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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Norway: Extreme Expressions of Anti-Israeli and Anti-Semitic Attitudes

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

No. 63,

  • Norway, which gets little international publicity, seeks to project an image as a peace-loving country. Few people outside it are familiar with the extreme anti-Israeli expressions among the country’s elites. In recent years there also have been a number of anti-Semitic incidents.
  • Anti-Israeli hate cartoons are published in leading Norwegian dailies and weeklies. Some are similar in message and venom to the worst anti-Semitic caricatures published in Nazi Germany. Israeli prime ministers are shown as Nazis or with the attributes of the Devil or animals. Also the most extreme anti-Semitic views disguised as anti-Israelism can be voiced in the mainstream media, such as those expressed by the author Jostein Gaarder in the daily Aftenposten in 2006.
  • The current left-wing Norwegian government has probably taken the most accommodating position in Western Europe toward the Palestinian Hamas movement, which in its charter calls for the killing of all Jews. The first Hamas minister to be given entrance to Europe met with parliamentarians in Norway. The Norwegian deputy foreign minister was the first senior European official to hold talks with Hamas prime minister Ismael Haniya.
  • Among anti-Semitic incidents in recent years were the shooting at the Oslo community’s synagogue, an attack on its cantor, and the desecration of graves at its cemetery. A number of Jewish children have been harassed in schools.

The few mentions of Norway in the international media give the impression that its 4.7 million inhabitants represent much of what is good in the world. The Global Peace Index rates Norway as the most peaceful country.[i] Together with seven other countries it is at the top of the Press Freedom Index of Reporters without Borders.[ii] It is number nine among the least corrupt countries in the world according to the 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International.[iii] It ranks fourth on the Commitment to Development Index, which “rates 21 rich countries on how much they help poor countries build prosperity, good government and security.”[iv]

There is also, however, a different, rather ugly Norway. As is so often the case, its elites’ attitudes toward Israel and the Jews give an indication of this. Few people outside the country are familiar with the extreme anti-Israeli expressions among these elites. There also have been a number of anti-Semitic incidents in recent years. The Simon Wiesenthal Center cites Norway as one of the few countries that has consistently been given a failing grade on the investigation and prosecution of Nazi criminals.[v]

According to the current Israeli ambassador to Norway, Miryam Shomrat, Norway is well known to be the most difficult country in Europe for Israel because of its media’s extreme and unfair criticism of Israel and its politicized academic Middle East experts.[vi]

Hate cartoons published in leading Norwegian dailies and weeklies attest to how profoundly certain anti-Israeli attitudes have permeated the country’s mainstream. Some are similar in message and venom to the worst anti-Semitic caricatures published in Nazi Germany. With the exception of Greece it is difficult to find a similar array of anti-Israeli cartoons in mainstream papers anywhere in Europe.

Olmert and Sharon as Nazis

A caricature published in the cultural weekly Morgenbladet shows an ultra-Orthodox Jew shooting Arabs whom he accuses of stealing fuel. This image drew harsh reactions from several public figures. “When I saw this, I didn’t think I was in Norway in 2006, I felt displaced to Hitler-Germany in the ’30s and ’40s. This was a pure Stürmer caricature,” said Jahn Otto Johansen, a former editor of the third largest paper Dagbladet and an author who comments on Jewish life and culture.[vii]

A caricature in Norway’s largest daily Verdens Gang shows Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while shaving, looking in the mirror and seeing Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah; Olmert’s feet are those of an animal.[viii] This expresses the classic anti-Semitic motif of the Jew as subhuman.

A cartoon in Verdens Gang under the title “Land-Robbers Grab Every Single Bit” shows the Israeli flag with a skull inside the Star of David.

The conservative Aftenposten is Norway’s second largest daily and most influential paper. One cartoon it published showed the Israeli flag with three bands: the upper and lower ones were red with dripping blood, the middle one was white with a Star of David.[ix]

An essay by Erez Uriely gives an overview of Jew-hatred in Norwegian cartoons.[x] Among others it presents two cartoons by Finn Graff in Dagbladet showing, respectively, Ariel Sharon in 2002 and Olmert in 2006 as Nazis. The latter is modeled on an image from the movie Schindler’s List.

