Ms Herlands lecture in full:
How the Radical Left turned Norway into the most Anti-Semitic country in the West
The Institute for Global Jewish Affairs, Jerusalem Center for Public Affair, 5.11.2012
Lecture by: Hanne Nabintu Herland, Norwegian historian of comparative religions and bestselling author, www.hannenabintuherland.no hannenabintuherland.com
It is with great joy that I join you here in this holy city of Jerusalem, a city that binds Christians and Jews together in a historical context in which our stories are intertwined both in the past and for the future. We are in the land of Moses, Deborah, David and Jeremiah who all lived in times of great turmoil just like we do. They showed leadership and faced great personal sacrifice as they chose to speak out and lead the Jewish people in the right direction. Just as history is an on flowing current of events, we are all part of the same story unfolding in yet another age as Europe today has become one of the most secularized and spiritually antagonistic regions in the world. I am here to speak about how the Radical Left turned Norway into what today seems to be the most anti-Semitic country in the West with is remarkably bent on being negative towards Israel, and the details are quite astonishing, but let me start by taking a look at the historical process in Europe that has led to this radical swing of anti-Israelism that Norway is suffering from today.
The Judeo-Christian heritage in Europe
The past hundred years the atheistic revolt with its ruthless deconstruction of traditional values and demonstrative push away from religious ideals has created an ongoing battle to crush the beliefs in the teachings of the Christian Church and thus, thus also reduce the reverence for the dogmatic Jewish prophets like Jeremiah and the respect for the Judeo-Christian history of religions as a whole. The eagerness to break down the respect for the lessons of history and thinking that every new reform automatically will lead to the better, has caused Europeans to lose their confidence in the underpinnings of Judeo-Christian culture.
When contempt for one’s own history is the dominant and politically correct view, it is only natural that lack of respect for the rich Jewish history which is several thousand years old in the Middle East will be part of this picture. The denial of Israel’s hereditary rights to the land of king David, simply reflects how modern Leftist voices do not know the history of their own civilization. Amongst many other things, such as the influence on art, architecture, the banking system and the building of the cities in the Medieval Europe, the core and founding values in the Western civilization stems directly from the Hebrew faith. The belief in the dignity of human beings regardless of rank, class or ethnicity carries deep impact from Judaism and the ethics of the Ten Commandments have formed the basis for the creation of stable democratic states. Modern European culture found its civilizational peak in the coupling between the Judeo-Christian values of the Ten Commandments and the Protestant ethic joined with capitalism’s emphasis on hard work leading to individual economic gain, and the value in being trustworthy and honest. This produced a leading societal force which made the Western civilization world leading. Stories of the lives of Moses, David and Jeremiah have enriched the Western culture for generations and formed the way we view the dignity of the human being and his relationship to God. Every Christian loves the Torah, indirectly, for this book is the foundation of the values that has formed our whole civilization.
As Europeans have come to overemphasize the privatization of religion and thereby marginalizing and encaging religion’s enthralling ability to turn citizens into morally aware people who voice the need for solidarity and respect for others. Today even leading neo-atheists like philosopher, Jûrgen Habermas, speak about the need for a renewed respect for religious ethics and morality in order to restore solidarity among Europeans, since solidarity is withering too quickly in modern secular societies. When he received the Holberg Price in the coastal city of Bergen, Norway in 2005, he held a remarkable speech about his change of heart pertaining to the role of religion.
Yet, at the peak of civilizational bliss, Europe decided to move away from the values and ideals that once made its culture great, just like the Roman Empire and other great civilizations did before them, which made these cultures slowly move into decay.
