A week of truly bewildering events

I am as per previous on work related journey, this time island hopping in the freezing cold Northern Norway, where the sun went hibernating some weeks ago,but where political scandals are rocking the foundations of the all powerful Labor party.

These events have firmly put the issue of “Palestine” far away from public interest, while once more in what can only be described as an annus horribilis for the same party (the coalition comrades are now on the brink of extinction, and can maybe get one or two reps – combined) in by the next Storting after the 2013 elections), the public are treated to gory details of how the Labor bigwigs thnk they can get away with anything.

We have already heard how they spend public money on their (already rich) friends, fail to take national security seriously (had they done, Breivik might not have been able to blow up the Government Square, far less execute the helpless youths on Utøya, but now it turns out that they have a culture of sexual promiscuity among senior male leaders, who prey on young and inexperienced girls  - a very peculiar kind of political grooming if you ask me.

This time it is top dog Roger Ingebrigtsen, who among other things has claimed that Breivik was inspired by some ‘right wing Zionism’ who had his pants pulled down in public after a 25 year old woman he had had a sexual relationship with when she was merely 17 years old and a fledgeling politician, finally mustered the courage to denounce the sexual pressure and abuse of trust she had suffered from one of her mentors.

By doing so, the woman was immediately suspected of trying to sabotage Ingebrigtsen’s bid to be nominated on the top slot as MP for Troms county, thus opening yet another can of worms for the Labor party where it appears to be commonplace that horny men with ambitions teach young up and coming (uh, no pun intended…) female politicians the proper boudoir attitudes required to progress in party ranks. As it turned out, Ingebrigtsen was summarily invited to step down from all his posts, and was declared a persona non-grata by his own  home party. No doubt the Tromsø Labor party had learned their lessons when only one week before Hamar Labor Party decided it was not going to exclude Khalid Haji Ahmed for his gross anti-semitic statements on Facebook, because he had apologized. This about face and dithering back and forth in such an obvious case of racism and anti-Semitism has not won the Labor party any more friends, but only strengthened a growing suspicion that you can get away with anything in that party.

However, it is not only the sordid sex scandal that has pushed the Palestine issue down on the agenda; Egypt, or rather, the Islamist president of Egypt Morsi, decided to take advantage of all the street cred he earned after mediating between Hamas and Israel in November, and simply shut down the democratic process in Egypt by crowning himself as some sort of emperor, only he forgot to take the furious reactions of the Egyptian masses into consideration. Now, two weeks into his dangerous gambit, Egypt is being torn apart from the inside, not quite as bloody as the ongoing massacres in Syria, but I would not be surprised if this is the beginning and not the end of Egypt’s woes. Norwegian rookie FM Espen Barth Eide has been unusually quiet about the loss of life and extreme violence Mr. Morsi has used against his own people. So much so, that Mr. Eide got his nose bloodied by NRK journalist Sigurd falkenberg Mikkelsen, who certainly has no lost love for Israel. Mr. Mikkelsen tore into FM Eide’s uncritical genuflection for Mr. Morsi (excerpt form longer oped):

The Foreign Minister is uncritical in his praise of Morsi
Last night’s violence should come as no surprise to those who follow Egypt. It has been in the air for a long while. Nevertheless, Norway’s new Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide chose  yesterday to continue his political tribute of Morsi. On the NRK Morning News he once more referred to Morsis efforts to end the Gaza war.

Isolated from the events in question, there is nothing wrong with that, but that’s exactly the kind of uncritical support that made Morsi feel strong enough to act as he and his allies are now doing. The MB and Morsi think they can win this match. They may possibly be right, but they risk destroying Egypt along with the hope of an inclusive, democratic transition in the Middle East.

This is what is at stake in Cairo now, and this situation requires a nuanced diplomacy. Otherwise there is a risk of Barth Eide’s successor having to repeat for one of Morsis successors that Norway should not have closed her eyes to human rights abuses in the name of stability.

Only after a right uppercut like this, did it occur to Mr. Eide to somehow, and very vaguely protest the events in Egypt, and issued this press release:

Norway concerned about situation in Egypt

“I am deeply concerned about the violence we have seen in Egypt over the past few days and the increasing polarisation of Egyptian society. I urge all parties to show responsible political leadership during this extremely difficult phase for Egypt, the president in particular,” said Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.

Several people have been killed and several hundred injured in clashes between opponents and supporters of President Morsi in Cairo during the past few days. The political conflict surrounding the constitutional process and the powers of the president has intensified sharply.

“Egypt needs a constitution that enjoys broad popular support. This is crucial for the democratisation process. It can only happen if agreement on fundamental democratic principles is reached through an inclusive process with broad political participation. Unfortunately, the legitimacy of the constitutional process is currently being undermined,” said Mr Eide.

Norway is following the human rights situation in Egypt closely, and is particularly concerned about the rights of minorities. This issue has been raised repeatedly in Norway’s contacts with the Egyptian authorities.

“Only the Egyptians themselves can build their own democracy. Ensuring protection and respect for the rights of both political and religious minorities is a democratic litmus test for the new Egyptian leadership. I expect the new constitution to safeguard the fundamental human rights of all Egyptians,” said Mr Eide.

In comparison, the FM had found time and energy to issue not one, but two press releases to criticize Israel in that very same week. How very unmusical. Curiously though, Norway did not summon of the Israeli ambassador following the decision to allow building in the E1 corridor. Might this puzzling fact be explained by the sharp Israeli reaction following  Norway’s decision to support the PA’s unilateral bid in the UN and thereby hammer the final nail in the peace process coffin (and not even mentioning the flagrant breach of the UN’s own rules in admitting this folly)? To Norway’s astonishing surprise, Israel firmly declared that Norway no longer can play any role in the Middle East peace process. Not only because of the controversial yes vote to “Palestine” but also because Norwegian politicians and ministers continue to be blinded by their romantic notion that ‘dialogue’ with Hamas will resolve the inherited hatred this outfit has for Jews in general, and Israeli Jews in particular. Why is it that Israel, as the only country in the world should be obliged to ‘dialogue’ with somebody who is determined to exterminate Israel – and all the Jews in the world? Well, regardless of the silly Norwegian expectation, Israel has firmly shut the door on Norway’s poking nose, calling it a chutzpah to think that any further Norwegian meddling in the ME is on…

Meanwhile, as the Labor party continues to fall in the polls and their political comrades in arms are as insignificant as ever, the Conservatives (Høyre) and the Progressive party continue to climb and would, if elections were held today, easily win a comfortable majority in the Parliament. The Conservatives have a difficult history with Israel, not least due to the continued efforts of former PM and Conservative “grand old man” Kåre Willoch who very recently managed to insult the entire Jewish community of Norway, if not to say the whole world, by stating in his very controversial appearance on the 70th commemoration of the Norway’s deportation of Norwegian Jews that “peace in the Middle East can stop the entire problem of anti-Semitism”.

Therefore, my gobsmacked look when sipping my morning coffee yesterday to see that precisely the Conservatives, in spite of that cranky old man who just wont go home, now have publicly stated that a Conservative/Progressive government would be more friendly to Israel and that continued aid to Palestinians would be reviewed to ensure public funds are not used for terrorism or school books which are anti-Semitic in essence. This must be very galling news for Willoch, but perhaps the much grander and much more respected former president of the Storting and Conservative MP Jo Benkow has managed to convince the Conservative bigwigs that to continue down the slippery slope the Labor party has taken Norway would be very destructive for us?

In any event, it would be a very welcome development and perhaps it is a telling sign of the changing political currents in Norway? That browbeating Israel and Jews is no longer the recipe for political success?