Gerstenfeld: Essay on anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in Western schools

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has published an extensive essay on anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism in Western schools. It is well researched and well documented and gives concrete examples from various countries in Europe. Below I have copied in some selected examples from Norway. It seems we are merely copying other countries, but in some areas upping the ante and trying to outdo the others. Sadly we seem to excel at it.

You can read the whole essay here.

  • Anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in schools or places related to them are significant problems in a number of Western countries. A third related topic concerns Holocaust education in a variety of European schools. When such education is part of the curriculum in some schools, problems may emerge with students.
  • The few reports available on some key aspects of these topics all concern single countries. In the United States and France, textbooks have been studied. In the Netherlands, Belgium, and Norway, polls are available on some aspects of anti-Semitism in schools. Programs to combat anti-Semitism in schools have been developed in the Netherlands and Canada.
  • Systematic research is required on a number of subjects. These concern, first, the neutrality of textbooks and curricula. The second aspect is whether the method of teaching is objective. The third main issue to address is the attitudes of non-Jewish students toward Jewish students. Several other related issues should be investigated in this context, such as whether there is Holocaust education in schools and what are the responses to it. Whether there is harassment of Jewish teachers in schools, and what schoolchildren from Jewish schools experience outside of their schools.
  • Country-specific programs to fight anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism should be designed. These will have to take into account the status of anti-Semitism within the general society. One of the specific issues in some countries may be that one has to deal somewhat differently with nonintegrated Muslim students who do not feel linked to the history of the country they live in, or of which their forebears have become citizens.
  • Though not explicitly stated, to several Jewish parents who did not wish to be quoted it is obvious that hostile leftist teachers make remarks in school that put Israel in a very negative light. This is something that stimulates negative attitudes toward Jewish children. In addition, efforts to blame the harassment primarily on Muslim students do not reflect the full truth. Much of the aggression comes from autochthonous Norwegian children.



Although it does not concern anti-Israelism in schools, an illustration of how young Norwegian children are already subjected to the demonization of Israel is the publication of Hans Sande’s book Pappa er Sjørøver (Daddy Is a Pirate). It was brought out by Norway’s largest publisher, Capellen Damm. One of its stories tells how a father and his seven-year-old daughter go to Palestine. They come to a wall, which the child thinks is so tall that it reaches to heaven. Yet Israeli soldiers do not want to let them bring water for the Palestinians. The father offers the soldiers liquor, which gets them drunk, and the father and child then proceed across the border in their car.[19]

Biased Teaching


In Norway, anti-Israelism may be introduced in schools in different ways. Blogger Bell Martin writes:

As for the [Middle East] conflict, we never truly discussed it in middle school or in the beginning of high school (the years I attended Norwegian school). The exception was a speaker who came to speak after her experience as an “observer” of the conflict at our high school. She was to present her experience with the Israelis and Palestinians. She proceeded to present the Palestinian side and spoke of meeting with Palestinian families. I asked what her experience had been with the Israeli families, and only then did she admit they never actually met with an Israeli family. Despite this, she still claimed that her experience was balanced.[22]

In October 2011, the local newspaper Budstikka in the village of Nesbru reported on how its high school had promoted anti-Semitism in an “art exhibit.” An Israeli student at the school was shocked when she saw an X through the Israeli flag, while under it was written “Murder” – backwards in English. The student remarked that, while the school claimed to have zero tolerance for bullying, it permits anti-Semitism and racism. Initially the Nesbru high school took the exhibit off its website, but did not decide whether to remove the exhibit itself.[23]

After much negative publicity, however, the school decided to remove the exhibit, which had been organized by Norwegian Church Aid. The student who had complained said her reaction was not met with any understanding by the school’s administration.[24]

Harassment of Jewish Students


Until recently no statistical data on any aspect of anti-Semitism were available in Norway. In June 2011, the Oslo municipality published a study on racism and anti-Semitism among eighth- to tenth-grade students in the city’s schools. It came as a shock to many people. The study found that 33% of the Jewish students regularly experience bullying at school. According to the definition used, this means that at least two or three incidents of verbal or physical abuse target these Jewish students per month. These data seem extreme for Western Europe. The study also made it difficult to blame anti-Semitism exclusively on Muslim children, as it turned out that autochthonous Norwegians are also heavily involved.

