Antisemitism in Norway

Lifted from, direct link to the Holocaust Center Study, which was released today.

In the coming days I will translate the main findings as they have been presented in this first investigation into Norwegians’ attitudes to Jews, for now the summary of the study has been made available in English. I have highlighted some findings, one in particular stands out: “Half of those who support such radical positions show no antisemitic attitudes whatsoever.”, a statement that makes it rather obvious that the other half of radical pro-palestinians do show antisemitic attitudes.

English summary

This report presents the results of a survey of Norwegian attitudes toward Jews and other minorities, undertaken by the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities. Data were collected in November 2011 by TNS Gallup. 1522 respondents participated.

The results confirm that stereotypical notions of Jews do exist in Norwegian society. Overall, 12.5 per cent of the population can be considered significantly prejudiced against Jews. Thus, in a European context, the prevalence of antisemitic notions in Norway is limited and on a par with Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.

Certain antisemitic notions are, however, more widespread in the Norwegian populace. 19 per cent of respondents agree with the assertion that «World Jewry works behind the scenes to promote Jewish interests», and 26 per cent believe that «Jews consider themselves to be better than other people».

Antisemitism can also be measured by negative feelings and social distance. The survey reveals that 9.7 of respondents feel antipathy toward Jews, while 8 per cent do not want Jews among their neighbours or circle of friends. Taken as a whole, the three dimensions that were utilized to measure negative attitudes toward Jews are somewhat less prevalent among women, young people and those with higher education than among men, older people and those without higher education.

Attitudes toward other minority groups

Respondents were also questioned about their attitudes toward immigrants and people from other nationalities and religions. The results show a greater degree of social distance toward most other groups than toward Jews. The populace is most negative toward interaction with Muslims, Somalis and Romani (gypsies). Those who possess the strongest antisemitic attitudes also denounce contact with other groups. 76 per cent of those who demonstrate social distance toward Jews display similar attitudes toward Muslims. Antisemitic attitudes are also more common among those respondents who are most sceptical toward immigrants. Such tendencies have been observed in other European countries as well.

A much larger share of respondents perceived negative attitudes toward Muslims to be widespread in Norway than the share who perceived such attitudes toward Jews to be widespread. When asked what they thought the reasons for such prejudice were, respondents often made a connection between negative notions of Muslims and specific societal problems of multicultural Norway. Negative attitudes toward Jews were more often explained with reference to the role played by Israel in the Middle East conflict. Specific references to Norwegian society were hardly ever made in attempting to explain attitudes toward Jews. The comments did, however, sometimes contain stereotypical notions of Jews or held such prejudice to be the cause of negative attitudes among other people.

The Holocaust

There is widespread consensus in the Norwegian population on the importance of Holocaust education. Practically everyone agrees that pupils should learn about the fate of the Norwegian Jews during World War II, with three out of four stating that this is an important part of Norwegian history. A clear majority also believes that Jews today have the right to remind international society of what occurred during World War II.

At the same time an equally clear majority dismisses the notion that the Holocaust gives Israel the right to any kind of special treatment. Rather, the Holocaust is used against Israel and to some degree against Jews in general. Almost two thirds of respondents agree with the statement «I am disappointed in the way the Jews, with their particular history, treat the Palestinians», and 38 per cent believe that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is similar to Nazi treatment of the Jews during World War II. One out of four believes that Jews today exploit the memory of the Holocaust to their own advantage.

Also a relatively large share of 13 per cent believes that Jews themselves are to blame for their persecution. The corresponding number for Sweden is 2 per cent, and for Germany 10 per cent. Norwegian attitudes toward the Holocaust, then, are complex: On the one hand, the strong belief in the necessity of Holocaust education. On the other, a refutation of the belief that the Holocaust provides grounds for any particular considerations regarding Israel and contemporary Jewry.

The Middle East

To what degree are Norwegian attitudes toward Jews connected to attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Aiming to answer this question, the survey has also mapped attitudes toward the Middle East conflict. While approximately half of the respondents take no stand regarding this conflict, 13 per cent support Israel and 38 per cent support the Palestinians.

Respondents can be grouped into three categories:

pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian (critical of Israel) and radically anti-Israel. The second category, pro-Palestinian, dominates, and respondents who fall into this category often express disappointment in Israel. 29 per cent say that their attitude toward Israel has changed in a negative direction (and only 2 per cent in a positive direction), a view that is more widespread among men, older people and those with higher education.

The analysis demonstrates a clear connection between antisemitism and attitudes toward the Middle East conflict: respondents with antisemitic attitudes more often support anti-Israeli statements and disagree with pro-Israeli statements. This, however, does not imply that antisemitism motivates all those who support anti-Israeli statements. Half of those who support such radical positions show no antisemitic attitudes whatsoever. This holds to an even larger degree for those who support a more moderate pro-Palestinian position. In this group, 75 per cent show no antisemitic attitudes, while 15 per cent show only moderate antisemitic attitudes. Thus, the connection between antisemitic and anti-Israeli attitudes seems to be more complex than what is sometimes asserted in public debates, which are often sharply polarized.