Mainstream media in Norway frequently uses cartoons depicting the state of Israel as the quintessential, vicious jew. More often than not this caricature of a villainous jew is depicted as violently oppressing a seemingly powerless neighbour. To the right you can see “the seven synonyms of death”, from the Norwegian daily Dagsavisen, on January 7th, 2004. Dagsavisen is still tied to the labor movement, but not as much as it used to. In this caricature we see a bearded, bignosed man writing down synonyms for death on a scroll. He is wearing a cap which looks sort of jewish.
I have no problem with this sort of caricature as long as a single group of people isn’t singled out for persecution and your basic Norwegian can be relied upon to get the facts of the matter right. When it comes to the middle east however, it’s uncommon to be even on a nodding aquaintance with historical developments and those who are will be against them. Even Camp David 2000 is considered arcane and venerable knowledge indeed and anyday soon one of our policians might well tell us that it was all a kabbalistic show of smoke and mirrors and we’ll all go “Ah! So clever the jews… so clever…”
To the left you see Sharon dressed as as Nazi. I think it’s ten years now that I’ve heard people talk about similarities between Israel and Nazi-Germany. The comparison has been pretty much drilled into us in a classic Pavlovian conditioning.
As you might know, we Norwegians are unhappy with the Nazis as they occupied our country, foiled us into handing them our tiny Jewish population, and duped quite a few thousand of our young men into joining units like SS Viking division.
After the war we shot a couple of the most prominent collaborators, such as Quisling, and hounded the rest of them (and their children) for the rest of their lives. Some of our jews managed to survive the concentration camps and came back and pestered us about their possessions, which had found their ways into new hands. Sometimes their possessions were returned to them but we “got the jews back” by making them pay a hefty administration fee. Taking all of this into consideration it does appear a bit fresh for us to accuse Israel of being “like” Nazi-Germany, especially when we don’t provide any serious arguments. But it’s when you remember Haji Amin el-Husseini that the Nazi-Israel-comparison thing gets seriously creepy.
To the right we see Israeli tanks firing at the star of Bethlehem. This illustration is from Aftenposten 05-april-2002. Most Norwegians are not very devout, but we do enjoy our star of Bethlehem. The star of Bethlehem is in fact our very favorite and we sing about it every Christmas in Alf Prøysens classic Julekveldsvise. If we associate anything with the spirit of Christmas it is the star of Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus Christ and a drawing such as this one really rams the point home: Israel is a warmongerer and a villain. You can’t say it any clearer than this. It actually makes me sad just to look at it, that’s how potent this picture is.
To the left we have the-jewish-plan-on-the-christian-new-years-eve, by Inge Grødum of Aftenposten, on December 31st, 2002. The jew, we see, is tying a noose from palestinian shawles. He is, we are led to presume, plotting to lynch someone.
Again, in isolation I have nothing against caricatures. They’re good fun and early in the morning before I’ve had my coffee a caricature is just about as much as my dazed intellect can handle.
But Israel is not negatively framed “once in a while”, or “just as much as any other nation”. It’s every time the middle eastern powder keg goes off, and most of the time in between as well. We don’t pay nearly as much attention to any of Israel’s neighbors.
To the right we see a caricature by Oddmund Mikkelsen, which ran in Hamar Arbeiderblad on July 12th, 2003. With characteristic wit the artist has turned Sharon into Satan. It is quite commonplace to see the state of Israel caricatured in a religous context like this. Other examples of it are Israeli tanks firing at the star of Bethlehem (above) and the three wise men caricature (below). As mentioned Norwegians aren’t large for churches, but once you pull religion into the equation it’s pretty much a dividing line. Israel is predominantly Jewish, this we know. Come to think of it, Israel is actually the only Jewish state in existance. This is why people make a ruccus about anti-Semitism every now and then; if Israel is singled out for special treatment time and time again, and Israel is also the world’s only Jewish state and the single home nation of history’s most persecuted people, isn’t it just possible that there is a connection? People won’t have it, of course. Nonsense, they say, rubbish. Israel is a state just like any other state and we’re in our full right to critisize it on par with any other state. Which isn’t what we are doing at all, because we are quite obviously obsessed with Israel in a uniquely scary and malignant way.
To the left we have Roar Hagen’s Roadmap for peace, from Verdens Gang, May 30th, 2003. This is fine artwork indeed. See how the road to peace runs along that big nose? Big nose wink wink know what I mean snigger snigger? The road to peace runs up the nose of Israel, and what a steep and treachorous journey that is! The jew is drowsy, calm, not particularly excited by the presence of peace… Imagine if the jew wakes up… he might swallow peace just by accident! Oh yes he could. And wouldn’t he too, the jew?
This sort of artistic freedom we just can’t get enough of , we have so much of in Scandinavia we should export it. Somebody please take Roar Hagen of our hands already.
To the right we have a drawing by Ulf Aas, from Aftenposten, June 6th, 1992. The drawing shows us a rat sitting by the star of David, with the suggestful text beneath saying “A better breed of human”. It was printed after the 1982 massacres at Sharbra and Shatilla in Lebanon, which allegedly only could take place because Israel was intentionally looking the other way. Let’s be grateful the quality of the picture is as bad as it is, I remember seeing it in fresh ink and it was awful. This is just about one of the most brutal pieces of political violence I have ever seen. Even back in the 1930s people weren’t able to be any cruder than this. It’s simply the bottom of the barrel with no intelligence or wit left, not even sarcasm, not even irony, just pure old, raw hatred against a people who have never done us any harm and whose history and culture we don’t know. And this time there is no escaping the fact that this drawing is aimed at Jews. Not at Israelis, but Jews as a people. Imagine seeing this in your newspaper for breakfast and having your daughter ask you how come you’re so pale.
