aftenposten started a discussion on attitudes toward Israel. It could hardly, however, be considered a debate, but rather an exercise in Israel bashing. Initially, Israel was attacked daily by op-eds in the paper. The first called for a general boycott of Israel.[95] The second urged an academic boycott, falsely accusing both Israeli physicians of participating in torture and the Israel Medical Association of remaining too quiet about it.[96]

It was not mentioned that, before the Palestinian Authority took over after the 1993 Oslo agreements, Israel had provided major assistance to Palestinian physicians. One senior Israeli medical specialist tells how his Jerusalem hospital provided training and consultancy to Palestinian doctors in a Ramallah hospital. Soon after the PA started to rule there, they told these doctors to sever all relations and also specifically forbade them to phone their Israeli advisers.[97]

A third article stressed the right to criticize Israel. This is a typical attack on a straw man as nobody denies this right.[98] The fourth op-ed claimed that Israel is not a democracy.[99] The paper then printed my reply, in which I asserted that some of the articles proved that the spirit of Quisling-in new mutations-was still alive in certain circles in Norway.[100]

Two additional anti-Israeli articles then appeared that specifically attacked me. One was by Line Khateeb, head of the Palestine Committee in Norway,[101] and the other by Per A. Christiansen,Aftenposten‘s Middle East correspondent.[102] He pounced on an article of mine in the Jerusalem Postwithout trying to contradict even one of the many documented facts regarding Norwegian anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. Christiansen claimed I had come on a visit to Norway in order to confirm my preconceived ideas and avoided meeting with the Jewish communities.

He based himself on an interview in Dagsavisen with Sender who, according to that paper, communicated this (false) information to its journalist.[103] There had been no such trip for this book. Christiansen did not verify whether her statement was true. He could also have seen, as I pointed out in my reply to him, that 98 percent of the 270 footnotes in my book were based on published texts.[104] Starting from a bogus premise, Christiansen’s accusations made a caricature of professional journalism.

A Distorted Interview

My experience with Norwegian journalism has rapidly increased since Behind the Humanitarian Maskwas published. An extreme example of distortion of my words occurred in an interview with Norway’s TV2. The station’s journalist, after a conversation of close to an hour of which about a third was on camera, cut the interview to two minutes. This happens frequently and need not lead to falsification of the interviewee’s statements.

In a conversation before going on camera, I had mentioned that Norway has forbidden Jewish ritual slaughter since 1929-since even before Nazi Germany. It continues, however, to kill whales, which die a lengthy and agonizing death. I referred to this as “barbarian”-a position widely held internationally. Elsewhere in the conversation I had called the Norwegian discussion on Behind the Humanitarian Mask“unintellectual.”

The interviewer combined these two words in his broadcast, falsely suggesting I had said that Norwegians were “barbarians and unintellectual.” His remark was shown against a visual background of major riots in Norway where an Israeli flag was burned. The distortion thus consisted of combining different words from our conversation on other subjects that had nothing to do with “all Norwegians.” Such methods of false combination of words-or of words and unrelated pictures-are a typical example of media manipulation. The interviewer made other incorrect statements as well.

The text on the TV2 website under the video added further distortions.[105] Initially it superposed another falsification on top of the existing one and claimed that I had called Norwegians “barbarians and unintelligent.” After my complaint, TV2 changed the text back to the original fallacy of the video and replaced the “unintelligent” with “unintellectual.”

This text also quoted me falsely as having said that Norway was “the most anti-Semitic nation in Europe.” TV2, when answering my complaint to PFU showed major disdain for the Norwegian people.[106] It admitted I had not made that statement. It added that “for the common reader the difference between statements that ‘Norway is a pioneer in anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli acts’ and ‘the most anti-Semitic nation in Europe’ is not essential.” TV2 also admitted that they did not have a text from me saying “barbarian and unintellectual” in the same sentence.