The case of Norway: a strong anti-Israelism pushed by the Left
In this picture, the example of the Norway is interesting. This is a marginalized country in the northern parts of Europe that by luck happened to discover oil in the 1970’s. By the 1980’s the benefits from this most lucrative industry was floating into society, giving regular people the feeling of being rich and above the poor and other nations that we felt had dominated us before. Norway got its independence as late as 1905, and had been dominated by Sweden and Denmark for centuries before. This is a country where we traditionally like to be perceived as nice, not always just and honest, but meek, mild and seemingly kind. Norwegian culture has traditionally been consensus oriented and naturally, when we suddenly became a wealthy oil country, the wish was that this was the time for Norway to shine and through its foreign policy show the world how nice and peaceful we are and that we can teach others to be peaceful too.
Of course, the money helped. It is remarkable how many friends money can buy. I know this, because I grew up in Africa. Back then, it was most usual that politicians bought their way into positions they otherwise never would have. State money, often expropriated into their own hands through pure corruption, was used to buy influence in political sectors or social arenas they otherwise never would be allowed access to. Billions shifted owner by a handshake, and both parties got what they wanted.
This small, but rich oil country that yearly hosts the highly politicized Nobel Peace Price is also the country that was torn apart by the terrorist attack last year which killed 77 people. In a sense, 2011 marked the end of the notion of Norway as a peacefully relaxed place. Ethnic, religious and social tensions are growing, partly as a result of the mass immigration from foreign countries the past 20 years. Norwegians are trying to cope with these major changes, amongst others the cultural effects of having imported more than 150 000 Muslims who mainly live in the Oslo area. The terrorist Anders Behring-Breivik massacre in July 2011 illustrated, even though he seems to have been acting alone, the cultural conflicts that boil right beneath the surface amongst the “nice and kind” Norwegian people. Oslo being rated the drug capital of Europe points together with a number of other social issues clearly shows that the measures of the Leftwing governments the past years have been a total failure. Peace is not on everybody’s lips in Norway anymore as we struggle to enter the multiracial, multicultural and floating world of global diversity without a clear foundation in the traditional values that once made the Norwegian culture so stable and fruitful.
The issues in this country are more than what meets the eye: For how can a country that used to be a steadfast friend of Israel turn into a nation with a government that refuses to renounce Hamas as a terrorist movement? Prior to the Oslo Peace Accord in 1993, Yasser Arafat was required to denounce terrorism. Today, the Radical Leftwing government silently accepts Hamas’ demand for ethnic cleansing of the Jewish minority while Foreign Ministers like Jonas Gahr-Store pose no major remarks, – until a late interview in 2011, as if the political pressure was so great that he felt obliged to at least say something, but even then the talks and support for Hamas continued. Norway has not on any level protested and formed lists of unwanted terrorist organizations like the UN, US and EU. Norway has become a state permeated by an unusually hostile view on Israel, and this is reflected on a multi-level in society. Let us take a look at how this was made possible.
On the state level, Norwegian taxpayer’s money as well as oil revenues float uncritically by the billions into Gaza as Norway heads the “Ad Hoc Liaison Committee” (AHLC) established after the Oslo Accords 1993, with the task of mobilizing financial support for Palestinian state-building. Yet all Jonas Gahr-Store’s efforts over the past several years in favor of the Palestinians have ended in failure. The Foreign Ministers’ relentless efforts to shape the Middle East reached a final peak in 2011 when Palestinians made their UN bid for recognition of their state only to be stopped by the US. The inescapable conclusion is that the AHLC no longer has a role to play in the peace process and that the strategy to pay money in order to finance the building of a state, has failed. Not least because nationhood is something that the nation itself must build, foreign aid and money given top-down often doesn’t work as intended, as the case of Africa has shown.
It is not surprising that anti-Semitism and hostility towards Israel is a major problem in a country where even on state level there is such biased support for only the Palestinian views of the conflict.
Norwegian thought control and demonization of Israel
It is particularly interesting to take a look at the Norwegian trade unions. Since the 1970’s they have strongly supported an organization called The Palestine Committee which states that its main goal is to fight Israel’s Zionism and views the state of Israel as the main hinder for peace in the Middle East. This organization is remarkably well organized with branches in every part of the country that has clearly fuelled a negative impression of Israel into the Norwegian workforce. One of the views impressed unto its members and into the trade unions through this organization is that there is an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians done by Israelis and that Norway should boycott any merchandise produced in Israel.