To the left we see our old friend the Star of Bethlehem, except here it has obviously been corrupted into the star of David. Look! The three wise men from the East are scurrying across the sands below. The caricature is by the legendary Finn Graff and ran in Dagbladet, January 24th, 2002.
As in caricatures above and beneath this one, we see how religious symbols are used in order to contrast Christianity with Judaism. We see the star of Bethlehem (our star!) replaced by the star of David (their star!) in which the champion of the Palestinian cause is spreadeagled and helpless. Arafat, the only secular part of the drawing, has been taken hostage.
I remember how a teacher at school taught us about Yassir Arafat. She told us that he was a man of infinite love and compassion for the Jewish people, and that he sympathised with them for the sufferings they had undergone and that while patience was running thin among some of his people, and some were saying that they should hit back at the Israelis, Yassir Arafat stood firm and announced that he would never, never ever treat the Jews the same way they had treated him and his kind. And this wasn’t even during political indoctrination class, it was crafts. If you happen to be Norwegian and recognise this kind of experience from your own childhood, please drop us a line and share. There are good things about Scandinavia, but sometimes we are just plain silly. In the case of Arafat, he looked upon Haji Amin al-Husseini as his hero.
To the right we see a piece by Inge Grødum, from Aftenposten on April 13th, 2003. The heading of the article says “A macabre dance of death”, and the words coming from the machinegun toting Ariel Sharon’s mouth are: “Who dares to throw the last stone?” One of Sharon’s eyes are closed, the other eye is aiming. In the background we see a bloody corpse.
To the left we see Finn Graff’s masterpiece from Dagbladet, on July 10th, 2006. Here we see Israels Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as a concentration camp commander. He is displaying a sniper rifle and in the background we see a splash of blood against the dreary grey walls of the prison walls. The arch of the gateway is lined with the words “Jedem das seine” – “everyone gets his”.
Again this is a comparison of Israel with Nazi-Germany. As discussed above, Norway does not exactly have a clean slate herself when it comes to WWII. Yet we of course have the right, indeed the moral obligation, to express rage and horror when atrocities are committed. The question is whether Israel is carrying out criminal acts on such a scale that such a comparison is justifiable.
Nazi-Germany, under its dictator Adolf Hitler, sought the systematic destruction of the entire Jewish people. Is Israel, which somehow has managed to preserve its democratic, western-style structure, likewise guilty of genocide? The answer to this question depends upon the extent to which you find The protocols of the elders of Zion, or the charter of Hamas, credible sources of information. Let’s hope that you don’t.
To the right: Inge Grøndum’s “The extremists war”, Aftenposten, July 15th, 2006. This cartoon depicts Ehud Olmert as a tank commander, looking at his blood-soaked tracks. See the tiny fella, standing at the far right? That’s Iran. The text at the bottom “Ekstremistenes krig” means exactly that – the extremists war. Israel and Hezbollah both, in our neck of the woods.
This was during the war in Lebanon, from where Hezbollah had been firing rockets into Israel for a sustained period of time. Like the recent war against Hamas in Gaza, the war in Lebanon was fought in densly populated areas. If Hezbollah took action to meet their arch-enemy on the battlegrounds, away from their civilians, it was not brought to my attention.
I remember a colleague of mine coming into my office during this war, her voice shaking with emotion as she decried the shameless Israeli aggression. How could Israel punish the population of Lebanon so, when they were not to blame for the attacks? I understand her reaction and emphasize with it, but it’s during incidents like this that Bob Dylan springs to mind. “He should have destroyed the bomb factory – in nobody’s land – the bombs were made for him – he was supposed to feel bad”
To the right:Israel sitting on Yassir Arafat. Israel says “Move over!” Inge Grødum, Aftenposten, December 5th, 2001.
To the left: “Landrobbers” by Morten M. Kristiansen, Verdens Gang, March 25th, 2004.
This caricature is highly relevant. The common Norwegian perception is that Israel was a gift from the allied western nations, that was paid for at the expense of the Palestinian nation. Very few Norwegians are steeped in middle eastern history and you just can’t expect the man in the street to be familiar with the labyrinth of events that resulted in the state of Israel in 1948. You can expect the man in the street to start a pogrom. Instead of being elitist and hating him when he does, you need to be cordially inclined and love him when he doesn’t. How hard can it be?
The correct antidote to the ignorance of the general public is to educate said public, a feat of such magnitude that it must immediately be accepted as an impossibility. Our schoolchildren have more than enough on their plates as it is and we cannot possibly expect the history of landgrabbers to be squeezed into their curriculum. The solution here lies in exposing the attitudes of the Norwegian elites to the outside world for what it is; cowardly, self-righteous ignorance.
To the right we can admire Inge Grødum’s artwork as displayed in Aftenposten on July 26th, 2006. The artist demonstrates a certain distrust to the state of Israel, does he not? Good enough, the man is entitled to his opinion. But isn’t it curious how his opinions seem so oddly restricted to the middle east? And not just any old part of the middle east, but Israel. Not Syria, not Iran, not Jordan. Only Israel. It appears to be his hobby.
To the left; In Verdens Gang, Israels Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sees Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah in his own reflection in the mirror. Observe how Olmert’s feet are hairy and clawed, the feet of a demon or a beast. The idea of Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas being “similarly” extremist is widespread in Norway.