The impact of TV2’s distortion of my words went much further. In a parliamentary question to the foreign minister, Progress Party parliamentarian Oyvind Vaksdal specifically referred to me and the statement-falsely attributed to me by TV2-that Norway is the most anti-Semitic nation in Europe.[107]

TV2’s manipulations continued. In June, it suddenly changed the author of the article on its website, which had been posted there since 1 March. It was no longer Fredrik Graesvik, who had interviewed me and whose picture appeared next to the text showing him wearing a Palestinian shawl. Now the author was given as Kjersti Johannessen, and her picture appears next to the article. Graesvik had already claimed in a letter to me in mid-March that he had not written the text.[108] However, for TV2 that did not seem a sufficient reason to change the author’s name until my complaint had progressed through the PFU system. In addition, after more than two months, they changed the title of the article a few days after I had pointed out its abusive character to the PFU.[109]

NTB’s Role

The distorted text on the TV2 website, via the national press agency Norsk Telegrambyrå (NTB), was picked up by at least fifteen Norwegian papers and several Swedish ones. It not only led to a stream of talkbacks in several of these media but also to emails to my private address including a number of hate-mails. Furthermore, articles appeared where I was attacked for allegedly having called all Norwegians “barbarians.”

I tried for weeks to convince TV2 to give me additional live airtime so as to correct the distortions. When they refused, I send a complaint about TV2 to the PFU.[110]

I also contacted NTB on the same day that I made my complaint to the PFU, telling them they had published a press release on the matter without verifying its accuracy with me. I added that it seemed the person who wrote the press release had not even taken the trouble to spend the two minutes necessary to watch the video of the interview with me. More likely, it was based on the even more distorted text under it on the TV2 website.

NTB agreed to put out a press release on my complaint. This news agency needed more than three weeks to do so. They explained part of the delay by saying they had to wait for TV2’s response. They tried to present this behavior as normal, as if media usually wait a long time when requesting responses from others. This became the more absurd as TV2, which was familiar with this matter for more than two months, finally told them they did not wish to respond.

The NTB press release put some negative labels on me and minimized my varied and lengthy professional background. It also quoted nonspecific criticism of my book from unidentified Jewish voices in Norway. Why did they not publish the names of these sources? It sounded as if they had stood at a Jewish gathering asking passersby whether any of them wanted to say something negative. What anonymous Jews thought about the book was anyhow irrelevant as the press release was supposed to be about my complaint against TV2. It was one more example of media manipulation in Norway.[111]

In-Depth Study Required

Usually when one correctly analyzes the strategic background of a situation, later events further illuminate the findings. This is what has happened as well with Behind the Humanitarian Mask. A number of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli developments in Norway since the book’s publication confirm its conclusions.

There is a need for an international research institute to undertake an in-depth study of what this Norwegian government has said and done in addressing the Muslim world, including the Palestinian leaders, concerning murderous behavior, calls for mass murder of Jews, war crimes, major human rights offenses, restriction of civil liberties and political rights, and so on. Such a study should also emphasize on what issues the Norwegian government has remained silent. When this is compared with its behavior toward Israel, a much clearer picture will emerge of its false humanitarianism.

Such a study would also reveal that this process has been going on for many years. Already in 2002, Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk was quoted saying that when he was in Oslo and the talk turned to politics, “you discover bottomless hatred. The impression is that suddenly it is permissible to say anything-against Israel and against Jews…. Have you ever heard them talk like that about what the Russians are doing in Chechnya, or about the oppression of 40 million Kurds?”[112]

The same article mentioned a letter in a leading Norwegian newspaper by Edvard Vogt, a lecturer in law at Oslo University, who said: “…Just as Hitler did in Mein Kampf, Sharon and his partners have made their intentions clear…. There is no doubt that Sharon wants to establish ‘greater Israel.'”[113]

Not only do the government’s bias and behavior have to be analyzed in depth, but those of the leading media as well. Their prioritizing and reporting of news raises many questions about their professional ethics. Many of these media show an obsession with aspects of Israeli policies.

Portraying the Middle East

The priorities in news coverage can be seen in the way the Middle East is portrayed in Norwegian media. The number of Muslims in the world is about a hundred times that of Jews. Muslim states have at least a hundred times the number of citizens Israel has. The Norwegian media and particularly television should devote time in proportion to this size to the legal executions, including beheadings, human rights transgressions, calls for murder, civil rights abuses, discrimination, and corruption in the Muslim world.

Much of this pertains to the Palestinian Authority as well. For instance, from time to time extracts from Palestinian children’s television programs inciting to suicide-murder and other violence should be shown on Norwegian television. Changing the disproportionate attention to Israel would expose the Norwegian government’s political positions toward Israel as largely untenable. It would also expose the type of Palestinian inciters whom Norwegian politicians like Halvorsen and Willoch de facto support.