My country is also a nation where a substantial part of the media now is owned by the Labor movement and the Left through “the A-pressen”, with articles almost solely portraying Israel in a biased and negative way. The labor unions are very strong in Norway. The very wealthy Norwegian trade union, LO, now owns newspapers with a daily circulation of 661 000 newspapers in a country with close to 5 million people. LO owns 81 of the Norwegian newspapers, according to Dagbladet. In 2011 LO’s current leader Roar Flaaten said that he was very proud of the influence of the Left on the media, as no trade union in the whole Europe controls that many newspapers “on our side,” he said.
Most of the Norwegian labor force is members of LO, the AUF Youth group of The Labor Party who had their annual gathering at Utoya last year when the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik attacked them there, is also strongly engaged in the work of the Palestine Committee, as well as a large portion of LO’s rich member organizations, which pushes the view that Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing. LO is also a main sponsor of the Labor Party. The Palestine Committee wants among other things that LO stop any affiliation with Israeli Histadrut. This is why you see regular people with T-shirts in Norway saying: “Stop apartheid in Israel!” Chances are this person is engaged in the labor unions and through its work, involved in the Palestine Committee. These people will eagerly tell you that Israel is a colonial apartheid project taking place in the wrong century. When you then add the influence of the biased media, which is largely owned by the Left and see the current government’s engagement solely on the Palestinian side, you easily understand why Norway has turned out the way it has.
Please keep in mind that in Norway approximately 50 % of the labor force work in the public sector which is controlled by the government and more than 60 % of the values are owned by the state and thus also controlled by the government. Retiring professor of Church History, Bernt Oftestad, had a point when he recently held his final lecture at the University of Oslo. He said that Norwegian society is heading towards a totalitarianism fuelled by the Leftist political elite and the media who attempt to control everyone to think and act just like them.
And the Leftist political elite is quite cunning in the way they have placed their own good friends and allies in leading positions in the state owned companies and political structures in Norway. In the aftermath of the Anders Behring Breivik terror in July 2011, it was quite difficult for the Prime Minister to solve the issues around the needed resignation of Norway’s Chief of Police, Oystein Meland, as he was disqualified due to personal relations. The Norway Chief of Police, Oystein Meland was Stoltenberg’s best man at his wedding and the Minister of Justice, Grete Faremo, was also a close friend of both of them. The CEO and president of the largest Norwegian Bank, DNB NOR, Rune Bjerke is also a good friend of Stoltenberg. The candidate for mayor of Oslo from Arbeiderpartiet, Libe Rieber-Mohn, is Rune Bjerke’s wife. Norwegian media has reported a large number of affiliations like this throughout the Leftist Norwegian political system.
The negative sentiment amongst academics and intellectuals has been particularly strong, also partly due to their affiliation with the labor unions, but also as a larger part of this Radical Leftist groups who have gained power in Norway in the aftermath of 1968. The use of boycott against Israel when it comes to trade is one of the Palestine Committee’s favored actions, which we have seen the past years when for example Ministers like Kristin Halvorsen in 2006 publicly warned Norwegians against buying products from Israel, as well as academic an cultural boycott where Norwegian employees at Norwegian universities refuse to have anything to do with Israeli intellectuals, is a typical pattern in this. Halvorsen is today Minister of Education and Research.
This form of activism caught international attention during the visit of the renowned Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz last year as he came to Norway and was not welcomed to hold a lecture in any Norwegian university. It has long been known that without the politically-correct Leftist opinions, one does not become professor at Norwegian universities. Maybe this is why our universities score so low on international evaluations as the most brilliant minds either are pushed out or choose to move abroad or take other vocations as the Radical Left’s dictate on how to think and what to discuss is way too rigid in Norway.