The the Jews as  Main Evil

Anti-Semitism’s core approach over two millennia has been to present Jews as the absolute evil in line with how that was perceived in the particular period. In older times this was the killing of Jesus, God’s son according to Christian belief. In the days of the Nazis, Jews were characterized as vermin. Nowadays absolute evil is embodied by Nazism, and anti-Semites commonly use the motif of Holocaust inversion. The many anti-Israeli cartoons in a variety of papers show how Norwegian anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism overlap.[xi]

These caricatures recycle classic anti-Semitic motifs. The socialist Hamar Arbeiderblad depicted Sharon with horns, a theme alluding to the Devil. The hate cartoons are not a phenomenon of the past few years. One anti-Israeli cartoon using anti-Semitic motifs was published in 1992 by Aftenposten under the title “A Better Species of Human Being.” Showing a rat eating the Star of David, it raised associations with the Nazi propaganda that often portrayed Jews as rodents or insects.

The frequency of these cartoons illustrates the permeation of Norwegian society and particularly its elite with anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic motifs. Such images are the tip of the iceberg of racist stereotypes in a society. Had these caricatures been considered shocking, there already would have been a huge outcry against them years ago. This is the more problematic because this hatred is displayed in a country that is falsely presented as a model democracy.

The Norwegian Government

The present Norwegian government consists of a coalition of the Labor Party headed by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg; the left-Socialist party (SV), which broke off from Labor in 1975 in protest against Norwegian NATO membership; and the Center Party. These three, respectively, have 61, 15, and 11 of the 169 seats in the Norwegian parliament.

Janne Haaland Matlary, a professor of political science at the University of Oslo and former administrative head of the Foreign Office, has analyzed how this government has redirected its foreign policy to the left.[xii] For example, Deputy Foreign Minister Raymond Johansen of SV visited Cuba without meeting representatives from the opposition there. In earlier Norwegian visits that had been the usual procedure.

To put this in perspective, it should be mentioned that Cuba is again rated by Freedom House in 2007 as one of the most unfree countries in the world. It is in the lowest category (7) for both civil liberties and political rights. This includes issues such as freedom of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, the rule of law, as well as personal autonomy and individual rights. Other countries at this lowest level are Burma and Uzbekistan. Even Belarus, Zimbabwe, and Saudi Arabia are more free than Cuba.[xiii]

Another example of this leftward shift was the positive attitude toward the now-defunct Palestinian Hamas-Fatah government. Norway’s government was the first European one to reestablish contacts with it and also resumed aid. Norway has probably taken the most accommodating position in Western Europe toward Hamas, which in its charter calls for the killing of all Jews.[xiv]

When the European Union decided to boycott the initial Hamas government, Norway followed this policy as well. In May 2006 Hamas minister Atef Adwan met in Norway with Gerd Liv Valla, head of the Norwegian labor union (LO) and Kare Willoch, a former prime minister who had headed the Conservative Party. However, government officials did not want to meet Adwan and the Foreign Ministry was reportedly annoyed by the visit.[xv]

Later visas were granted to two Hamas parliamentarians who were invited by the Norwegian Palestinian Committee.[xvi] Raymond Johansen became in April 2007 the first senior European official to hold talks with Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya after the short-lived Hamas-Fatah government was established.[xvii] When murderous fighting broke out between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza in June 2007, Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said Israel was partly to blame.[xviii] He remained silent about Egypt allowing large quantities of weapons to be funneled to Hamas.

Although the Norwegian government will claim that it acts out of humanitarian considerations, its mindset on the Arab-Israeli conflict is in fact closer to that of the Arab dictatorships and terrorist movements than to democratic Israel. The previous, center-right government also sometimes applied double standards to Israel in its statements.[xix]

The Gaarder Debate

In a societal environment where the government and most media are deeply immersed in what at best may be called moral relativism-if  not racist bias-the most extreme anti-Semitic views, disguised as anti-Israelism, can also be voiced in the mainstream. One example of this that drew much international attention occurred when Aftenposten published an article by the internationally known author Jostein Gaarder during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