A number of Norwegian Jews have made public statements about anti-Semitism that they or others in the Jewish community have encountered in recent years. Several are mentioned above as well as inBehind the Humanitarian Mask. Other statements were made in private because people are afraid. Some even expressed doubt about the future of Jews in Norway.

In many European countries, studies have been done on local anti-Semitism. Both Sender and Fure have said that anti-Semitism in Norway should be monitored.[114] Such a study on Norway is indeed a necessity. Among the reasons is that the nature and number of incidents mentioned in Behind the Humanitarian Mask seems substantial compared to many other communities of a similar size. Such a study should also shed light on official Norwegian reactions to incidents and the role of members of the Muslim immigrant communities in extreme expressions of hatred.

Is the Situation Hopeless?

I am often asked whether the situation in Norway concerning Jews and Israel is hopeless. Should individual Jews and their small community just keep a low profile about their identity in the hope that they will rarely be noticed and that there will be no circumstances in which ominous signs of anti-Semitism will turn into verbal or physical incidents?

Historically, keeping a low profile in the face of unpleasant circumstances has been a common strategy in Jewish communities all over the world. Jews who are dependent on a country for making a living frequently fear that drawing wide attention to the anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Israeli attitudes will further intensify their community’s and personal problems. Many Norwegians may expect from a small minority such as the Jews to be even more patriotic than others. Also some Jews expect that from themselves. But is lying low a realistic option in Norway today, when incidents keep occurring?

It might work to some extent when the only media that report are national ones. Few people outside Scandinavia can read Norwegian and few foreign media have correspondents in the country. The weaknesses of a policy of Jews lying low, belittling incidents, and behaving like Norwegian superpatriots are exposed, however, when foreign media report on negative events affecting them.

For instance, in mid-May 2009 in Oslo the old Jewish Sofienberg cemetery-which had been in use from 1869 to 1917-was desecrated. It is considered a national heritage site. On a number of tombstones black swastikas were scrawled, and there was also graffiti saying “The War is not over.” At least one source abroad reported on the incident and showed a picture of the besmirched stones on the Internet.[115] To put this in perspective, there are only three Jewish cemeteries in the country and there had already been a desecration in 2006.

The events that require responses from the Jewish community are following upon each other quickly. On 26 May, TV2 gave more than a quarter-hour’s television time to the condemned British Holocaust denier David Irving.[116] The television station paid for his travel and hotel costs.[117] The journalist who interviewed him showed little knowledge about the subject.

Norwegian scholar Bernt Hagtvtedt wrote thereafter that true Holocaust scholars are not flashy enough compared to Irving. He added: “Moreover there are no longer journalists [in Norway] who know enough to interview them…. There are journalists who are so lacking in knowledge that they only drift with the tide like seaweed, carried by the latest fashion…. Unnoticeably the decay in the Norwegian media has advanced so far as to allow Irving to dominate for days on end.” [118]

Lying low also became impossible when anti-Semitic reactions in Norway during the Second Lebanon War in summer 2006 were among the worst in Europe. A European Jewish Congress report summarized the situation:

For Anne Sender, President of Det Mosaiske Trossamfund, the Jewish community’s representative organization, the shooting [at Oslo’s synagogue on 17 September] was the culmination of a series of incidents which created a considerable atmosphere of intimidation and fear for the country’s Jews. Coinciding with the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East, an outbreak of desecrations, verbal attacks and insults as well as physical attacks and threats forced the community to take additional security measures and to heavily reinforce the police presence around Jewish buildings.[119]

Since March 2009, Norway is the chair of the ITF (Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.) This country is unfit to hold such a position when in the same year it has held major memorial activities for the Nazi-admirer Hamsun. But what should the Jewish community leaders say when these actions are sponsored by both the royalty and the government, neither of which the community wants to come out against?

Verdens Gang reported at the end of May that Queen Sonja had met the imam Mehboob ur-Rehman at the Islamic Cultural Center in Oslo. She was visiting the center for the opening of an art exhibition. Rehman is a member of the European Fatwa Council, which in a 2003 fatwa declared that suicide attacks “please Allah” and that all adult Israelis are legitimate targets. All members of the council are bound by its decisions.[120]

When asked for her reaction to the Queen’s visit, Sender was quoted as saying that it was good in principle that the royal family visits other religious communities besides the Norwegian Church. The article added that Sender was, however, “somewhat taken aback” that the choice had fallen on Imam Mehboob ur-Rehman’s mosque.[121]

In June King Harald V visited the Oslo synagogue, the first visit ever of a reigning Norwegian king to the Jewish community.[122] This would have been seen as simply a nice gesture if the Queen’s earlier call to a mosque had not been to one with an imam who promotes Jew-hatred. So, now this visit became one more act of moral relativism.

