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Norway: Anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism will continue after electionsBy MANFRED GERSTENFELD09/16/2013 22:31
In recent years Norway’s government has incited against Israel probably more than any other Western European government.
NORWEGIAN CONSERVATIVE LEADER Erna Solberg addresses supporters, Sept 9 Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum/ReutersIn recent years Norway’s government has incited against Israel probably more than any other Western European government.
Last week’s defeat in the parliamentary elections of the three-party coalition of Labor Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is a suitable occasion to summarize several aspects of this hatred and assess what can be expected now.
It was symbolic that when Stoltenberg acknowledged people for their support during the campaign, he specifically thanked leaders of the trade union LO and Labor’s youth organization, the AUF. Both groups have played key roles in demonizing Israel.
Norwegian trade union leaders malign Israel incessantly. The peak of their hate promotion comes on Labor Day – May 1.
Hardly any official banners at their gatherings deal with international matters.
Almost all of them call for boycotts, or otherwise incite against Israel. Already in 2002, LO union leader Gerd-Liv Valla called to boycott Israel. Stoltenberg has spoken on various occasions at the LO’s May 1 demonstrations and ignored the Israel hate-mongering there.
The AUF came into the international limelight when criminal Anders Breivik killed 69 youngsters at its summer camp on the island of Utoya in 2011. One side effect of the huge media attention was that it became widely known how children of 14 years and older were indoctrinated there to hate Israel. A number of Utoya survivors were Labor Party candidates in the September 9 elections.
The main Labor Party inciter against Israel is Jonas Gahr Stoere, who was foreign minister until 2012. His successor, Espen Barth Eide, makes fewer inflammatory statements, yet follows similar policies.
Earlier this year he admitted that Stoere lied to Parliament twice when denying that Norway was indirectly funding Palestinian murderers in Israeli jails.
Stoere denied in January 2011 on a TV2 broadcast that he was speaking with Hamas directly. The interviewer retorted that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal had told him about their conversations. In an interview with Ma’ariv in 2009, Stoere said that diplomat Trine Lilleng was no longer posted at Norway’s embassy in Saudi Arabia.( She had used her email account to distribute pictures juxtaposing Israeli actions against the Palestinians and the Holocaust.) A few months later, Israeli journalist Cna’an Lipshiz called the Norwegian Embassy in Riad. He was told that Lilleng would be back in her office in half an hour. It seemed she had even been promoted.
Stoere was photographed at the 2011 Utoya camp in front of a banner calling for a boycott of Israel. He had said at the time, however, that he was against this boycott. Perhaps his most extreme anti- Israel act was writing a back cover comment for Eyes in Gaza, a book by Norwegian Hamas supporters. The authors claimed that Israel had started its Cast Lead campaign in 2008 to kill Palestinian women and children.
In 2012, Stoere wrote in Ha’aretz that he was worried that 38 percent of Norwegians think Israel acts toward the Palestinians like Nazi Germany behaved toward the Jews. However, he neglected to ask how much he and other government colleagues contributed to that sentiment.
During Stoere’s term, Norway’s ambassador to Israel, Svein Sevje, suggested that Breivik’s killings were not understandable for Norwegians, contrary to Palestinians murdering Israeli civilians. The ambassador’s much-publicized remarks probably did more damage to Norway’s image in Israel than anyone else’s.
In 2010, then-Norwegian ambassador to Syria Rolf Willy Hansen publicly praised artist Hakon Gullvag, whose exhibition of anti-Israel hate paintings in Damascus had been co-financed by his embassy. In 2009, the Stoltenberg government spent $20 million dollars for a year-long tribute to writer Knut Hamsun on the 150th anniversary of his birth. Hamsun gave his Nobel Prize for Literature to German Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
Labor’s partner in the defeated government, the Socialist Left party, has incited against Israel even more. The third coalition partner, the Center Party, wants to prohibit circumcision. An OSCE report in 2012 severely criticized the Norwegian government for its attitude toward both Jews and Muslims.
What can Israel expect from the Conservative and Progress parties, the two largest parties of the center-right that are most likely to be in the next government? They will need support from either the Christian Democrats or the Liberals to comprise a parliamentary majority. The Conservatives have little interest in foreign policy. The Progress Party, under its leader Siv Jensen, is staunchly pro-Israel, and that is true for most Christian Democrat MPs. There should thus be an improvement in Norway’s official attitude toward Israel.
Major Norwegian media will, however, continue to promote hatred of Israel.
The same is true for the trade unions, several Lutheran church leaders, NGOs, academics and individuals among the civil society elite. King Harald V may continue to award royal medals to prominent anti-Semites, as he did during Stoltenberg’s rule.
A 2011 study by the Oslo Municipality found that one third of Jewish high school students are physically or verbally harassed at least two or three times a month. Their classmates are unlikely to discontinue this behavior because Stoltenberg’s government was defeated. One among many major requests Israel should make to Norway’s new government is that it commission a detailed, independent study of who has ingrained the belief in 1.5 million adult Norwegians that Israel behaves like Nazi Germany.
The author is a board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (2000-2012). The second edition of his book Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews can be read for free on the Internet.