He wrote: “Israel is history. We do not recognize the state of Israel. There is no way back. The state of Israel has raped the recognition of the world and does not get peace before it lays down its weapons. The state of Israel in its present form is history.”[xx]

In his rage over the war Gaarder accused Israel of numerous atrocities. When criticized, he claimed the aim of his article was to wake Israel up because it was doomed if it did not follow the “law of nations” and the framework established by the world society.[xxi]

While claiming repeatedly that he is not an anti-Semite and did not intend to offend Jews, Gaarder used strong anti-Semitic rhetoric:

We laugh at this people’s whims, and cry over its misdeeds. To act as God’s chosen people is not only foolish and arrogant; it is a crime against humanity. We call it racism…. There are limits to our patience and there are limits to our tolerance. We do not believe in divine promises as a rationale for occupation and apartheid. We have left the Middle Ages behind. We laugh with embarrassment at those who still believe that the god of the flora, fauna and galaxies has chosen one particular people as his favorite, and given them amusing stone tablets, burning bushes and a license to kill.

Mona Levin, a cultural journalist, was one of the most high-profile critics of Gaarder’s article: “This is the worst piece I have read since Mein Kampf…. He proceeds from talking about Israel in one paragraph to attacking the Jewish people in the next paragraph.”[xxii]

Shimon Samuels of the Wiesenthal Center in Paris wrote in a reaction in Aftenposten that Gaarder had “exposed his shallow Biblical knowledge and the Judeophobic paranoia that haunts his nightmares…. Obsessed with the Jews as ‘God’s Chosen People,’ Gaarder regurgitates this concept’s classic anti-Semitic definition as ‘arrogant and domineering.'”[xxiii]

It turned out, however, that Gaarder had wide support for his anti-Semitic views. Aftenposten gave more space to negative than to positive reactions. In Internet talkbacks, however, where the authors are generally anonymous, the majority was in favor of Gaarder. This is yet further proof of how the anti-Israeli mutation of severe anti-Semitism has permeated Norwegian society.

Anti-Semitic Incidents

An anti-Israeli mood often generates an upsurge in anti-Semitism. The 2006 report of the European Jewish Congress (EUJC) points out that anti-Semitic attacks often occur in countries where media reporting is harshly critical of Israel.[xxiv] Publisher and writer Håkon Harket, coauthor of a book on anti-Semitism, noted regarding the increased anti-Semitic acts in Norway during the summer of 2006: “The same happened after the previous war in Lebanon in 1982, when we saw a major increase in anti-Jewish acts. This is nonlogical linking, but still it is not surprising that the attacks against Jews increased since we saw the intense war reporting such as we had this summer, images that are interpreted in an anti-Jewish way.”[xxv]

In 2002 Martin Bodd, a representative of the Jewish community of Oslo, at an international conference of the Anti-Defamation League, gave a country report on anti-Semitic incidents in Norway. He noted that there had been more harassment of Jews there in the preceding two years than at any time since 1945.

Bodd mentioned that “most of the incitement and harassments against Jews have not been reported. Hardly any of the children or the adults offended by anti-Semitic statements or alike, have been willing to come forward publicly.” He said there were approximately fifteen incidents in which ten children had been harassed. [xxvi]  This is a significant percentage of all the children in the small Jewish community. An equivalent would be the harassment of many tens of thousands of Jewish children in the United States.

Bodd added that: “No Jews have been physically hurt during the last 24 months because of anti-Semitism. In certain parts of the big cities in Norway, it is not recommended to wear symbols, letters, etc. that link one person to Israel. Muslims dominate these areas. Yet, in the perspective of the conflict in the Middle East and the reactions around the world, our statement is that Jews are safe in Norway.”