Undemocratic Acts in a Democracy

Also in May 2009, the English edition of the Israeli daily Haaretz-which is published together with the International Herald Tribune-printed an article in which Berit Reisel told of her experiences in 1997 as a member of the state committee on restitution.[123] She had given a speech in Tel Aviv at the opening of an exhibition on the history of Norwegian Jews. The paper’s earlier article on that opening had already mentioned, regarding the catalog’s dealing with this matter, that under its “diplomatic phrasing lies a half century of abuse.”[124] The matter of the major, and sometimes probably even criminal, misbehavior of a variety of Norwegian officials during the committee’s work had also been left out of the book published when such an exhibition was shown in New York in 2003.[125]

The article on Reisel began with the interviewer’s remark that: “Norwegian officials threatened and spied on the country’s Jewish leaders during Holocaust restitution talks in the 1990s, the community’s chief negotiator told Haaretz this week.” Reisel was quoted as saying that committee chairman Oluf Skarpnes had threatened her that if she did not go along with the opinions of the majority of the committee, it would be “dangerous for her life and health.”

Reisel said her phone had been tapped and she had been physically attacked on the street by somebody “who shouted something about reparations.” She softened the story somewhat by praising the Norwegian government for the financial settlement that was reached. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the matter and the Justice Ministry could not comment because “such a long period of time had passed.”[126]

The interview constituted a profound accusation against a democracy where a government-committee member can be subject to such illegal acts by authorities. This matter has been known for more than a decade.[127] One wonders why there was no Norwegian police investigation to find the culprits. Although one might have thought the amounts at stake were major, the total payment, which was acceptable to those involved, represented less than one day of Norway’s oil and gas income.

The Other Side of the Story

This story and others raise additional questions. Some people in the Jewish community have told me that while the facts in Behind the Humanitarian Mask are right, it does not show what they call “the other side.” They mention that the Jewish community can contact the authorities, including the highest in the country, when there are problems. They will then usually find a willing ear. They add that this is not so in every European country.

The simplest answer to that argument is that the Finnish Jewish community could probably also call on the national authorities but does not have to do so because there are few incidents. A far better answer, however, is the following: let us imagine that there is an average town in Norway that we will call Parvik. It has somewhere from 700 to 1,300 inhabitants. They are decent Norwegians, earning a fair living and paying their taxes.

The mayor of a town like Parvik is probably unknown to the prime minister and the national police authorities. He also does not need them. He has never received an envelope with a bullet in it, or other death threats, nor have members of his community. Parvik’s municipality and the church are not guarded at all.

The children and elderly in Parvik do not have to go anywhere through checkpoints. Nor do they have to be afraid when faraway political events occur. The town cemetery has not been desecrated with hate messages scrawled on the headstones. When the mayor and other people from Parvik go to demonstrations in Oslo, nobody shouts at them: “Death to the inhabitants of Parvik!” If the mayor has ever been a member of a government commission, his telephone was not tapped nor was he aggressed against.

The essence of the claim of some Norwegian Jews is that without the effort the Norwegian authorities make for the Jews, the situation would be worse. This should indeed be appreciated. It cannot, however, compensate for the atmosphere several of these authorities have allowed to develop and sometimes helped shape.

Should Israel Write Norway Off?

A second question is whether Israel should write Norway off as a state where currently many hostile hypocrites are in positions of power, who should be left alone. Should one let them get away with their bias, arrogance, humanitarian racism, and false feelings of moral superiority? The argument is often: “What does it help us that we tell Norwegians that Israel has for decades survived challenges that Norway probably would have had great difficulty overcoming if it had to face them? Many Norwegians also think they are charitable people who show solidarity with the weak. They also, however, close their eyes to their misdeeds even if these include incitement to genocide, murder, or other crimes.

My answer is that one should not leave these matters alone. The first reason is that if one does not fight such problems as there are in Norway, they tend to get worse. The second is that exposing and shaming the anti-Israeli hypocrites among the Norwegian elite is not all that difficult, the more so if it receives substantial attention internationally.