On the local level disturbing leading polls like for example the Oslo Municipal Survey 2011 and this year’s OSCE report stated that “Jew” now is the most used cussword in Oslo schools, 1/3 of Jewish children feel continuously bullied, the number being as low as 5 % for Muslims which may point to the fact that over 30 % of the young in Oslo are now foreigners and a result of the mass immigration the past 20 years. The recent OSCE report showed that as high as 38 % of Norwegians feel Israeli treatment of Palestinians is equivalent to the Nazi’ treatment of Jews and as high as 12.5 % of Norwegians harbor significant anti-Jewish sentiments.
When it comes to business and trade, Norway is known for its strong state companies, especially in the oil sector. Here, the same Radical Leftist government that advises its companies against helping Israel in its attempt to find oil, sends letters to the private sector and urge Norwegian companies to rush into Libya to aid sunni-fractions there.
The degree of Anti-Israelism is Norway today on state level, in the media, in the trade unions and at the universities, colleges and schools is unprecedented in modern Norwegian history and has been highly criticized by, amongst others The President of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres. The powerful individuals that have pushed for these negative and biased attitudes in Norway, are today responsible for creating a politically-correct hatred towards Israel that today portrays my country internationally as the most anti-Semitic country in the West. I say: Anti-Israelism is anti-Semitism’s new face in Europe.
Norwegian propaganda fuels hatred
There is deep injustice in the fact that leading Radical Leftist opinion makers have decided not to contribute to a balanced view of the Middle East, but only reflect the politically-correct Leftwing dictate. The biased media thus becomes a source for warmongering instead of a balanced search for peace. Articles create mistrust and hatred instead of leading human kind towards peace. No wonder the misinformed people in countries like Norway interpret what they read in newspapers as if Israel is an apartheid rogue state. They are isolated and naively believe in whatever they read in the papers. The responsibility lies with the editors and the political leaders pushing through political ownership like we see in Norway, which denies people the right to hear different views of the stories and objective information so they themselves can make up their own minds, not clouded by the fog of war, as former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara so eloquently put it.
During Soviet times this type of biased information was called propaganda. The same word is often used by philosopher Noam Chomsky, who by New York Times as well as The Observer is named the world’s most important intellectual and the most cited living author in social sciences and the humanities today. In Necessary illusions as well as a number of other books he talks about the current patterns in the Western media and says that what is predominant in Western democracies, even more so than in the old dictatorships, is thought control. He believes that in reality the freedom of the press is far more limited in democracies than most people think.
The reason is that the political authorities in democracies need to control public opinion through the media as it is the people that go to the voting polls and elect their political leaders. In dictatorships, there is no need to control the people to the same extent because political leadership is appointed by those in power, one doesn’t need their vote anyway. In the West, the press has increasingly become an instrument of Western propaganda that serves as a cover for a reality in which the media is controlled by political-ideological elites.
The late professor J.L. Talmon of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has also written extensively about the dangers of democratic states turning into totalitarian democracies. He points out that wherever you find tough socialistic nations with a great degree of state control, you often see the tendencies towards totalitarian structures where a small all powerful political elite dictate the rules of how everyone should behave.
The famous philosopher Hannah Arendt is famous for having talked about this in The origins of totalitarianism. She studied the roots of Nazism, which is an abbreviation for National Socialist Workers Party of Germany, and examined how so much evil could be systematized during the Second World War in modern democratic states with an emphasis on bureaucratic state control over the population. This is relevant for today’s Norway, because its Radical socialism also has strong roots here.
The world renowned scientist Samuel Huntington has also written extensively about this in The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order, that the rich Western countries need to respect other nation’s s right to determine their own values on their own territory, that the West has no right to dominate the Rest in such a way that the only freedom one has is the freedom to think and act according to the standards of the Left. The belief that everyone else eventually must be silenced, is very dangerous and at the heart of totalitarian thinking.