Anonymous death threats have been sent to prominent Norwegian Jews.[xxvii] Irene Levin, professor of social work at Oslo University College, said in 2003:

Some Jewish children were told they would not be allowed to attend a birthday party because of Israeli actions. When there were anti-   Semitic incidents at school, Jewish parents discussed this with some school principals who supported the aggression. One told a Jewish girl to remove her “provocative” Magen David. These incidents are important, but at present remain exceptions.[xxviii]

Former prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik launched a conference about harassment of school children, mentioning offenses against Jewish children in particular.[xxix] As an act of solidarity he went to visit the Jewish community.[xxx]

Bodd also cited several other incidents. On 20 April 2002, Stoltenberg, who had been prime minister till 2001 and in 2005 would again obtain this position, requested during a demonstration the removal of posters equating the Star of David and the swastika. He continued his speech, however, in front of posters with the words in Arabic “Death to the Jews.” The demonstration was organized by the Norwegian left-wing parties including Labor and took place in front of the parliament building in Oslo. Two pictures from that meeting illustrate the nature of some of the banners.

Bodd also said that for debates, the media invited extreme anti-Israeli individuals “and pass them on as neutral, objective participants, failing to mention their backgrounds. For instance, the Director of the Institute for Human Rights Butenschion, who has been active in the Palestinian Committee in Norway; Lars Gule, leader of the Humanitarian Ethics Association, responsible for attempting to carry out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem in 1982.”[xxxi]

He furthermore pointed out that the Norwegian media often confused Israel and Jews. Bodd quoted expressions such as: “The Jewish War machine is crushing our Oslo Peace accord; the Jewish State instead of Israel; Jewish settlers and extremists.[xxxii]

Jews Keeping a Low Profile

There also were other incidents. A visitor to one of the parliamentarians was told to leave his jacket by the parliament’s entrance because it bore an Israeli flag.[xxxiii] In 2004 a municipality-employed teacher in the town of Kristiansand was asked to take off his Star of David necklace. His employer thought the symbol might be a provocation to the many Muslims in the school where he worked teaching Norwegian to immigrants.[xxxiv]

In such an atmosphere Norwegian Jews often prefer to keep a low profile about the anti-Semitic incidents. One example occurred at the opening of an exhibition in 2003 titled “Jewish Life and Culture in Norway,” which was shown in Scandinavia House in New York. The keynote address was given by Jo Benkow, the Jewish former speaker of the Norwegian parliament. He praised Norway excessively for its much-belated restitution payments and concluded: “All in all Jews have few problems in present-day Norway and many of us are grateful for that.”[xxxv]

This gave an embellished picture of the reality. The next day at a symposium in which Benkow participated, one of the board members of the Jewish Congregation of Oslo, Sidsel Levin said: “As a direct consequence of the Norwegian media presentation of the Middle East conflict, there has been an increase of incitement and harassment toward Jews during the last two years.”[xxxvi] Several Norwegians have confirmed to this author that at a later date two prominent members of the Jewish community received mailed envelopes containing bullets. Thereafter these persons lowered their public profile. None of the sources, however, was willing to state so publicly.

Although anti-Semitic incidents have increased in the new century, they were already occurring well before. A retired Israeli diplomat, stationed in the early 1980s at the Israeli embassy in Oslo, told how he had been invited to speak on Israel’s military strategy at the General Headquarters of the Norwegian army. During question time one of the generals asked why the
Jews had “crucified our Lord.”

The Israeli diplomat asked the questioner what that had to do with the topic. The general replied that he had taken this opportunity for the question because the diplomat was the first Jew he had ever met and presumably could give an answer, since his ancestors were probably responsible. The diplomat then suggested that he call upon the ambassador of Italy as he was likely to be a descendant of the Romans who had pronounced the

Recent Developments

By now a question mark has to be put next to Bodd’s 2002 statement that Jews are safe in Norway. DMT, the organized Jewish community, is very small at around 700 members out of the estimated 1300 Jews in Norway, not including Israelis. In the summer of 2006 this community witnessed a series of serious anti-Semitic incidents. The synagogue cantor of the Oslo Jewish community was attacked, “Free Lebanon, Free Palestine” was sprayed outside its synagogue in July, graves at the community’s cemetery were desecrated, stones were thrown at its synagogue, someone defecated on the stairs in front of the same synagogue and subsequently smashed two windows, and there were several anti-Semitic threats by phone and email.