A third reason is that it is important to document the statements of those prominent Norwegians who take one-sided positions on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, including closing their eyes to Palestinian expressions of genocidal incitement and education of children to murder. One day in the future, a publication of all these infamous statements under their name will publicly shame all of them. One recent such perpetrator was Roar Flåthens, leader of the large trade union LO (Landesorganisasjonen I Norge) in his speech on the occasion of 1 May in Bergen. He attacked only one country there-Israel.[128]

Israel’s Devoted Friends

Last but not least, Israel does have many devoted friends in Norway. This emerged, for instance, when various forces on the Left supported boycotts of Israeli goods. In response, these friends started to promote their purchase instead. Most do not belong to the politically correct classes or write in the leading media.

There are several sizable organizations that show their sympathy with Israel and the Jewish people in many ways. A major one is the Norwegian Branch of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem with fifteen thousand members. The nonreligious organization “With Israel for Peace” (MIFF) now has three thousand members.[129] Hjelp jødene hjem (Help the Jews Home) is a humanitarian cooperative organization that assists Jews from the former Soviet Union and other problem areas to move to Israel. There are others as well including For bibelen og Israel, the Karmelinstituttet, and Oredet ogg Israel. Several of these provide information about Israel in a country with heavy anti-Israeli bias in the media.

The daily Dagen and the weekly Norge Idag also provide such information.  In some cities there are friendship associations with Israeli cities. A new blog, “Norway, Israel and the Jews: Anti-semitism and the anti-Israeli lobby in Norway” was started by a gentile Norwegian at the beginning of 2009 partly as a result of reading Behind the Humanitarian Mask.[130] 

These bodies as well as individuals should be encouraged and their true friendship should be treasured. It can also be of great help in tearing off the mask behind which Norway’s leading false humanitarians and its anti-Israeli lobby hide.

Finally, the battle is not only against one’s enemies but mainly about those who do not yet have an opinion on what happens in the Middle East. There is a majority of decent people in Norway who are regularly subjected to the propaganda of the anti-Israeli lobby, the media, and the government’s distortions and are gradually influenced by these against Israel. Leaving the field to Israel’s enemies will further aggravate this situation.

The Norwegian media’s attacks on those who expose the anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in their country will not make these issues disappear. Some Norwegians say again and again that those who publish internationally the many negative facts about their country regarding Jews, and Israel in particular, besmirch their country. Without detailed arguments such claims remain transparent propaganda.

Jews, and nowadays mainly Israel, are often the first to be attacked in a society. Trouble for them is usually an indicator of major overall failures in a local or national environment. The anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli hate phenomena reflect greater structural problems of Norwegian society at its highest levels. This is the more so because, as noted, the Jewish community under attack is a small, quiet minority. If a time span of less than a year sees the accumulation of such a large number of incidents concerning two subjects that are far from central to Norwegian society, it cannot be that the immoral distortions of other issues are not a huge multiplier of those mentioned here.

The introduction of Behind the Humanitarian Mask ends with the sentence: “The struggle against the anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli attitudes in the Nordic countries is going to be a lengthy one.” Developments in Norway over the past months have shown further how valid this forecast was and remains.


*     *     *


[1] Of these, seven hundred belong to the Jewish community (Det Mosaiske Trossamfund, or DMT).

[2] Manfred Gerstenfeld, ed., Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews(Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, 2008).

[3] .

[4] “Israelsk feilslutning,” Adresseavisen, 3 April 2009. [Norwegian]

[5] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism: Common Characteristics and Motifs,” Jewish Political Studies Review 19:1-2, Spring 2007.

[6] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Sammenhengen mellom antisemittisme og anti-israelisme,” Adresseavisen, 7 April 2009. [Norwegian]

[7] “Otto Jespersen Reported for Offense against Jews,” Aftenbladet, 29 November 2008.

[8] Nina Berglund, “Comedian Burns Bible as Cameras Roll,” Aftenposten, 28 March 2006.

[9] “Opplevde Otto som truende,” TV2 news webpage, 9 December 2008, [Norwegian]

[10] Marcus Husby and Lars Kristian Solem, “Harald Eia: – Mobbe-humor er ikke bra… en vil ikke stoppe Otto,” Verdens Gang, 7 December 2008, [Norwegian]

[11] “Bred støtte til Otto,” TV2 webpage, 7 December 2008, [Norwegian]

[12] “Fellow Comedians Defend Jespersen’s Satire,” Aftenbladet, 1 December 2008.

