Frank Rossavik is an interesting fellow – a journalist, a writer, a former press secretary for the Socialistic Left party, information officer for the Norwegian Euro-movement. He has written several critical articles on the Norwegian press coverage of Israel and the ME conflict, so he is not a fellow you easily dismiss, even when he writes oped’s critical of Israel, or perhaps more accurately, oped’s on why Israel gets more press coverage than other ME countries in Norway. Below you will find an oped which was recently published in Morgenbladet. The oped is interesting, but what caught my attention was the illustration that accompanied the article:
A rebellious victim
Illustration: Marvin Halleraker / www.marvin.no
Yes, there is something special about Israel. And with the debate about Israel.
Text: Frank Rossavik
Published: 29 March 2012 – 5:56 p.m.
“Norwegian media coverage makes Israel a scapegoat,” we could read in VG a few days ago. The article wrote about the media analysis the organization With Israel for Peace (Miff) had carried out, and concluded that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians receives greater coverage in Norway than bloodier conflicts elsewhere in the world.
“This creates a disproportionate picture of the conflicts in the world, where the Norwegians misled to believe that the Middle East conflict is so much worse than other conflicts. Israel is made a scapegoat and the Middle East conflict is perceived as the mother of all conflicts, “said Miffs CEO Conrad Myrland to VG Nett.
Fascinating. Thus, Myrland, if you really do not understand why we are particularly interested in the Middle East conflict, I can give some reasons:
The conflict is important in American and European domestic policy, it dominates much of world politics, and noted that the motivation for all Islamist terrorism, including attacks in New York, Madrid and London. Accordingly, it is also one of the reasons why we Europeans are or have been involved in wars like the one in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Soon there might be a war in Iran, which in turn will be related in some way to the Middle East conflict. For example.
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians occupies the majority of Jews and Muslims in Norway. In addition, a number of Christian churches and organizations have been carrying out solidarity work for Israel since the state was created. For a long time, Israel was also supported by the left, but later sympathy was transferred to the Palestinians.
We are also more interested in Israel than Sri Lanka because Israel is virtually a European country, a final result of European imperialism. Also, Zionism, Israel’s ideological foundation, is European, born in the wake of European ideas that nationalism, later on Nazism, which ended in the genocide of six million Jews. This is still a part of our collective consciousness, Conrad Myrland. We have no equivalent for Tamils, Syrians or the Somalis.
Israel has close cooperative ties with the EU and the rest of Europe, Israeli football clubs are playing in the Champions League and the singers occasionally win the Eurovision song festival. (Almost) in the same way that we care more about Sweden than about North Korea, we care more about Israel than about Somalia.
This leads to a related topic, the excessive cover is not the only matter Israel and its friends constantly complain about. As a member of the Broadcasting Council, last year I participated in the process to evaluate a claim from the Israeli Embassy about the imbalance in NRK’s coverage.The imbalance was to consist in the fact that Israel received sharper criticism than the Palestinians and other actors. On that occasion I said that NRK and other Norwegian media ought to realize that Israel is not fighting only against Hamas in Gaza, but also against its backers Syria and Iran.
But the imbalance? Well, yes. research has shown that some Norwegian media outlets are a little too quick to assume that Israel is the bad guy if something happens, but again, are we to observe Israel through the same glasses that we use for Hamas, Syria and Iran?Israel, which constantly emphasizes itself as the Middle East’s only liberal democracy? Israel, who expect Europe’s support and solidarity? We expect better of Israel.
Sure, it took us long enough to focus our attention on Bashar al-Assad and his brutality in Syria, but that’s another issue. Assad is no friend, he does not expect friendship, he does not moan to the Broadcasting Council.
Coverage and debate about Israel is something very special. It takes practically nothing before Israel itself or its so-called friends complain about bad press. Often, the tone is so brusque and hostile that any objective debate is side tracked from the beginning. Over reactions are common. When former SV leader Kristin Halvorsen, early on in the government’s first period suggested a boycott of Israeli oranges in protest against the country’s politics, Israel and her friends practically went bananas, so to speak. It helped, Halvorsen was resolutely turned down by the government’s powerful forces, who did not the matter was worth a diplomatic crisis.
Sometimes I wonder if Israel does not need communication consultants and information counselors, rather than their ham-fisted officials and friends in Norway and other countries. But this has been a mistake. Israel follows a strategy, and it follows it consistently – from the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, to the most of the uber-eager Israel friend on Twitter in Norway.