The most dramatic event, however, occurred on 17 September 2006 when the sole Oslo synagogue was fired at. The head of the Jewish community, Anne Sender said, “We have crossed a border.” She added, “But on the other hand, we have got very much support this autumn from the municipality, government, churches, and other religious societies and neighbors.”[xxxviii]

In the aftermath of the shooting incident the government decided to make available five million Norwegian crowns for security measures for the two synagogues in Oslo and Trondheim, the only ones in the country. Statements by the most important of the four suspects indicate that he had been influenced by Gaarder’s article and the subsequent debate.[xxxix] Charges have been filed against three people; the main one is of Pakistani origin, the others of Turkish and Norwegian origin. In addition to shooting at the synagogue, the charges include planned terror acts against the American and Israeli embassies in Oslo.[xl]

Tore Tvedt, probably the best-known Norwegian neo-Nazi, was prosecuted for an interview with Verdens Gang in which he claimed that “the Jews are the main enemy,” “they killed our people,” “they are evil murderers,” and “they are not human beings but should be uprooted….” In 2007 the district court (the second level in the court system) found him not guilty of anti-Jewish harassment.[xli] The previous head of the Jewish community, Rolf Kirschner said that “the verdict shows that minorities have no protection according to Norwegian law.” The verdict has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

Norwegian courts have tended to be lenient toward extreme anti-Semites. In 2000 at a march in an Oslo suburb in memory of the German Nazi Rudolf Hess, Terje Sjolie, leader of the “Bootboys” group said that communists, Jew-lovers, and immigrants “rape and murder Norwegians, while the country is being destroyed by the Jews.” He promised that the marchers would follow in the footsteps of Hitler and Hess. The matter came before the Supreme Court, which found Sjolie not guilty on the ground that Norway grants freedom of expression.[xlii]

Jewish representatives and the Norwegian Antiracist Centre filed a complaint with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the United Nations. In 2005 the committee concluded that Sjolie’s words violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to which Norway is a signatory. It recommended that the Norwegian state take measures “to ensure that statements such as those made by Mr. Sjolie in the course of his speech are not protected by the right to freedom of speech under Norwegian law.” It requested Norway to give wide publicity to this opinion.[xliii]

Boycotting Israel

Norwegian left-wing organizations have been at the forefront of boycott attempts against Israel. Bodd noted that on 1 May 2002-in the midst of the Second Intifada-the leader of the Labor Union (LO), which counts seven hundred thousand members, called for a boycott of Israel.[xliv]

Few of the many Norwegian initiatives for implementing boycotts against Israel have succeeded. Among the best-known attempts was such a decision-taken with a slim majority-by the county of Sør-Trøndelag, which includes Norway’s third largest city Trondheim. Although Sør-Trøndelag hardly buys anything from Israel, the boycott call was seen as an important step in shaping consumers’ attitudes.[xlv]

The boycott initiative came from the far-left Red Election-Alliance (RV), which equated Israel with the South African apartheid regime.[xlvi] Two student organizations in Trondheim (Studentersamfundet and Studentsamskipnaden) joined in as well. Sør-Trøndelag was one of the first public entities in Europe to decide on such a boycott. However, after pressure from the Foreign Ministry that claimed the boycott was illegal according to international law, Norwegian law, and the EU and WTO agreements the county decided to abandon it.[xlvii]

Several leftist political movements have made an issue of boycotting Israel. For instance, the SV Party has called for a boycott on various occasions. At its general assembly in 2005 it was discovered that the oranges served on the fruit plates were Israeli Jaffas. These were ordered to be removed immediately.[xlviii]

In January 2006 Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen of SV called on Norwegian consumers to boycott products from Israel. This came as a surprise to the Norwegian government, which considers boycotts an obstacle to dialogue-which is important for Norway’s reputation in the Middle East, according to Raymond Johansen.[xlix] The Norwegian foreign minister immediately sent letters to the American and Israeli foreign ministers expressing regret for Halvorsen’s boycott call and stating that this was not the policy of the Norwegian government.[l]

The Christian Community

Norway is a largely secular country. Although the majority of Norwegians belong to the Lutheran State Church, a large number of them do not practice. The official church often takes rather anti-Israeli positions. It has, for instance, sharply criticized the “separation wall.” Although recognizing the threat of terrorism against Israel, the church demands that the wall be dismantled and the previous situation on the ground be restored. “The wall which Israel is building speaks of hostility…. The wall creates hostility.“[li] Several Norwegian heads of churches expressed indignation after a trip to the Palestinian territories, concurring that Israel was systematically oppressing the Palestinians.[lii]

