NRK debate in installments: The reactions to Erna Solberg’s claim that Muslims are treated like the Jews in the 1930s

Transcription of a debate in Dagsnytt 18 NRK on 2008 08 04. I have modified some oral ways of expression, which in an written English language context may seem odd. I have denoted said modifications thus […]

Participants: Erna Solberg (chairwoman, conservative party), Mona Levin, Trine Skei Grande (chairwoman, Liberal party), Jorunn Seim Fure (Professor of history).

NRK: First you, ES. You have raised some comments over your statements on comparisons of 1930s anti-Semitism and the persecution of today’s Muslims.

Do we see parallels?

ES: Yes, what I told VG today, many of the thoughts, the descriptions these extreme anti-Islamic groups use, [sound familiar and remind me of  the extreme anti-Semitic] groups and what they were doing, well, all the time up to the second world war. This, these conspiracy theories – who rule the world? who shall take over the world ?- these extremist groups [simply wont believe] public authorities stating otherwise. These opinions [are common], this is groupthink. This means individuals being made representative of a group, all of the time. And the [heavy] pressure exerted upon for example moderate Muslim voices who participate in the public debate [with their own opinions]. It is frightening to see. But as I clearly stated, this has nothing to do with the actions against or the treatment of the Jews in WW2 or anything like that. But I fear some of the same mechanisms that made the populations of Europe act passively to what happened to Jews, are the same as those in the debate on Islam and Muslims [and they come] from those who are most extreme. And I think it is right to issue a warning, [and start the work to] understand some of these mechanisms. If you think you are not facing a human but a representative of a religion. Yes, if so you are beginning to make a mistake. We are always facing humans,

NRK: Mona Levin, you are an author and a journalist. What is your opinion on this comparison between persecution of Muslims and anti-Semitism?

ML: I find it lacking in understanding of history. And I find it irrelevant as it is used right now. None of the new minorities in Norway have, [God be praised],, experienced or will ever experience anything approaching what Norwegian Jews have experienced. And it is not just about what extreme anti-Semite groups did, it is about [what] large parts of the population [did]. This systemic and industrialized extermination of Jews is something Muslims will never experience in this country. And this means ES should have stopped herself before making any comparisons between persecutions of Muslims and persecution of Jews. Because, there are no reasons to compare. And the persecution of Muslims is objectionable, being neither better nor worse  [compared to] what Jews experienced before and during the war. Or by drawing parallels that have nothing to do about each others. Nor can I understand why Jews [always have] to be drawn into debates that have nothing to about . What do the poor 1400 Jews have to do in his debate. Why are we to become innocent hostages, which we have to speak up against? It is a problem.

NRK: Solberg.

ES: No, I do not mean there is a need for anyone to contradict me. I am speaking [about the factors that]  lead to Nazism. The decades as detailed in VG, the decades ahead of the 1930s, [where an image was created] of a Jewish conspiracy. An image made of Jews ruling the world. They [were blamed for the] 1929  stock market crack. When a dangerous person is drawn, an image of a Jew is drawn. Much of the same mechanisms are utilized [today]. And this is not about the experiences of the Jews in WW2 or the Nazis persecutions [or] the pogroms for that matter [or even the traumatic Jewish history throughout centuries]. But we must look for signs of dehumanizing humans. And it [this] the start of using violence against humans.

NRK: Levin.

ML: Well, I believe, or ES expresses, and we must believe [her], [that] she is aware of the results of the persecution of the Jews, from the 1920s, starting a long time before, and the 1930s and the [horror that took place]. And it makes it impossible for me to understand why she can draw such a comparison today. And I find it strange, at a time when the leaders of the Labor party actually [have behaved] as examples while houses literally have fallen to the ground around them, choosing not to blame anybody before knowing who it was, It was marvelously wise. And for that reason I find it so strange that ES now [does just that] – I understand of course her need to distance herself from the definition of conservatism by this criminal. But why [does she need to] draw the Jews into an impossible parallel I cannot understand. Why can she not rather distance herself from Varg Vikernes who says in Aftenposten the Jewish world conspiracy is behind [this attack and murders].

ES: I can of course distance myself from this, and I [think as she does]. But if I can say one thing – I think ML , [you are] too sensitive if Jews cannot understand how we draw parallels between the thought and the conditions for [a very fertile ground] [that made]it possible to commit [the atrocities against] the Jews and the Jewish people have experienced. I [believe] one must be able to tolerate the possibility of comparing mechanisms in a community without interpreting it as an attack on the Jews, or relieving the Jews of any dignity.

NRK: Yes, are you too sensitive, Levin?

ML: No, I must disagree on this, really. [you say we are] is too sensitive. This [makes me think that] you cannot comprehend how sensitive it is.

NRK: Another person with us [here in our studio, while you are in], Tønsberg, Mona Levin. But [we have another] party leader, here, [leader of the Liberal Party, Trine Skei Grande.] [In] a press release today [you welcome what Erna Solberg says]. [This relates to your oped in Aftenposten on] Islamophobia earlier this year. [You called it household racism].

TSG: yes, I am very glad Erna raised the level of this whole debate. [I believe] that  [differentiating between types of] racism and persecution [does not have] any meaning at all. So I believe the debate should be put to an end. What I as a former teacher of history can say, is that we [all have something to learn from] the signals we see in society. It is when a group is subjected to persecution as member of a group, [when the] individuals [no longer are] perceived anymore, where, in a way, the limits between criticizing a religion and the [the people who belong to said religion] are removed. I am a Christian. Many regarding themselves Christian are proponents of values from which I distance myself. A different interpretation of my religion. It is the same for Muslims.

NRK; Yes, correct, but you also draw a parallel to persecution of Jews between the world wars.

TSG: I have spoken of the way of thinking in which individuals have no value. Individuals only have value through [their] belonging. [In relation to the] persecution of Jews. Or [related to] racism against to blacks, Or all these times through history in which we have stopped seeing individuals, only seeing groups. History has taught us this is dangerous, terribly dangerous. And I think it is absurd to say which persecution is of more worth or of different character. But the method of thinking is the same. And it happened to all of us in Oslo n last Friday in the hours we did not know who it was who did it. Where Muslims can experience being dragged of the bus and beaten up. Where Muslims women have their hijabs torn off them in the streets, Are being spat after, given names. And you see there are things in society in need of being addressed. And which we must dare to talk of.

NRK: ML, no [differentiation can] be done here?

ML. Yes, [I see her point]. But others have been good at [differentiating throughout the] centuries.

(to be continued)