The example of the Norwegian Church
The Church can serve as another interesting example, because why is the Norwegian Church so complacently and conveniently silent? The example of now the Norwegian State Church has been increasingly monitored by the Leftwing socialists is particularly interesting. It is an example which is interconnected with the development in Europe as a whole the past fifty years.
As early as 1923, Labor Party politician and Foreign Minister, Edvard Bull wrote that controlling the teachings of the Church, demeaning its authority and voicing ruthless opposition against the authority of the Church were major goals for the radical Left as they viewed this conservative institution as the main obstacle to change.
In the post – World War era, the Church has been increasingly monitored by the government, which tends to be the case in countries dominated by socialist ideology, like the Eastern block under the Cold War. The past year, ties have loosened but even the process towards independence is closely administered by the current Leftwing government led by the Norwegian Labor Party. Popular topics in which Church leaders engage are almost solely politically correct issues that are popular with the Left but far from touch Christian dogmas: the environment, oil drilling in the Barents Sea and climate change.
Following the political pattern after World War II as the Israeli Labor Party was in power, the attitudes towards Israel were positive. After the Israeli Right wing came into power in the 1980’s, the predominantly socialist media and political mood changed its approach to Israel. So did the bishops who are appointed by these same political authorities. Instead of rising up, the leadership of the Norwegian Church has feebly permitted more or less atheistic secular Church Ministers to dictate the teachings of the Church and rob it of its ecclesiastical backbone.
Theologian, Eskil Skjeldal points out that for many years the Church has followed a state-dictated ideology of inclusion, which seeks to reduce the Christian message to a leftwing humanistic cult. Yet Skjeldal points out that the church’s problem does not lie at the grassroots level, but at the politicized top. According to a 2008 study (ISSP) addressing patterns of change in the religiosity of Norwegians, statistics show that spiritual faith is not declining. Even if only 2 % attends church services regularly, 84 % of the population is associated with religious denominations. These figures could indicate the Norwegian people’s negative view of the politization of the Church.
A recent survey by Norway’s largest newspaper, VG, showed a similar the split between the political Leftist elites and mainstream views amongst the people on Israel. Upon asked if they supported Norwegian media’s chronically negative covering of Israel, 60 % of the Norwegian people felt the Israeli Embassy was right in complaining about news being highly biased. Within this group you also find quite large segments of more conservative traditional Christians who support Israel in a deep rooted belief in our joint Jewish heritage.
Final remarks and a hopeful view of the future
The Radical Left has been deeply influenced by the utopian dream of a modern scientific unified world joined together in a global village where man has finally triumphed over religion and old traditions. This has made the Left intolerant and harsh towards people who think differently than themselves, for example against conservatives who believe freedom incorporates the individual’s right to be different from the majority. Thus, the need to protect the rights of every minority in society is vital: there should be room and respect for Jews, Palestinian Christians, Muslims, gays, unwed mothers, traditional families, conservative Christians. There should be room for all, not only the favored of the Radical Left.
I believe, that were the Norwegian people given a balanced, just information from an informative objective angle instead of the dividing harsh propaganda from the Radical Left that has dominated the Norwegian public now for so long, we would see great change in public opinion. And at the moment, the majority of Norwegians push for political change in the next election in 2013.
After all, the Norwegians are nice, we want to be perceived as righteous and kind, we want our country to flourish and we wish to invite foreigners so that they too can experience the joy of the beautiful Norwegian woods, the Cape North and the northern lights, the deep fjords named by The National Geographic Society as the number one place in the world you must see before you die, we want them all to enjoy our fishing villages with the salmon which we export to all the corners in the world, we want you all to taste our world renowned salted codfish “bacalhau” and come as tourists and see the green, green farmland and wonderful countryside.
And we want change, we want new attitudes in the Norwegian political system and the media, we want to push for more freedom and less biased information about Israel and more real and balanced knowledge about the world as a whole so that Norway and its international reputation can reflect that we want to join the nations in respect for the differences in cultures and in the quest for more peace in our time.