Stefan Ahlswede completed his doctorate at the University of Hamburg in 2008 with a dissertation on Israel’s European policy. Behavior analysis is an important part of Ahlswedes work. As a small country surrounded by enemies who have attacked several times, of course, Israel is more concerned with safety than most other countries. The conviction is that enemies must be deterred from attacking, and that any attack for the same reason must be punished severely. This is how Israel acts in the Gaza Strip, and this is Israelis believe what the country needs to do to have a chance to survive.
The principle is followed in politics. When Israel in 1990 closed Palestinian universities, the EU (then EC) reacted by suspending scientific cooperation with Israel. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem did not mince his words, “Having defended our existence with high costs, it is inconceivable that we should bow to foreign pressure and thus put our safety at risk.” The Jew-hatred card is frequently played. In 2003, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that all European criticism of Israel was motivated by antisemitism.
These excessive reactions are meant to scare people into keeping quiet and shut up. But does Israel not realize that the country also needs friends? And that lasting peace for Israel demands that the Palestinians’ desire for freedom, resources and safety also is met?
Ahlswede, who has interviewed many members of the Israeli political elite believes that the answer is no. Israel’s main strategic – even if the government changes may provide adjustments – is to keep the Palestinians and the Arabs at bay, and gradually wearing them out.
Attitudes toward the Palestinians, other neighbors and Europe are not necessarily completely understandable, but it represents a particular way of thinking. Stefan Ahlswede analyzes the historical, ideological and religious. The history is all about Israel’s situation in the Middle East and the ambiguous relationship to Europe as already suggested. Ideologically, it revolves around about the Jewish conception of themselves as a very special people, and of Israel as a gift to the Jews from God.
The transition to religion is gradual, but Ahlswede points out that Judaism operates on two models for the relationship with the rest of the world. One is called or la goyim, translated “a light to the Gentiles”, and represents an optimistic and missionary position that Jews should lead others to salvation and good attitudes.The other is called am livadad yishkon, and says that Jews must live for themselves and to not consider themselves to be a part of the world. Here it is assumed that the whole world hates the Jews, and that there is nothing to do with it.
Ahlswede names politicians, historical and contemporary, all of whom locate themselves on different places on the scale between the two models, but concludes that this religious negativism greatly influences Israeli politics. This perception of religion, along with the other factors, to create the Israel we see, hardly understand and likeeven less: a state claiming to be a victim even when itself is the bully.
Stefan Ahlswede writes about the victimhood which is firmly planted in their spinal chords, but against which, the Israelis always protest and fight. The country is the rebellious victim.
Ein breira, as Israelis like to say. “We have no choice.”
It ought not to be a surprise, I disagree strongly with Rossavik on a number of his points, if not all. I think he has let himself down in this oped, interesting as though it is. I understand that he is polemicizing and possibly stretching his arguments a wee bit too far. But does he have to cancel his intellect in the process of doing so?
Can a man like him really not have understood that post 2005, Israel has endured and continues to endure rocket attacks that force close to a million people to live their lives in shelters, where kids are taught from a very early age how to react to incoming rockets? If he does not know it, I suggest he goes back to writing books about Norwegian politicians where he might have some luck and get it right. He ought also not be unaware that an imbalanced and one-sided media coverage of the ME conflict, or the ME conflicts, which for simplicity have been all lumped together as one, the one between Israel on the one side and all of the Arab countries surrounding her on the other, has lead to unprecedented growth in anti-Semitic attitudes and expressions not only in Norway, but in most of Europe. Rossavik can not possibly be the only person in the universe who is unaware that Norwegian Jews are reluctant to identify as Jews because of the peculiar climate in Norway against Israel? As for his PhD reference, this person seems to be utterly unfamiliar with Judaism, specifically on the prohibition to proselytize. And can he not get an update of what the meaning of chosen people is and the fact that Jews have had an uninterrupted presence in Israel for the last 3000 years? Or maybe he is just intellectually lazy?
What intrigues me most however, is what might have been on the illustrators mind? A man – one presumes a journalist – has his head stuck inside the mouth of a cannon. With a Magen David on it. Does this person suggest that journalists work in Israel at their own peril? Maybe he should consult the family of the late Marie Colvin to get an update on this topic?