[13]  Marie L. Kleve and Jonas Skybakmoen, “Israel-hetsen til Jespersen var unproblematik,” Dagbladet, 24 February 2009 [Norwegian]; Helge Wekre, “TV 2 fjernet Otto-raljering,” NA24 Arkiv, 26 February 2009. [Norwegian] 

[14] Johannes Morken, “Jødiske barn vert redde av Jespersen,” Vårt Land, 27 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[15] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Norway-a Paradigm for Anti-Semitism,” Jerusalem Post, 13 December 2008; “Complaint Filed against Norway’s ‘Holocaust’ Comic,” Jerusalem Post, 20 December 2008.

[16] Assaf Uni, “Norwegians Not Laughing over Comic’s Anti-Semitic Jokes,” Haaretz, 19 December 2009.

[17] Asaf Uni, “Hitbatuyot antishemiot mipi comicayi Norvegi me’orerot sa’ara benosé chofesh habitui bamedina,” Haaretz, 19 December 2008. [Hebrew]

[18] Ibid.

[19] “Complaint Filed against ‘Holocaust Comedian,'” JTA, 19 December 2009.


[21] Press Release, “Wiesenthal Centre to Norwegian Prime Minister ‘Shun TV Comedian as National Pariah, an Aberration to Norwegian Values,'” Simon Wiesenthal Center, 12 December 2008.

[22] Personal communication, Shimon Samuels.

[23] Press release, “Renewed Concern about Anti-Semitism in Norway,” Anti-Defamation League, 2 January 2009.

[24] Ben Cohen, “Did You Hear the One about the Jews, the Fleas and the Lice?” ZWord Blog, 3 December 2008.

[25] Personal communication, Shimon Samuels.


[27] Walter Gibbs, “Norwegian Nobel Laureate, Once Shunned, Is Now Celebrated,” New York Times, 27 February 2009.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Max Tau, Ein Fluchtling findet sein Land (Hamburg: Hoffmann & Campe, 1964), 88, 89. [German]

[30] Nina Berglund, “New Jewish Museum Opens,” Aftenposten, 9 September 2008.

[31] Manfred Gerstenfeld and Tamas Berzi, “The Gaza War and the New Outburst of Anti-Semitism,”Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism 79, 1 April 2009.

[32] Itamar Eichner, “Geluchei rosh wesarat haotsar,” Yediot Achronot, 14  January 2009. [Hebrew]

[33] Rolleiv Solholm, “Anti Israel Demonstrations,” Norway Post, 6 January 2009.

[34] Itamar Eichner, “Geluchei rosh wesarat haotsar,” Yediot Achronot, 14 January 2009. [Hebrew]

[35] Maya Spitzer, “Increased Anti-Semitism in Norway Has Local Jews Anxious,” Jerusalem Post, 30 March 2009.

[36] Haviv Rettig Gur, “Norway Jews Still Tell of Tolerance,” Jerusalem Post, 31 March 2009.

[37] Letter to the editor by Jakken Biørn Lian, ambassador of Norway in Israel, Jerusalem Post, 2 April 2009.

[38] Astrid Dåstøl, “Jødiske ledere matte gå,” Vårt Land, 9 January 2009. [Norwegian]

[39] Ibid.

[40], 31 March 2009.

[41] Bjørn Gabrielsen, “En smak av egen medesin,” Dagens Naeringslev, 2 April 2009 [Norwegian], picture by Scanpix.

[42] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Antisemittisme i Norge,” Dagbladet, 5 April 2009. [Norwegian]

[43] “Norwegian Police Detain 27 in Clashes over Gaza,” Reuters, 8 January 2009.

[44] For a report on riots in Oslo, including video footage, see “- Én palestiner blant 45 innbrakte i gateslaget,” Dagbladet, 9 January 2009, [Norwegian]

[45] Jostein Ihlebæk and Arild M. Jonassen, “Kun én palestiner ble tatt under opprøret i Oslo,”Aftenposten, 9 January 2009. [Norwegian]

[46] Ibid.

[47] Tori Cheifetz, “Norway’s Pro-Israel Opposition Leader under 24-Hour Guard,” Jerusalem Post, 28 January 2009.

[48] Robert Gjerde and Arild Jonassen, “Security Concerns Rise after Attack on Justice Minister,”Aftenposten, 14 July 2008.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Haviv Rettig Gur, “Norway Jews Still Tell of Tolerance,” Jerusalem Post, 31 March 2009.

