Former leader of Jewish Congregation in Oslo wants Norwegian Jews to debate Israel

From Vårt Land

Anne Sender: The Jews must discuss Israel

The former leader of the Jewish Congregation in Oslo criticizes Christian congregations that collect money for settlements

Geir Ole Bjartvik

The former leader of the Jewish Congregation in Oslo says in an open in Vårt Land on Tuesday that the Jewish community in Norway to a greater degree must show that there are many different views on Israel’s policies within the congregation.

We must criticize mistakes. She underlines that Israel is of fundamental importance for the congregation in Oslo as a “Zionist congregation”. But Norwegian Jews ought nonetheless criticize Israeli mistakes, she thinks.

“There have been so many others with strong opinions”, Sender writes to explain why DMT until now has kept the disagreement on Israel behind closed doors, more than other Jewish congregations elsewhere in Europe.

Problematic attitudes. But this ought to end now, says Sender. She refers to how, among others, Israeli group have involved Norwegian Jews into the problems [ME conflict, M. McG].

The last few years, some comments, law proposals and attitudes presented by rabbis, party leaders and members of Government been so problematic, that I believe that we, as Jewish leaders in the Diaspora, must distance ourselves from it, Sender says.

For her own part, she attacks Israeli settlements, which she thinks are obstacles to peace. She also points to  the increased power of the elected State Rabbinate and the Knessets tendency to adopt laws which undermine equal rights for all citizens.

Christians against peace. Sender also confronts “those special Christians congregations that collect money for settlements”

The former leader of the Jewish Congregation accuses these groups for being more inspired by their own religious and political convictions, than thinking about peace for all who live in Israel.

We stick to the Bible. John Skåland is chairman for the CarmelInstitute, which collects money for Jewish settlers. Skåland says he takes little notice of  Senders opinion.

We have had the same attitude for the last 60-70 years and we stick to the Bible, says Skåland and adds that the Institute now is increasing the support for the settlers.

Many-faceted debate. It is also of no consequence for the Carmel leader,  that it is a leading Norwegian Jew who presents the criticism.

Absolutely not. We know that there are various opinion among Norwegian Jews, just as it is among Israelis. Both Norway and Israel are democratic countries where luckily anybody is free to have a different opinion, Skåland says, who also thinks that the Norwegian debate on Israel is many-faceted enough as it is.

Most groups have stepped into the fray. One or two more makes no difference.

My own and highly personal opinion – as an outsider, is that this is a very valuable contribution to the discussion. Sender makes many important points, and is not afraid to grab the bull by the horns.

I personally missed a reference to the many Israeli civic organizations that on a daily basis, and long before the current government came to power, have challenged, over and over again, ludicrous laws and arbitrary decisions, in Israeli courts.

So, while the Knesset is free to adopt any law it wants to, I think it is reassuring to think that the average Israeli citizen wont suffer fools, or foolishness and will promptly tell the Supreme Court to rule on the  matter. It has turned out to be a most formidable institution, founded on Justice, Justice shall you pursue.

In many ways I wish we had such a feisty civic attitude here in Norway – there are many laws and regulations that certainly could be challenged – the last decree from the Ministry of Finance to restrict MPs access to our national statistics bureau, Statistics Norway, is only one recent example of how our leaders make mistakes.

I have no doubt Sender is aware that this oped will attract praise and criticism from Norway and other countries. Those who wish to comment here, are welcome to do so as long as language is appropriate and personal attacks avoided.

It is very dark and lonely in that cyber-dungeon whereto I will banish those who overstep the mark.