Yet particularly among Norwegian Christian laymen of the older generation, there is a pro-Israeli movement. Odd Sverre Hove, editor of the daily Dagen remarks, however: “To judge from my pro-Israeli speeches at different high schools around the country, there are many young Christians with similar feelings.”[liii]

One indication of the pro-Israeli sentiments in these circles is that during the annual Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, Norwegian delegations often are among the largest even though they come from a small country. Their pro-Israeli position does not add to their popularity in a country with considerable antireligiosity. More precisely, antibiblical feelings are strong; anti-Koran sentiments are much weaker.

The late Kåre Kristiansen, a minister and twice leader of the Christian People’s Party, resigned from the Nobel Committee because he did not want to take part in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the then Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat.[liv] Kristiansen said he could not in good conscience bestow such a prize on someone with such a record of terrorism. Ironically, other members of the Nobel Committee wanted to revoke the prize of Shimon Peres because of Israel’s military offensive in the West Bank during the intifada, choosing to ignore that Arafat at the same time was financing terror attacks against Israeli civilians.[lv]


Understanding Norway’s present attitude toward Israel requires understanding its checkered history toward the Jews. In 1814 Norway promulgated its own constitution. While otherwise progressive and tolerant, this document continued the prohibition against Jews entering Norway based on classical anti-Semitic stereotypes. When a ship on its way to England sank outside the Norwegian coast in 1817, the only Jew aboard was immediately handed over to the police and sent out of the country.[lvi] Norway’s historical attitude also must be seen in the context of its religion: Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, was a rabid anti-Semite.

In 1851, after several years of heated debate, Norway finally became one of the last European countries to admit Jews. The country’s foremost poet Henrik Wergeland played a major role in this shift. Every 17 May, on Norway’s national day, the Norwegian Jewish community holds a ceremony at his gravesite.

Norway never attracted many Jews. At its highest point the community numbered about two thousand, which was less than one-tenth of a percent of the population. However, anti-Semitic expressions were frequent. Vebjorn Selbekk in his work on Norwegian anti-Semitism cites various examples from popular books describing Jews in very unfavorable ways.[lvii]

The Russian Revolution of 1917 spurred the fear of communism, which often was associated with the Jews. When a Norwegian Jew was arrested after a Communist Party meeting, Aftenposten referred to him as “the disgusting Bolshevik Jew” who gave a “cunning and shameless impression.”[lviii] Norwegian traders also were worried that Jewish traders would destroy the Norwegian market through pricing policies and lawbreaking.

More than any other case, the controversy over shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) contributed to a growth in anti-Semitism. It began as a struggle for animal rights and ended with evident anti-Semitic aspects. After a heated debate in the parliament in 1929, it was decided to ban shechita by an 88-21 vote. In this Norway preceded Nazi Germany by four years. Jens Hunseid, the leader of the peasant party (the present Center Party) who later became a prime minister in 1932-1933 said: “We have made no commitments to hand over our animals to the cruelties of the Jews, we have not invited the Jews to our country, and we have no commitments to provide animals for their religious orgies.”[lix]


Vidkun Quisling served as defense minister in Hunseid’s cabinet. In 1933, the year Hitler came to power in Germany, Quisling founded the Norwegian Nazi party Nasjonal Samling (National Union). In the Storting (parliamentary) elections that year, it received 2 percent of the votes. In the 1934 local elections its percentage of the votes increased substantially. However, in the 1937 elections the party almost became extinct.

Norway was attacked by Germany on 9 April 1940 and surrendered shortly afterward. The government and King Haakon VII fled to Britain, and the Germans appointed Quisling as head of a new government. He played a major role in the process of robbing the Norwegian Jews of their property and in the preparatory process of sending them to the death camps. In all, close to 750 Norwegian Jews were murdered during the war.

Quisling became prime minister of Norway on 1 February 1942. Shortly thereafter the article of the Norwegian constitution barring Jews from entering the country was reinstated.  Previously several measures already had been taken and Jewish men had been arrested. When Jewish property was confiscated, much of it went to the anti-Jewish Norwegian state. A significant number of Norwegian volunteers, about two thousand, also joined the Waffen SS.