[52] Tamas Berzi, “European Reactions to Israel’s Gaza Operation,” Jerusalem Issue Briefs 8/20, 29 January 2009.

[53] “Israel Must Withdraw Its Troops from Gaza,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, 3 January 2009.

[54] Stephen Pollard, “Gaza Is Not Too Crowded,” The Spectator, 24 April 2008.

[55] Frederic Forsyth, “What Is ‘Disproportionate’?” Daily Express, 11 August 2006.

[56] Rahim Faiez, “Police Fire on Afghans Protesting Civilian Deaths,” Associated Press, 7 May 2009,”A ‘Number of Civilians’ Killed in Afghan Clashes,” AFP, 9 May 2009. “Pentagon admits ‘Problems’ with Afghan air strike, Reuters, 8 June 2009.

[57] “Norway Wants to Play a Leading Humanitarian Role,” Aftenposten, 15 September 2008.

[58]  This is the flag flown by pirate ships.

[59] Abraham Cooper with Harold Brackman, “Human Rights and Wrongs and the UN,” WashingtonPost, 24 April 2009.

[60] Ricki Hollander, “Norwegian Doctors in Gaza: Objective Observers or Partisan Propagandists?”CAMERA, 6 January 2009.

[61] “Dr. Mads Gilbert’s Media Campaign,” NGO Monitor, 6 January 2009.

[62] Yaakov Katz, “Haniyeh Hid in Hospital during Gaza Op,” Jerusalem Post, 22 April 2009.

[63] Skjalg Fjellheim, “Israel raser mot Hausberg,” Nordlys, 31 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[64] “Opprop for Israel-boikott,” Nordlys, 4 May 2009. [Norwegian]

[65] Kristjan Molstad, “UD-ansatt sammenligner Israel med nazistene,” Aftenposten, 21 January 2009. [Norwegian]

[66] Etgar Lefkovits, “Yad Vashem Blasts Norwegian Diplomat’s Comparison of Gaza Campaign to Holocaust,” Jerusalem Post, 21 January 2009.

[67] Cnaan Lipshiz, “Oslo Parties Demand Censure of Envoy Who Likened Gaza Op to Holocaust,”Haaretz, 22 January 2009.

[68] David Harris, “In the Trenches: Hypocrisy!” Jerusalem Post Blogs, 26 January 2009. 

[69] Shalom Jerushalmi, “Anachnu lo Antishemim,” Maariv, 8 March 2009. [Hebrew]

[70] Jo Moen Bredeveien, “Jodisk leader forsvarer Jespersen,” Dagsavisen, 6 December 2008. [Norwegian]


[72] “Otto Jespersen Reported for Offense against Jews,” Aftenbladet, 29 November 2008.

[73] Thomas Hornburg and Jenny Sandvig, “Opplever antisemittisme i Norge,” Aftenposten, 16 January 2009. [Norwegian]

[74] Pessy Hollander, “En bølge av aggresjon,” Aftenposten, 3 March 2009. [Norwegian]

[75] Annette Orre, “Dikter I eksil,” Aftenposten, 7 August 2008. [Norwegian]

[76] Torbjørn Greipsland, “Mindre tolerance,” Karmel, 15-31 March 2009. [Norwegian]

[77] “Engasjert kronprins på dialogmøte om hat,” Dagsavisen, 22 March 2009. [Norwegian].

[78] “Også  Chisthi er norsk,” Aftenposten, 4 April 2009. [Norwegian]

[79] Walter Gibbs, “Norwegian Nobel Laureate, Once Shunned, Is Now Celebrated,” New York Times, 27 February 2009.

[80] “Betraktninger fra en jødisk mor,” Verdens Gang, 31 May 2009. [Norwegian].

[81] Finn Jarle Saele, “Jøde et skjellsord,” Norge Idag, 17 March 2009. [Norwegian]

[82] Nina Berglund, “New Jewish Museum Opens,” Aftenposten, 9 September 2008.

[83] Tamar Davis Larsen, “Surviving the Arctic: Narrative Identity of Foreign Women in Norway,” PhD dissertation, University of San Francisco, May 2009.

[84] Personal communication, Martina Schneibergova.

[85] See, e.g., Kåre Willoch, “Veien til katastrofen,” Aftenposten, 15 January 2009. [Norwegian]

[86] Anders Nordstoga, “Willoch er rasist og viser jødehat,” Aftenposten, 15 January 2009. [Norwegian]

[87]  Ibid.