After the Jews, the next most harassed group was the Buddhists, with 10% experiencing bullying; “Others” were at 7% and Muslims at slightly over 5%. Fifty-one percent of all students believe the word Jew is used pejoratively, 41% had heard ethnic jokes about Jews, and 35% had heard insulting comments. Close to 5% had been present when the Holocaust was

denied in class. Only 25% percent of the students had never witnessed anything negative involving Jews in school.[36]

In Norway, among a general population of about five million, the organized Jewish community numbers only eight hundred. The total number of Jews in the country, which includes Israelis who often leave after a few years, is estimated at two thousand at most.

For those who desired to know the truth, these findings came as no surprise. Already in 2002, Martin Bodd, a representative of the Jewish community in Oslo, reported at an international conference of the Anti-Defamation League that there had been more harassment of Jews in the preceding two years than at any time since 1945.

Bodd noted that “most of the incitement and harassment against Jews has not been reported. Hardly any of the children or the adults offended by anti-Semitic statements or the like is willing to come forward publicly.” He said there had been approximately fifteen incidents in which ten children had been harassed.[37]

A year later in an interview, Irene Levin, professor of social work at Oslo University College, observed:

Some Jewish children were told they would not be allowed to attend a birthday party because of the Israeli army’s actions. When there were anti-Semitic incidents at school, Jewish parents discussed this with some school principals, who supported the harassment. One told a Jewish girl to remove her “provocative” Magen David. These incidents are important, but at present, remain exceptions.[38]

In 2010, the courageous journalist Tormod Strand succeeded in convincing the state TV, NRK, to broadcast a program about anti-Semitism in primary and other schools. It focused mainly on bullying of Jewish students by Muslims.[39] The teachers who discussed the repugnant facts did so on condition of anonymity. This was another significant indication of Norwegian reality.

Kristin Halvorsen, education minister and leader of the Left Socialist Party, reacted with surprise and said this information was completely new to her. She then ordered a national study on racism in schools, which is still underway. After the Oslo municipality’s study was made public, Halvorsen announced that she would allocate more than $1 million to familiarize teachers with the issue and how it should be handled in schools.

This effort is unlikely to be very successful. Halvorsen and her party colleagues are extremist anti-Israeli hate mongers. In 2006, she promoted a consumer boycott of Israeli goods. The Norwegian government had to distance itself from her statements after then-U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice threatened Norway with serious political consequences.[40]

In 2009, when Halvorsen was finance minister, she announced that the Norwegian government had decided that the state pension plan should divest from the Israeli company Elbit because it was involved in constructing Israel’s security barrier.[41] This was considered incompatible with the so-called investment ethics that had been laid down for the pension fund. At the same time, however, the fund continued to hold shares in companies in other countries involved in highly unethical activities.

In 2009, during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Halvorsen was the only Western minister to participate in an anti-Israeli demonstration. She was photographed standing close to someone holding a poster saying: “U.S. and Israel-the Axis of the Greatest Evil.”[42] At the demonstration shouts of “Death to the Jews” could also be heard.

The main question concerning Halvorsen’s plans for the educational arena is: can a minister with a continuing anti-Israeli arsonist record truly become a fireman dousing anti-Semitic flames at the same time? To those who do not wish to close their eyes, it is obvious that widespread anti-Semitism in Oslo schools is directly linked to the extreme anti-Israeli hate mongering in Norway as expressed by government ministers, politicians, media, trade unions, academics, certain church leaders, and others. One important issue not being investigated in the Oslo study is how many teachers discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in class and to what extent their remarks are biased. This is probably yet another example of how arsonists, in this case certain Norwegian teachers, may now be taught to become, simultaneously, firemen.