Quisling is one of the few Norwegians who are known outside the country, his name having entered several languages as the archetype of the traitor. For instance, the Oxford dictionary uses the word quisling as a generic term for “person cooperating with an enemy who has occupied his country.”

A Symbolic Figure

In an interview Avi Beker, who was then secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress said:

In Norway’s wartime history there is the problematic, important and symbolic figure of Vidkun Quisling, whose name will forever retain an unwanted association with that country. The Norwegians want to distance themselves from their wartime government, which they try to present as something which is not truly part of their past.

After the war Quisling was executed, yet many Norwegians had similar ideas, including intellectuals who openly preached anti-Semitism. Quisling was also supported by very senior Norwegian officials. A Norwegian Supreme Court judge headed the Liquidation Board of Confiscated Jewish Assets. The Norwegian wartime authorities played an important role in the deportations. Others were silent and benefited from Jewish properties.

Beker, who in the 1990s had been involved in the negotiations over Norway’s belated restitution payments, added: “Norway never had a significant Jewish community, but repressed guilt feelings definitely existed. In the country’s internal discussions on restitution, moral considerations played a major role. It was the first country to establish a commission of enquiry with wide support; and the Norwegian parliament wholeheartedly supported restitution payments.”[lx]

Looking back, taking into account the Holocaust, there has been a relatively short interval of positive attitudes toward both Jews and Israel in Norway. These attitudes have diminished but still exist. At the same time, significant anti-Semitism manifests itself. Anti-Israelism, that is, discrimination against the Jewish collectivity, has become its most important mutation.

*     *     *

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is Chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is an international business strategist who has been a consultant to governments, international agencies, and boards of some of the world’s largest corporations. Among the eleven books he has published are Europe‘s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003) and European-Israeli Relations: Between Confusion and Change? (JCPA, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2006).

*     *     *


[i] Duncan Campbell, “Norway Rated World’s Most Peaceful Country,” The Guardian, 30 May 2007.



[iv]  Center for Global Development, Commitment to Development Index 2007.

[v]  Ephraim Zuroff, “Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals,” Simon Wiesenthal Center-Israel Office, 32, August 2007.

[vi]  “Skader Norges ry,” Aftenposten, 10 August 2006. [Norwegian]

[vii] “Mener karikatur er antisemittisk,” Dagbladet, 25 August 2006. [Norwegian]

[viii] Verdens Gang, 26 July 2006. [Norwegian]

[ix] Aftenposten, 26 July 2006. [Norwegian]

[x] Erez Uriely, “Jew-Hatred in Contemporary Norwegian Caricatures,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 50, 1 November 2006.

[xi] See Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Anti-Israelism and Anti-Semitism: Common Characteristics and Motifs,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 19, Nos. 1-2 (Spring 2007).

[xii] Janne Haaland Matlary, “‘Venstre om’ i utenrikspolitikken,” reader’s letter, Aftenposten, 4 May 2007. [Norwegian]


[xiv] This is most bluntly stated in article 7. See, e.g., the translation of the Hamas Charter in MEMRI, Special Dispatch Series, 1092, 14 February 2006.

[xv] “Hamas Visit Splits Politicians,” Aftenposten, 16 May 2006.

[xvi] “Oslo Grants Visa to Hamas Lawmaker,” Jerusalem Post, 16 May 2006.

[xvii] “Norwegian Minister Meets Hamas PM,” BBC News, 19 April 2007.

[xviii] “Store ut mot Israel,” Nettavisen, 14 June 2007. [Norwegian]

[xix] Manfred Gerstenfeld, “European Politics: Double Standards toward Israel,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 17, Nos. 3-4 (Fall 2005), 58.

[xx] “Guds utvalgte folk,” reader’s letter, Aftenposten, 5 August 2006 [Norwegian]. In English, see

[xxi] “Fordømmer Israel,” Aftenposten, 5 August 2006. [Norwegian]

[xxii] “-Styggeste jeg har lest,” Aftenposten, 5 August 2006. [Norwegian]

[xxiii] Shimon Samuels, “An Open Letter to Norway from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre,” 8 August 2006,

[xxiv] “Vekst i angrep på jødar,” Vart Land, 20 November 2006 [Norwegian]; “Anti-Semitic Incidents and Discourse in Europe during the Israel-Hezbollah War,” EUJC Report, 2006.