[88] “Jødisk ektepar gir Levin rett,” Aftenposten, 16 January 2009. [Norwegian]

[89] Ashild Langved, “Refser Israel for å styrke Hamas,” Dagsavisen, 1 March 2009. [Norwegian]

[90] NGO Monitor, “Norwegian Government Funds Fuel Mid-East Conflict,” 12 March 2009.

[91] “Norge finansierer Israel-hat,” DagenMagazinet, 23 October 2008. [Norwegian]

[92] Roger Hercz, “Hevder at jødehatet øker i Norge,” Dagsavisen, 26 November 2008. [Norwegian]

[93] Asne Gullikstad, “Stemmer Ikke,” Dagsavisen, 26 November 2008. [Norwegian]

[94] Knut Olav Åmås, “Antisemettisme på norsk,” Aftenposten, 27 November 2008. [Norwegian]

[95] Line Khateeb, “Boikott av Israel må være legitimt” Aftenposten, 2 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[96] Ebba Wergeland, “Akademisk boikott av Israel,” Aftenposten, 3 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[97] Personal communication, Arthur Eidelman,

[98] Hans Morten Haugen “Berettiget å kritisere,” Aftenposten, 4 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[99] Trond Ali Linstad, “Israel er ikke demokratisk,” Aftenposten, 6 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[100] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Arven etter Quisling,” Aftenposten, 17 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[101] Line Khateeb, “Israel preget av frykt,” Aftenposten, 18 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[102] Per A. Christiansen, “En nasjon av jødehatere?” Aftenposten, 19 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[103] Jo Moen Bredeveien, “Jodisk leader forsvarer Jespersen,” Dagsavisen, 6 December 2008. [Norwegian]

[104] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Giftig antisemittisme,” Aftenposten, 8 January 2009. [Norwegian]


[106] Letter from TV2 to PFU, 19 May 2009.

[107] Skriftlig spørsmål fra Øyvind Vaksdal (FrP) til utenriksministeren, Dokument nr. 15:828 (2008-2009), 4 March 2009. [Norwegian]

[108] Letter from Fredrik Graesvik to Manfred Gerstenfeld, 16 March 2009.


[110] The letter of complaint can be read at

[111] NTB, “Klaget TV 2 til PFU for slurv og unøyaktigheter,” Aftenbladet, 20 May 2009. [Norwegian] 

[112] Yair Ettinger, “Now Norway Is Part of the World against Us,” Haaretz, 26 April 2002.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Thomas Hornburg and Jenny Sandvig, “Opplever antisemittisme i Norge,” Aftenposten, 16 January 2009. [Norwegian]

[115] AFP-EJP, “Jewish Cemetery Desecrated in Oslo,” European Jewish Press, 15 May 2009.

[116] (part 1) (viewed 2 June 2009);  (part 2) (viewed 2 June 2009).

[117] Birger Henriksen and Olav Haugen,  “Her Kommet David Irving til TV2,” (viewed 7 June 2009).

[118] Bernt Hagtvet, “Hysteriet rundt Irving,” Dagsavisen, 3 June 2008 [Norwegian] . English translation:

[119] Ilan Moss, “Anti-Semitic Incidents and Discourse in Europe during the Israel-Hizbollah War,” European Jewish Congress, 2006.

[120] Original article in Norwegian by Karoline H.Flåm and Jan Ovind in Verdens Gang 30 May 2009. Viewed in English translation on

[121] Ibid.

[122] Benjamin Spier, “King of Norway visits Jewish community for first time as part of outreach campaign,”

Jerusalem Post, 10 June 2009.

[123] Many additional facts are given in Manfred Gerstenfeld, Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews,,55-57. 

[124] Tom Segev, “On Norwegian Jewry,” Haaretz, 7 May 2009.

[125] Ann Sass, ed., Jewish Life and Culture in Norway (New York: Abel Abrahamsen, 2003), 93.

[126] Cnaan Lipshiz, “Norwegian Official Threatened Jews during Restitution Talks, Delegate Says,”Haaretz, 8 May 2008.

[127] Janine Beulink, “Berit Reisels gevecht in Noorwegen,” NIW, 12 December 1997. [Dutch]

[128] (viewed 7 June 2009).

[129] (viewed 7 June 2009).