[xxv] “Vekst i angrep på jødar.”

[xxvi] Martin Bodd, “Country Reports: Norway,” Anti-Defamation League Conference on Global Anti-Semitism, 2002,

[xxvii] “Mobbing av jødiske barn anmeldt,” NRK Nyheter, 20 August 2002 [Norwegian]; see also “Norway,” Annual Report 2003-2004, Stephen Roth Institute, Tel Aviv University.

[xxviii] Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Irene Levin in “Norway: The Courage of a Small Jewish Community; Holocaust Restitution and Anti-Semitism,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, 10, 10 July 2003.

[xxix] kontor/265203/265387/konferanse_mot_mobbing.html?id=266361. [Norwegian]

[xxx]  “Solidaritetsbesøk: Bondevik opprørt over jødehat,” Nettavisen, 29 April 2002. [Norwegian]

[xxxi] Bodd, “Country Reports: Norway.”

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii]  Cato Vogt-Kielland, “Nektet adgang,” Dagbladet, 9 April 2002. [Norwegian].

[xxxiv] Jonathan Tisdall, “Teacher Told to Drop Star of David,” Aftenposten English Web Desk, 5 February 2004.

[xxxv] Ann Sass (ed.), Jewish Life and Culture in Norway (New York: Abel Abrahamsen, 2003), 21.

[xxxvi] Sidsel Levin, “The Norwegian Jewish Community,” in Sass, Jewish Life, 83.

[xxxvii] David Zohar, personal communication.

[xxxviii] “Vekst i angrep på jødar.”

[xxxix] Ibid.

[xl] “Man Indicted for 2006 Shooting Attack on Norway’s Main Synagogue,” Haaretz, 4 September 2007.

[xli] Helene Mo, “Skuffet over jødehets-frifinnelse av Tvedt,” Dagsavisen, 24 May 2007. [Norwegian]

[xlii] Natan Lerner, “A Sympathetic Ear at the UN,” Haaretz,18 March 2007.

[xliii] UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD/C/67/D/30/2003, 22 August 2005.

[xliv] “LO-lederen vil ha fredsstyrker til Midtøsten,” Aftenposten, 1 May 2002. [Norwegian]

[xlv] “Oppvask i FrP etter Israel-boikott,” Adresseavisen, 15 December 2005. [Norwegian]

[xlvi] Ibid.

[xlvii] “Avblåser boikott av Israel,” Aftenposten, 17 January 2006. [Norwegian]

[xlviii] “SV forlangte politisk korrekte appelsiner,” Verdens Gang, 13 April 2004. [Norwegian]

[xlix] Associated Press, “Norwegian Finance Minister Causes Stir, Supports Boycott of Israel,” Jerusalem Post, 5 January 2006.

[l] Anne Marte Blindheim, “Minner om jødehets,” Dagbladet, 7 January 2006. [Norwegian]

[li] “Protest against the Wall of Separation,” Church of Norway, 24 February 2004.

[lii] “Rystet over Israel,” TV2 Nettavisen, 13 December 2004. [Norwegian]

[liii] Personal communication, Odd Sverre Hove.

[liv] Greer Fay Cashman, “Kaare Kristiansen Dies at 85,” Jerusalem Post, 6 December 2005.

[lv] “Nobel Peace Prize Cannot Be Revoked,” Aftenposten, 7 May 2002.

[lvi] Vebjørn K. Selbekk, Jødehat på norsk-fra Eidsvollsmennene til Boot Boys (Skjetten: Hermon Forlag, 2001), 13. [Norwegian]

[lvii] Ibid.

[lviii] Ibid., 37.

[lix] Ibid., 45.

[lx] Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Avi Beker, “Restitution Issues Destroy National Myths,” in Europe’s Crumbling Myths (Jerusalem: JCPA, Yad Vashem, WJC, 2003), 169.